Adweek's Lucia Moses yesterday reported that Nomad Editions, the start-up launched by media investment banker Mark Edmiston, would shutter its three remaining digital magazine titles.
“After struggling for close to three years, we’ve decided to discontinue the consumer-facing magazines,” Edmiston told Moses.
|One of the Nomad Edition titles |
as seen on the iPad in 2010
The original New York Times story on Nomad Editions appeared on August 20 and stated that Edmiston thought of the idea for his start-up in 2009. As an "avid reader of books on his iPhone," Edmiston wanted to launch titles that could be read on multiple devices.
The original model for Nomad Editions was that the company would attract freelancers to create multiple titles. The freelancers would, in turn, earn 30 percent of the subscription revenue, per edition per week. Edmiston estimated that each freelancer could earn between $50,000 to $60,000 a year, assuming the title could attract 50,000 readers.
To make all this happen, Nomad Editions would use a publishing system with the cute name of Treesaver. The idea, at first, was that by using Treesaver, a web-based digital publication could be read on multiple devices - design once for all devices.
As early as December of that year I expressed skepticism about the design once approach, as well as the money freelancers could make. (Zeke Turner, writing for The New York Observer, wrote skeptically even before my post, centering his criticism on the 50,000 estimate for readership.)
Once the titles began to appear, the strategy shifted from a web-based model to concentrating on the iPad. In May of 2011 the company launched a stand-alone iPad app for Nomad Editions. Then in November of last year they began launching apps for each individual title.
Eventually the number of titles dwindled, and now they all will be shuttered.
Leaving aside the idea of design-once, consume on multiple devices – which I consider to be an absurd idea – the problem with Nomad Edition's freelancer strategy was that it was attempting to use a model best seen in the book publishing business.
As someone involved with many magazine title launches, one knows the enormous effort, energy and money spent on creating one new title. In addition to writing, editing and production, there is the issue of marketing.
Book publishing, too, has all of these elements, but the model also says that the only way to succeed is through multiple titles – otherwise, one has to attract authors who already have a following. In other words, either attract Stephen King, or else publishing lots of titles from potential Stephen Kings. Since not every title will succeed, the model attempts to flatten out the results among the catalog, hoping that one or two titles will succeed wildly.
If Nomad Editions was to succeed, the company would have had to promote a title like Real Eats in a massive way, or else launch many, many more titles than it did.
To its credit, the team at Nomad did learn from its mistakes: it moved to the iPad when it realized that it readers were not enthusiast about reading on their desktop computers; and they learned the value of individual apps, and using the Newsstand.
But without more marketing might behind the titles, their only hope was to launch more titles, easier, and more frequently. To do this, Nomad would not have been able to attract enough freelancers, they would have needed to find content elsewhere. This content exists, and is easily accessible, but Nomad Editions couldn't see it (can you guess what I'm talking about?).