Monday, December 10, 2012

Citizen publishers are not saying "No' to the tablet platform just because some tech writers are skeptical

It sometime seems like many in our industry live in a parallel universe where down is up and where people actually care what tech writers have to say about digital media. That is not where I live.

Two news items that came from the industry seemed to merge into one story for me today. The first involved the Why Magazine Apps Suck post written by M.G. Siegler. A lot of people actually took the post seriously. I did, too, until I realized that if Fonzi jumped the shark for ratings, why shouldn't Siegler jump the shark for clicks?

But that didn't stop Joe Zeff Design from responding on their company blog. Hey, two or three years ago I might have listened to what Siegler might have to say on tablets and the potential of tablet publisher, but today Joe Zeff's opinion is 100 times more authoritative, in my opinion.
Another company, to remain nameless, also sent me a press release that tackled the topic. They, too, were not happy but their press release was 99 percent self-promotion. The company, though, is a good example of why tablet publishing is succeeding for many, even if it is not working out so well for others.

Then I received an industry newsletter from one of our trade publishers, telling me that magazine launches were down this year – only 227 magazines were launched in 2012 their source says. Really? Oh yeah, digital probably doesn't count, right?

Well, who cares if they think digital doesn't count, both digital publishers and the readers who download their mobile and tablet apps sure do. So I can say, without too much fear of contradiction, that 2012 will probably end up being the biggest year for magazine launches ever, ever.

The credit for those magazine launches goes to three players: Apple; the vendors helping make it happen; and, of course, the publishers.

One of those new launches hit the Apple Newsstand today, Coffee Lovers Mag, another of those citizen publisher products that is using the MagCast platform to produce an app.

This magazine immediately caught my attention because I used to publish a coffee industry magazine – yes, I know, I've published just about every kind of magazine, haven't it? The coffee book was fun because I am a big coffee drinker and so attending coffee trade shows was not at all painful – I especially liked bringing home the freebies from the vendors.

This book is not a B2B digital magazine, though. It wants to reach consumers and will need to in order to get back its costs. The MagCast platform costs a bit under $500 a month, though they have been discounting it lately. Nonetheless, anyone hoping to launch a digital magazine and continue to publish will need to see subscriptions or sell advertising.

Coffee Lovers Mag, therefore, is charging $5.99 an issue, with monthly subscriptions at $3.99. So Joseph Robertson, who launched the app, and who attended Reed College, will need to hit triple digits in sales each month to make a go of it.

He is not alone, a lot of people are jumping in, too. Way more than what that monitoring service is recording, that's for sure.
Left: the store page; Middle: simple layouts, in portrait, are the rule; Right: the app has trouble detecting if the reader has an Internet connection.