Monday, December 6, 2010

Nomad Editions: new launch pushes two big ideas, now the actual products will have to prove the concepts

Today TNM looks at three different visions of tablet publishing: from a native app from the Portugese news magazine Visão, to the converted mobile apps of Freedom Communications, and finally to the new mobile magazines from Nomad Editions.

Nomad Editions, the Mark Edmiston run new venture that promises to bring us a whole roster of new digital weekly magazines, is built on two big ideas: that there is a market for magazines built for mobile devices, and that editors can make a decent living producing these new mobile magazines by getting a percentage of the take. Both concepts will face a severe test now that the first two Nomad Editions have been launched.
Late Friday charter subscribers were informed that they could log into the Nomad Editions website and access their first digital magazines. Two magazines are available: Real Eats, edited by Sean Elder, and Wave Lines, edited by Jon Cohen. Since subscribers pick and choose the magazines they wish to receive, I was able to access Real Eats but not Wave Lines. Two additional magazine will launch soon: Wide Screen later this week, and u+me in January.

Readers access the magazines online as they would an electronic flipbook. But because the magazines use a platform the company calls "Treesaver" the magazines don't act like a flipbook. Instead, the magazine page changes layouts a bit like a web page. You can test this out by simply changing the size of your browser window. For most articles, the first page looks great, but the problem is that last page where sometimes a whole new page is created for just one sentence, or even a pull quote.

Left: the Editor's Note as seen on the iPad; Right: page two of the same column with its 'widowed' copy

But the big idea here is that readers can start reading their magazines on their computer desktop and continue on their cell phones or their tablet -- after all, all of this is just HTML, right?

Yes, but because the magazines are not designed to be read on any particular device, the results vary considerably based on the device you are using. Will this matter to readers? Probably not, assuming the content is engaging -- and we'll leave that to others to decide.
As for the 'big idea', that people want to read their magazines on mobile devices, well that is where I start being a skeptic.

You see, one or two years ago, when I first starting using my iPhone, the idea of reading periodicals seemed to make sense. But I've changed my thinking radically since then. I no long want to read something designed for larger screens (or print) on my phone for two reasons: its just plain hard work and tough on my eyes, and my reading habits are different on my phone, I want content fast and simple.

Now Nomad Editions system does a good job of reformatting content for the phone, as you can see from the screenshot. It is pretty simple to read, no need glasses. I would say that it works . . . if I really wanted to read magazine content on my phone. For me, the proper device for this is the tablet.

On the iPad the experience is definitely better. But it begs the question why use the browser when an app might be better. The reason is simple: because the concept is to reformat the content for any environment quickly and easily the browser is the only way to do it (unless the app itself were a browser solution).

It is hard to pass judgement on the idea that magazine readers will flock to publications for mobile media devices. It may simply be that Edmiston was thinking more about the iPad than smartphones. But the New York Times story, written in August, says Edmiston is an "avid reader of books on his iPhone".

"The launch of the Nomad Editions Writers Roster demonstrates the level of dedication we have to deliver top-notch, original content to our readers," Edmiston said in his company's original press release. "Without the reliance on advertising dollars, writers and editors with decades of combined magazine experience now have the flexibility to concentrate on one thing—providing the best possible editorial and media aesthetics to each Nomad Edition reader based specifically on his reading interests."

Which brings us to that second 'big idea': that the company, and the editors who create these digital magazines, can make a decent living doing this.

The basic business model here is that readers will have access to any of the roster of magazines created by Nomad Editions for 30 days free of charge. After that time, readers will be charged $6 for three months of content.

Writers then earn 30 percent of the subscription revenue per week, with editors getting five percent plus a cut of any ad dollars generated.

Based on this formula, and the introduction at some time of some advertising support, Edmiston told the NYT that a writer could "make anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000 a year if their area of expertise attracts an average of 50,000 readers," according to the NYT story.

I'll leave it to the editorial types to say if that is good money or not. But the "average 50,000 readers" number scares me a bit. Since Wired magazine is currently do a little over 30,000 copies per issue on the iPad right now, it seems a bit of a stretch to say that a newly launched magazine can reach this level of readership.

But, of course, we are still very early in the tablet game, aren't we? The trick will be to keep the Nomad Editions ship afloat while the tablet market grows and more readers begin to use their tablets, e-readers or mobile devices to read magazine content.

1 Comment:

Tablazines said...

The big difference is that Wired sold 30,000 copies which are readable only on Apple's ipad which only has 4% penetration at this time.

Nomad Editions are trying to sell 50,000 across tablets, computers and cellphones which dramatically increases their chances.

Even still they'll be hard pressed to convince people to pay.