Publishing

Day One Introduces 'Publish' Feature

One of my favorite apps just unveiled an upcoming feature that will allow you to publish any of your journal entries to a unique, responsive webpage. This is so cool.

Although I probably wouldn't publish any of my entries in their current state—mainly because I don't edit them very vigorously—some of them do contain the nuggets of ideas that end up on Unretrofied. I can imagine that other people who put more effort into their entries are going to publish some excellent stuff.

I'm excited to see where this feature goes. If you'd like to sign up to be notified of its release, head over here.

'Instant Gratification'

Daniel Jalkut:

“No more waiting for permission to share your thoughts, arts, or inventions with the world. And no more excuses for holding back. Got something to give? Put it out there and see what sticks.”

The slow extinction of 'gatekeepers' – publishers, record labels, banks, book stores, et al – is one of my favorite things about the web these days. It's never been easier to make yourself heard around the entire world, and all it takes is the press of a button.

It's both terrifying and liberating at the same time.

International Man of Mystery: An Interview with Matthew Alexander

International Man of Mystery: An Interview with Matthew Alexander

Introduction

Matthew Alexander is one of those individuals who can't easily be put into any single box, metaphorically speaking. Being a jack-of-all-trades, he excels in several areas, such as writing, podcasting, entrepreneurship, consulting — the list goes on.

On top of that, he is a genuinely nice person, with a beaming attitude that definitely shows in his work. He's one of my favorite people to joke around with on Twitter, and I was excited to interview him for this series. This turned out to be one of the longer interviews I've conducted so far (in a good way!) because we went into lots of different topics. I really think you guys will enjoy this one.

 

Marco Arment Sells 'The Magazine' to Glenn Fleishman

Yep, it’s true. Marco has sold yet another of his popular projects, The Magazine, but rather than going with a 3rd party, he sold it straight to its executive editor, Glenn Fleishman.

Glenn, who is rumored to possess olympian-level tweeting abilities[1] and is a past Jeopardy champion, has done excellent work in his role as editor of The Magazine[2] and I have no doubt he will do equally well in the role of CEO.

My congrats go out to Marco and Glenn, and I look forward to what they each have in the pipeline.


  1. It’s true, he tweets a lot (146,379 and counting) and often gets put into “Twitter jail” for it.  ↩

  2. So well, in fact, that he has already rejected an article pitch I submitted a while back. A wise move on his part, although I will soon make the attempt again.  ↩

Ben Brooks Talks Publishing With Marco Arment

Marco on consumer mindsets:

"Anyone who tries a paywall on a website (at any price), or tries to charge $30 for a mobile app, is going to lose most potential readers or customers. (This might not correspond to lower profits.) They’re breaking the market’s price expectations by pricing above the boundary for what’s usually acceptable. Today, that boundary for apps is about $5, but that boundary for most websites is $0. Once you’re above that boundary, it doesn’t matter as much whether you charge a few dollars more or less — you’re losing sales because it’s over the line, and it’s almost irrelevant how far over the line you are (within reason)."

Great interview, go check it out.

Marco's "Master Plan"

"The last thing I’d want is for a bunch of The Magazine lookalikes to flood the App Store with mediocre articles that haven’t passed through an editor and should just be (or already are) someone’s mediocre blog posts, just so they can easily charge for a subscription. There’s a time and a place for less-formal, less-polished blog writing — here and now, for instance."

I briefly touched on this point recently, and I'm glad Marco agrees. While it's exciting that new tools will soon enable people to publish their own magazines, it's important to stress that they shouldn't go around ripping off Marco's work.

Unfortunately, my hunch is that those same publishing tools will probably also enable lots of copycats. I hope I'm wrong.

Ignoring Big Media in Favor of the Little Guy

As time goes by, I find myself depending less and less on big-name sites to stay on top of matters in the world of tech. At one point or another I've subscribed to them all: Ars Technica, Engadget, Gizmodo, The Verge, Macworld, AllThingsD, The Next Web, TechCrunch, Wired...I'm sure I'm forgetting a few.

The problem with these sites is that they're too broad in scope. They attempt to cover every possible thing, they compete to post scoops first — sometimes to their own detriment — the sheer number of articles in their RSS feeds can accumulate at a seemingly exponential rate, and most of these articles are low-content or cover events I simply do not care about.

["Oh, some Android OEM has decided to shit out yet another phone, just like they have several other times in the last week? How novel and interesting!" - something I have never uttered]

I don't want to keep up with this deluge of information. I want stories. Tech writers are encouraged to slap together several "articles" a day on every possible bit of news that hits their inbox. I just can't stretch my interest amongst that much content.

Because of this, I've unsubscribed from all the big-name publications and started exclusively reading what I call 'personality' blogs. I'm talking about places like Daring Fireball, ShawnBlanc.net, Curious Rat, The Brooks Review, 512 Pixels, and a bunch of others. Without editors and advertisers standing over their shoulders, these blogs have the luxury of publishing at a much slower rate, which typically leads to more thoughtful pieces. A stark (and rather refreshing) contrast to the postpostpostpostpost mentality of the big players.

I'm not saying the larger media outlets don't write great pieces every now and then, but I've found it to be a pretty rare occurrence. Also, these 'diamonds in the rough' will usually be shared around by others anyway, so that I don't have to dig through the garbage myself.

