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Digital edition of a small arts magazine - the best way to do this?
February 1, 2013 2:19 AM   Subscribe

I work for a small literary magazine. The incoming managing editor wants us to have a magazine app for tablets that appears on those virtual magazine racks. Is this a good idea, and if so what's the best way to do this?

The manager definitely wants to monetise a significant amount of our digital content. We simply don't have the kind of money (small arts magazine!) to use the site as a loss-leader.

Honestly I feel the tablet magazine/app ecosystem is bordering on scammy; in how much they charge to set up, how much of a cut the manufacturers get, how much of a cut Apple gets, and how poor the online stores are in terms of browsing and finding new titles. I'm really disappointed the way things are turning out: it seemed for a while that things were opening up across the web and now there are all these walled-gardens appearing, and all these hip web 3.0 snake oil salesmen.

Most of the advice online comes from 'interested' parties, and there are no hard figures anywhere about subscription numbers.

Am I being an old-fashion curmudgeon here? Are magazine apps now pretty established and sensible for asmall magazine? Sales of tablets are increasing all the time. I'd appreciate links to articles about the sector, opinions from knowledge app-makers or magazines, or any other thoughts about the best way to proceed on this.
posted by Cantdosleepy to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Am I being an old-fashion curmudgeon here? Are magazine apps now pretty established and sensible for asmall magazine? Sales of tablets are increasing all the time. I'd appreciate links to articles about the sector, opinions from knowledge app-makers or magazines, or any other thoughts about the best way to proceed on this.

The real problem isn't how much apple takes out of it, I don't think. The problem is going to be how much it costs you to develop and support the IOS app. Depending on what your potential market is, it may not be cost effective. It's also a pain in the ass to develop for both Android and IOS at the same time. You may need to choose one or the other and think very careful about which you choose. Apple may take a chunk out of your revenue, but it's a lot easier to code for a single platform than it is for all the many variants of Android out there.
posted by empath at 4:05 AM on February 1, 2013


Do you need a dedicated app? Several of the (very small) magazines I read publish through Exact Editions, which has its own apps for both platforms. It also allows easy web reading, and local archiving as PDF.
posted by scruss at 4:35 AM on February 1, 2013


I think having your own app is over-kill these days. Most Magazines, especially literary ones, seem to be going the Digital Subscription Route. Where a digital subscription buys your choice of .pdf or .epub file. This provides a lot of flexibility for the reader. Pdf is good for tablets and .epub is good for eReaders, and can be pretty easily converted into .mobi and other formats for Kindle etc.

I would actually be put off by having to install yet another app just to read a particular magazine. Just give me the data I don't want all that other crap. Its just easy for people to deal with, search, store, keep a record of.
posted by mary8nne at 5:11 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder about an app as well. As a reader, I would rather get a digital subscription via Zinio - I do this for overseas magazines that are expensive or difficult to get in print here (Frankie is £7 a copy here, £3 as a digital mag) so in that sense being digital would bring things to a wider audience.

Zinio works on web, iOS and Android, which some magazine apps don't - you can't get Real Simple in the UK, for example, because you need a US-based iOS device to use their subscription service (NextIssue?).
posted by mippy at 5:17 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I, too, think an app is overkill. I recently asked this question about interactive e-zine software. One of the key factors in determining the one we went with was the ability to scale the magazine for tablets as well as PCs. And at a couple hundred dollars, it's peanuts to developing an app.

Getting the finished product onto virtual bookshelves is something else that we haven't looked into yet, so I can't speak to that. But if you're already creating a physical magazine and want a digital parallel, this may be the best route since all you need to do is plug in the pdf you created for print and 99% of the work is done for you.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:27 AM on February 1, 2013


I agree with your concerns... in part.

Apple Newsstand in particular is useful, yet flawed and problematic. And many of the developers are, I feel, scammers, basically. Yes. You are not wrong there. They fleece people who don't know any better.

And this is a big proposition to take on.

That being said, subscriptions can be an amazing base of support for a small publication.

You should talk to the people at 29th Street Publishing. They have thoughts on this.

Happy to talk to you more about this privately if you're interested. Running a subscription publication on Newsstand has been good for us, but has both up- and down-sides. And many many pitfalls.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:42 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


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