Thursday, October 11, 2012

Marco Arment, developer of Instapaper, launches a magazine of sorts into Apple's Newsstand

Sometimes a glance at what's new in Apple's Newsstand will lead to genuine surprise. This morning was one of those times when one sees something utterly unexpected.

Marco Arment, the developer of the Instapaper bookmarking program, and the lead developer behind the Tumblr blogging platform, has launched a digital magazine into Apple's Newsstand.

Called The Magazine: For geeks like us. – yep there is a period at the end – the digital magazine really isn't. A magazine, that is.
Most magazine publishers would define a magazine as a collection of articles with illustrations, advertising and other elements. The Magazine is a collection of plainly designed articles with no interactivity, surprising from a technology blogger and developer.

But Marco Arment is very well known in the tech community and has been able to attract plenty of talent to write for his first issue. Jason Snell, the editorial director of Mac Publishing, is here, as is Alex Payne, former of Twitter and now CTO at Simple Finance Technology Corp. There are four articles in total, plus the forward written by Arment.

"I’m starting this with a staff of one. I can develop the app, procure and edit the articles, and write occasional articles myself," write Arment in his forward. "There’s no venture capital funding, no corporate backer, and very little starting capital. My biggest fixed cost is the up-front design and development of the app, and my biggest recurring cost is paying writers. If it doesn’t turn a profit within two months — just four issues — I’ll shut it down."

Arment mentions the because of the constraints mentioned above his approach to publishing a digital magazine will be minimal.

"You won’t see any infographics, slideshows, or interactive panoramas. These multimedia features can all be valuable, and they have their places in other publications, but not here," Arment writes.

The magazine app is free to download and is universal, though Arment has already found a bug that prevents readers from having their subscriptions – which will cost $1.99 per month – from working on multiple devices. He promises a quick update.

This is hardly the future of digital magazine publishing, but I'm sure many tech people will find the magazine of interest. Being universal, I would think the approach here works best on a smartphone. On a tablet it feels like one is reading a Kindle edition.

I think the motivation for Arment here, though, is the lure of revenue from the Newsstand. There is nothing here that wouldn't work just as well online – maybe even better. Marco's own blog gets plenty of traffic, but his blog is depend on a single ad coming in from The Deck, an ad network for creative professionals.

By the way, while the app is 'sold" under the name Marco Arment, clicking on his name won't pull up his other app. The magazine is under a new developer license with the name Full City LLC – though a search in the App Store of his name does pull up both this new app and Instapaper.

New readers get a 7 day free trial before their paid subscriptions kick in.