It was inevitable that someone would seek and find a way to sidestep Apple; it seems that a new subscription-based mobile content provider called Nomad Editions may be showing the way that magazines could reach their readers on iPads and smartphones of all kinds. Or as a new business model for digital media it may eclipse many of them. Nomad is scheduled to launch October 15
The publication (which it is) is putting an emphasis on quality content and fair payment for contributors. It is being launched by a group led by the former president of Newsweek magazine, Mark M. Edminston (at one time chair of the Magazine Publishers of America) and well-known art director and designer Roger Black. .
The idea is as interesting for its business model as its technology. It puts the emphasis squarely where it should be -- delivering good, focussed content at a fair price, rather than relying entirely on advertising (though advertisers can sponsor editions for $25,000 that involves up to 8 ads for three months.)
How to deliver paid content and sponsorships has been a real connundrum for magazine publishers, who are also finding it difficult to be delivered as Apple-approved apps through iTunes without losing control of their subscribers. Nomad is showing there's more than one way to do things and is potentially a direct competitor for subscriptions and advertising that bypasses both Apple and the magazine publishers.
According to a story in Folio: Jock Spivey, Nomad's vice-president of audience development says
"We're not trading in page views," says Spivey. "This will be more like the magazine world where marketers will be able to talk to subscribers. Much of the design difficulties with regular Web sites have to do with page views and ad placement. Articles get busted up into three or four pages because every time you read a new load, a new ad inventory is served up."
Still, "the heart and soul of this business is subscriptions," Spivey says. "We want to sell as many sponsorships as we can, but it's not what the business is built on. Part of what we're doing here is really old fashioned--the idea that readers should pay for what they're consuming and the people creating what they're consuming should be well compensated."
Here's how it will work, or plans to:
- Subscriptions to four distinct digital offerings are sold in annual or three-month subscriptions. An annual sub is $24; a three-month is $6.
- Each is a distinct digital weekly publication that is designed to be read in 20 or 30 minutes on a smartphone or tablet.
- Because it is web-based it lets users access the same content on multiple platforms (smartphones, tablets or a desktop).
- Each edition contains original material, written by staffers and freelancers who will be paid on the traffic their stories attract.
- Prospective readers get a 30-day free trial then pay the equivalent of $6 for each of the modules.
- The modules so far cover food, web surfing, movies and viral video (with more in development) and each will contain two longer features and five shorter ones.
From a press release in the Nomad Edition online newsletter:
Nomad Editions Editor in Chief John Benditt says, “A typical Nomad Edition will be lean, but will contain everything the reader needs to know each week. We will offer many of the virtues of great magazines—careful quality control and the ability to complete the experience—with those of a digital medium.”
Adds Executive Editor Sean Elder: “A Nomad Edition combines the look and narrative feel of a print magazine with the portability and multi-platform capabilities of digital devices. We’re all about stories here.”
A story in the New York Times reported
Aside from about a dozen full-time staff members, Nomad Editions will pull its writers and editors from a growing pool of freelancers [says an article in the New York Times]. “There’s lot of talent out here that’s underemployed or not being fairly paid,” said Mr. Edmiston.
Writers will earn up to 30 percent of subscription revenue per edition per week, while editors will make 5 percent of the same revenue with an additional cut of the advertising dollars. Mr. Edmiston estimates that writers can make anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000 a year if their area of expertise attracts an average of 50,000 readers.
The venture uses Treesaver technology, software developed by Roger Black and Filipe Fortes, a former engineer at Microsoft. The software allows Nomad editions to appear on any mobile device, automatically formatted to the size and shape of the screen. Black says
"This is the most exciting launch I've been part of -- in decades. With the share for contributors, the subscription base, and the new Treesaver platform, Nomad is creating a new model. And it's going to win."