Thursday, July 5, 2012

New Media app updates: Nomad updates dwindling number of digital magazine apps; web pure plays Huffington and TechCrunch update their tablet apps

A rather surprisingly small number of important media app updates were issued over the past two weeks. I felt like I didn't miss much, and therefore, neither did you.
Nomad Editions, which seems to be winding down its operations, or else gearing up for something new, issued updates for its two remaining digital titles. Both Snooth Wine Buyer's Guide and Uncorked received updates on June 24.

Nomad Editions, founded by media banker Mark Edmiston in 2010, and launched its first magazines in December of that year. The concept was simple enough, though ultimately flawed. Nomad Editions would entice freelance writers to create their own magazines using their platform which would allow for the reading of the new digital publications on any device.

Nomad's platform, called Treesaver, created odd layouts, depending on the device. The idea that one could design once for multiple platforms is very exciting for publishers, but the results end up being a compromise.

The business model, too, seemed half-baked to me: by bringing in freelancers to produce the content, one could launch a digital magazine at a low cost, but unless Nomad Editions launched a high volume of new titles, reaching a critical level of sales seemed hard to achieve. The two alternatives to this model would be to either have one of the freelancers be a high-profile writer, or to have a large promotion budget – both would have required solid financial backing.

Magazine launches, even digital ones, remain a low-success, high-failure business – just like restaurants.

Now Nomad Editions last updated its iPad app in March, but now two of those titles – Real Eats and BodySmart – are no longer to be found in the App Store. Nomad appears to be concentrating on a custom publishing approach, selling other publishers on its platform. It's only other app to be found in the Newsstand is for Hemmings Custom Wheels, launched in mid-June.

Another approach to creating new tablet editions is to leverage an existing website. Web pure plays such as Engadget and The Next Web have launched their own digital magazines for the iPad by taking advantage of their large content libraries.

Two of these pure plays, The Huffington Post and TechCruch, updated their tablet editions, though only one of these could be called a digital magazine.

Huffington was updated this morning but the early reviews inside the App Store warn readers that the update may have introduced more bugs than it fixed. (As I write this, it appears that the update may have been pulled.)

The Huffington Post's biz model is to sell single issues and subscriptions, while some other web properties are staying with a free model.

TechCrunch, another AOL property, is using this approach. It's app isn't really a digital magazine, so one wonders about the thinking behind the app, but at least users seem to be pretty happy about the app's performance.