Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nomad Editions will be one of many New Media ventures spurred on by the growth of mobile and tablets

Here come the start-ups, right on cue.  You've maybe heard of the new start-up created by Mark Edmiston, a media banker and former Newsweek exec. His new company, Nomad Editions, which will launch October 15, promises to deliver a weekly magazine designed specifically for mobile devices.

Here is how he sees this working:

Edmiston has only raised $600,000, according to the New York Times (but I don't think capital will be an issue knowing his background), and while Nomad Editions will have a small staff, content will actually be generated by freelancers.  These freelancers will then be paid through a subscription revenue sharing scheme -- think of it as Demand Media for the more talented. "There’s lot of talent out here that’s underemployed or not being fairly paid,” Edmiston told the Times.

Nomad Editions will then use a technology it calls Treesaver (cute, huh?) that will allow the content to be viewed on mobile devices. In reality, this will be simply web-based publishing using HTML5 where the mobile website will sniff out the type of device you are using deliver the appropriately formated content. The media folk may be impressed, but the tech folk will think this is all pretty simple to understand stuff.

The new company has already generated a fair amount of buzz, but the key now will be creating an interesting publication people will want to subscribe to.

Frankly, I think a lot of the ideas have merit and are not that far off from the ideas I have had to create new mobile media products. (There are enough differences, however, that I think my ideas are still better!) But, hey, Edmiston has the money and, therefore, a pretty good chance that he can launch and sustain his efforts.

You can see his ideas for yourself, read a FAQ, download a PDF of the press release, and sign-up for a trial subscription at the new company's website.

Oh, and here is the obligatory YouTube promo video, with enough "wows" included in the audio to give you the same sensation as too much cotton candy:

Some of the reaction to the news from Nomad Editions was hilarious, and had to make Edmiston smile.

One mobile news site wrote the oft-used "saviour" headline. You know what they look like -- "will the iPad be the savior of newspapers?" is a typical one. This one reads "Is mobile the saviour of magazines? Nomad Editions says yes". (I always thought the word was correctly spelled without the "u", but I guess both spellings are correct.)

The New York Observer used a question marked headline, as well: "Former Newsweek President Launches Nomad iPad Magazine, But Is He Totally Lost?" I can't remember if the author answers the question.

Whether Nomad Editions is a good idea or not is for time to tell. But one thing I know is that Nomad Editions will be only one of many other start-ups that will attempt to deliver newspaper or magazine styled content for the new mobile media devices without needing a print product to back it up.

Just as the early pure plays showed old media what could be done online, these start-ups will, combined with the more progressive existing publishers, demonstrate that mobile and tablet publishing has a bright (and eventually profitable) future.

As for my own thoughts concerning Nomad Editions: my biggest concern would be that the concept is based on the premise that readers using smartphones would regularly want to access the same content they do on their tablet, so that it will be just the screens that are different.

Owning both types of devices for some time now, I know I no longer look at my iPhone as a text media consumption device the same way I did just over a year and a half ago. I personally think that is certainly some cross over between devices, but increasingly I use the devices differently. I think publishers want this to be true, however -- it would make the whole enterprise cheaper, one content for many devices -- but publishers may find the mobile world more complicated than that, where multiple devices demand different kinds of content.

As you can see from this Treesaver demonstration video of their adaptive screen size solution, the text and layouts automatically change depending on the device being used -- an excellent solution to get the same story onto many devices. I just have my doubts about long form publishing on smartphones in an environment where tablets dominate the electronic reading experience. (Of course, if tablets do not dominate the reading experience, and the environment is one of many sized devices, all consuming the same content, then clearly this will be a much needed technology. In the end, the issue won't be technology, those problems will be solved, it will be content matching. Time will tell, and it is clear where Nomad Solutions' and Treesaver's bets are laid.)