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Someone said to me the other day, "the way to do a niche magazine now would be as an app." And I had my little kneejerk reaction in my head of "noooo damn you i wants paper paper is my precious" etc and bleeding so forth.

And then I looked at the internets (yeah, I know, "i wants paper" and then I look at the internets) and saw that, as of April this year, 50 million iPhones and 35 million iPod Touches are said to have been sold. And 3 million iPads as of June. Assuming that a lot of people have purchased more than one iPhone in their lives, and that a lot of iPhone users also have iPads…

…that’s STILL tens of millions of devices that iOS Apps work on.

At which point, really, I don’t look too smart for standing against an app-only magazine. Which, really, I already knew, because I understood that every Marvel or Comixology app sold turns an iOS device into a comics store (sort of), and if more than 1800 of these apps are in operation right now, then they outnumber the number of physical comics stores in North America.

Ten million digital magazine stands?

Just a random thought.

Published in daybook


  1. Evil Moo Evil Moo

    By that logic, a PDF zine has infinitely more outlets and viewing possibilities, and can be printed and distributed to anyone who doesn’t have a computer.

    If you’re more interested in presentation than content, an “app” is the way to go. Otherwise, well, make your content and make your zine. :)

  2. Warren Ellis Warren Ellis

    PDFs are somewhat harder to monetise, though.

  3. You know this already – but just because you have the app doesn’t mean you can’t have the print component as well. Just make it print-on-demand so that you don’t have to shoulder the (immense, crushing) expenses of the printing. Either through Createspace, Lulu or through the Espresso book machine, the latter I’m becoming more and more fond of as the technology improves.

    Also – make sure the advertisers on the app know they also get their work in print so they know they’re reaching all the potential consumer eyeballs and not just app-friendly eyes.

    I don’t see this as an “all or nothing game” (nor do I think you perceive it that way), but there are those who scream bloody murder when one suggests they use ‘all parts of the buffalo’ to distribute their entertainments to the masses. Publishers today have to be resourceful or they’re not going to succeed.

  4. patrick foster patrick foster

    The other perk to an app style mag is that by using the HTML 5 standard to build it, it makes it easier to update – HTML vs Objective C- and it can be repurposed to other platforms with decent mobile browsers- Android, and Palm. Sort of like Google’s mobile versions of its online applications.

  5. Roger Roger

    As a long time Pirate and downloader of all things, I know better than most than Paper > *

  6. Meep Meep

    I miss paper. Print-on-demand, as Bill suggested, might be a good way to have both. A magazine that reaches people (app) and the paper some of us still love and miss.

  7. Mike Black Mike Black

    As well as the fact that there are now more Android users in the world than iOS users, and Google doesn’t screen their market for “unsavory content”. You’d be in rather good shape.

  8. mrc mrc

    Please, not a PDF. They dont reflow text right and when they are bigger then your screen its really annoying to view a page.
    I would try pne of the ebook formats like mobipocket. Or a simple html package with different style sheets for different devices.

  9. Zyaama Zyaama

    I’m one of those iPad-comic store owners. I will occasionally read a magazine on the iPad (Wired is pretty nice, most others are half assed efforts), but I have by now read a few hundred comics on the device. That is something I wouldn’t do on a desktop computer or even my MacBook.

    Apps like Comixology may actually be the future of comics publishing. But comics are easier to put on a screen than magazines. You tell a story in pictures, that translates well to an electronic format. So the iPad makes comics fund to read, and the prices are well below those of the paper versions. Magazines still have some way to go to offer the same additional value that Comixology does. A simple pdf doesn’t cut it, you need to include short videos, music, and animations. That takes a lot of commitment from the publishers, and so far very few have shown that kind of commitment.

  10. Digital distribution is ever the future for all forms of media — books, movies, games, comics, newspapers, magazines — but the last two will have the toughest transition. The internet just doesn’t instill the appropriate value concept for the digital versions of newspapers and magazines.

    There is some initial success being had as a alternate market, yes, as you’ve posted with the scifi short story mags getting Kindle play and so forth, but part of a successful digital future for magazines is going to require the maturation of the digital distro platforms, both in terms of hardware and software. Peruse the Kindle magazine sub user reviews over at Amazon and you’ll see severe formatting complaints for almost all of the content available. Of course, for most of these magazines, Kindle is an afterthought, as it likely has to be for the time being.

    You’re looking at iOS, and its obscene install base, and that’s great, but iPhones aren’t going to be the platform of choice for paid magazine content as far as consumers are concerned, just as they’re a novelty for comics content, due to screen size. iPad is a different story, and is entirely appropriate as a legit magazine/newspaper/comic platform, but it’s far newer and far less ubiquitous, so it’ll need some time. We’ll get there.

    Right, that doesn’t actually help you, Warren, with what seems to be your desire to start up a niche mag if it would actually be viable to do so, but I expect market conditions will present opportunities before too long.

  11. Zanglebert Bembledack Zanglebert Bembledack

    It seems odd to compare one copy of an app with one magazine stand, since that implies that each stand has only one customer. I think it’s more like the App Store is a magazine stand with one unclefucker of a selection.

    That said, yes, it’s a pretty big customer base that’s much easier to reach than magazine stands in the physical world. (And yes, no PDFs please.)

  12. Isn’t Steampunk Tales already taking advantage of this idea?

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