Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Honest Cooking, the food blog that calls itself a magazine, now has its own tablet magazine for the iPad

During 2012 a definite trend in digital publishing was for web properties, such as Engadget, The Next Web and Huffington Post, to produce their own digital magazines. The idea is simple enough: the website is full of content so why not repackage that content, adding in new content in some cases, and create a digital magazine. Some web properties are distributing the new digital magazines free of charge, others are charging, and still others have a voluntary pay model where the reader can access the issues free, but can also choose to support the publication by paying for a subscription, usually a token amount.

Released today is a brand new tablet magazine from another website, Honest Cooking, a food news site edited by Kalle Bergman, someone with both freelance writing experience, as well as PR and advertising (this is important, as you will see).
Honest Cooking Magazine appears under Bergman's name in the App Store. The new digital magazine is free of charge, with no paid subscription required to access the first issue inside, though one can subscribe for free in order for future issues to download automatically. The plan is to publish the new digital magazine quarterly.

Like the tablet edition TNM wrote about this morning, Beverage World, this new tablet magazine is using the Mag+ platform platform, something that was a natural choice, according to Bergman – being that he is Swedish, and therefore familiar with the origin of Mag+ inside the publishing company Bonnier. For now, at least, the magazine is available only for the iPad.

"We are looking into other tablet formats, as well, but we starte with the iPad because it is basically the most difficult to get approved. Once you have that approved it is much easier to go to the other platforms, as well," Bergman told TNM this afternoon.

The decision to launch a digital magazine originated from the realities of blog publishing, where articles appear, and then disappear each day.

"We are powered by food bloggers," Bergman said. "The blogging world is a lot about trying to keep your content alive. Even if you write something that is super interesting, and long, and really insightful, chances are your content is going to slowly drift downward (on the website's home page) – and the life of that content dies out unless it is picked up by others and becomes viral."

"We wanted to give our contributors an opportunity to write long, in depth articles about food and wine, topics that were interesting to them, without the pressures of Internet publishing – you know, quick, dirty, tomorrow its gone from the front page and there is something else there. We wanted to give them a forum where it could live for a longer time."

But whereas other web properties have found that creating a digital magazine is an opportunity to charge for their new product, Honest Cooking's digital magazine is free.

"We see it as a free magazine," Bergman said. "We see it as a premium magazine with really interesting articles that we hope will catch people's attention and people will spend a lot of time reading this magazine. We hope this will be a source of revenue from the advertising perspective. So our online advertisers will have here an opportunity to work with us on more print-like advertisements."
Left: the new tablet magazine is ad supported; Middle: layouts are minimal, almost in the extreme, though Right: some layouts involve slightly more complex layouts.

Though built using the Mag+ platform, Honest Cooking Magazine takes a minimal approach to iPad page design. The magazine almost looks like a replica edition, in this regard, though with clearly more readable fonts and pages devoted solely to photography.

Because of this, the premiere issue inside the app is less than 100 MB in size.

"We didn't want an app that was dependent on WiFi or 3G connections. I hate that personally," Bergman said. "I really wanted it to be a magazine that I could stay in bed and read the magazine just as if it were The New York Times."

"We did a first version with animation, and sliding text boxes, and stuff like that, and we were just pissed off by using it," Bergman said with a laugh. "It just didn't add anything to the content, it just added to the technical experience."

"If we are to do animation and stuff like that the next time, it will be because it will enhance the content. If we can show how this particular wine is being made with an animation then it makes sense," Bergman said.