All of this applies to magazines, as well. I can't remember the last time I renewed a paper magazine subscription. Not only is it a gigantic waste of paper, but I feel like I'm getting better mileage out of publications like The Magazine and the Read & Trust Magazine.

Going a step further than simply unsubscribing from the big sites, I've also become a paid member of some smaller sites because I believe it's important to support independent writing. That's where the truly interesting stuff is published, and I want to make sure more of it gets put out into the world. If I ever turn this site into a full-time job, I would hope that people find it in the hearts to support what I do. Why shouldn't I do the same for the sites I love?

The Periodical Co

Earlier, Ben Brooks brought this project to my attention, and I'm already deeply interested.

Essentially it will be a CMS platform that allows non-coders to publish The Magazine-esque content to iOS Newsstand and the web, simply for a tiny cut of the subscription fees. The developers have been partially inspired by Craig Mod's Subcompact Publishing piece that I mentioned (and loved) the other day.

It would seem that Marco's early success with The Magazine has prompted somewhat of a 'gold rush' in self-publishing. There's been a lot of discussion on this topic going around lately, and I think we're going to be seeing a lot of micropublications coming out of the woodwork in the next year or two, especially as more of these publishing tools are released.

People are beginning to see how viable it is for a small-time operation (e.g. one or two people, rather than entire media corporations) to regularly publish fantastic content for just a few bucks a month and still make a tidy profit. Of course, writers have been doing this kind of thing on their blogs for years, but we are a mobile-centric readership these days, and the introduction of iOS Newsstand has seeingly reinvigorated the industry.

It may be that some readers — not myself, mind you — will more easily stomach the idea of an official 'magazine' subscription rather than some blogger's weekly newsletter, even if the content and pricing are similar. Either way, it's an exciting time for publishing and I can't wait to see what's around the corner. I only hope that publishers avoid the temptation to copy The Magazine's overall style and functionality, as may happen if they follow Craig Mod's subcompact manifesto to the letter:

  • Small issue sizes (3-7 articles / issue)
  • Small file sizes
  • Digital-aware subscription prices
  • Fluid publishing schedule
  • Scroll (don’t paginate)
  • Clear navigation
  • HTML(ish) based
  • Touching the open web

According to Hamish McKenzie over at PandoDaily, Periodical Co's product isn't quite ready for release yet but should be in public alpha by next week. I signed up to be notified, and I recommend everyone else do the same. I have a feeling this is going to be huge.

'The Daily shutting down'

Marco Arment:

"The Magazine costs less than The Daily and has far fewer subscribers (so far), but that’s fine: I can’t even imagine how I’d spend $3 million per year on it. But I’m also not trying to make an all-purpose news and editorial publication for everyone, every day."

I never read The Daily, but with Rupert Murdoch behind the curtain and that much money being thrown at it, I guess I'm not surprised that it went under so quickly.

Still, you have to admit it was a ballsy idea when it started. I think they should be commended for their effort and for attempting to venture into a new frontier, not kicked while they're down the way a lot of people have been doing today.

The power of hindsight is a crazy thing.

'Subcompact Publishing'

Marco Arment linked to this fantastic piece regarding The Magazine and the state of mobile publishing. Lots of great quotes to choose from, but this stands out:

"The fact that Marco — a programmer — launched one of the most ‘digitally indigenous’ contemporary tablet publications is indicative of two things:

  1. Programmers are today’s magicians. In many industries this is obvious, but it’s now becoming more obvious in publishing. Marco was able to make The Magazine happen quickly because he saw that Newsstand was underutilized and understood its capabilities. He knew this because he’s a programmer. Newsstand wasn’t announced at a publishing conference. It was announced at the WWDC.
  2. The publishing ecosystem is now primed for complete disruption."

Go read the whole thing, it's several magnitudes better than my own little piece on publishing.

The Readability Argument

Ben Brooks discusses the recent argument about Readability that took place on Twitter over the weekend between the likes of John Gruber, Jason Snell, Jeffrey Zeldman, and others, and also led to this blog post by Anil Dash. After reading Dash's post and following the Twitter conversation, I am still left wondering the same two things as Brooks:

  1. Why does Readability feel it is OK to collect money in another’s name without that persons permission?
  2. What, specifically, happens to the unclaimed money?

I think users and publishers deserve answers to both of those questions.

Eagerly waiting to hear the answer to those, since they have still gone unanswered since this entire argument began months ago.

'What Comes After Reading on the iPad"

Khoi Vinh wrote a thoughtful analysis on the future role iPads (and other tablets) may play in our lives:

Traditional publishers are pouring millions into establishing a beachhead on tablets and e-readers, perhaps with good reason. But the intense competition and experimentation (much of it misguided) is almost assuredly unsustainable; almost all of the content apps that we see today will be gone within a few years, I predict, or they will be supplanted by browser-driven editions as their native iOS or Android apps prove too expensive and impractical to maintain.

What’s more, all of these efforts conform to a familiar pattern: at the start of nearly every technological shift, legacy brands manage to command a disproportionate amount of attention as they attempt to stake their holds in the new space, but almost always find themselves unable to sustain that attention through genuine innovation. Ultimately, it’s the pure play companies that realize the medium’s true potential.