It’s no secret that paper publications are under threat from digital media. Newspapers and magazines have been taking a drubbing from free content available on-line. A lot of people won’t bother with a monthly publication when they can get what they’re looking for daily, and without having to pay. But a team of “magazine veterans” have just launched a service called Nomad Editions that they claim will give magazines a safe haven on mobile devices.
What’s the story?
For many people in the publishing world, mobile would seem to be the natural evolution of magazines and newspapers. Mobile devices are portable in the same way that a newspaper is; you can read it on the train or bus, something that even laptops are too large to use for comfortably. The launch of the iPad convinced a lot of observers that this platform could do justice to a glossy magazine format – but even before that, publications like the Guardian and local media aggregators were investing heavily in mobile.
So what’s Nomad?
So far, most of the mobile investments have been made in applications, which have the disadvantage of only targeting one platform at a time. The new Nomad service is web-based – meaning it can be accessed by absolutely anything that has a mobile browser. The main strength of a Nomad Edition is the Treesaver function – this was developed by designer Roger Black and Microsoft engineer Filipe Fortes to allow Nomad to optimise for any device. Most mobile browsers will now detect what kind of device you’re using, and serve web pages optimised to fit on your screen. But Treesaver allows Nomad Editions to optimise regardless of the browser that is accessing it. So it claims to be able to display professional formatted magazine content to absolutely any device that has a browser.
What kind of content will it deliver?
So far we’ve been talking about the technical aspects of Nomad. But this service is being spearheaded by former president of Newsweek Mark Edmiston. A long time magazine veteran, Edmiston promises that the content on Nomad will be professionally written, edited and formatted to magazine standards. The Nomad platform can carry any number of digital magazines, and will launch with four in October:
How will it earn money?
Here’s the bit where it could all fall apart. So far what we’re looking at is a platform that delivers professionally-created, magazine-standard issues and ships them on a weekly basis. This will require editors, writers and tech staff. Who’s going to pay these guys?
We will, is the simple answer. Nomad will be a subscription service – you have to pay to access it. Nomad itself claims that people will pay for its content because it will be better quality than free content on the web (the exact phrase they use is “what costs nothing is often worth just that”). And Nomad Editions claims that because of the subscription model, it will be less dependent on having pages and pages of advertising – so it will be able to publish on a weekly basis instead of a monthly one.
What we think?
I think this looks great. I really do. These guys have done their research, and the entire package looks solid. But that’s no guarantee it will succeed. You just can’t predict what people will or won’t be willing to pay for. Moreoever, while there’s a subscription section over on the website, it’s currently in free trial mode, and doesn’t tell you how much you’ll need to pay when the service goes live. If this is a service where you pay a reasonable monthly rate for access to all the publications on it, I can see it getting some use.