Among the many things I’ve been working on for the past six months is spending a bit of time helping entrepreneurs Tom Smith and Brad Flaugher realize their very canny vision for mobile publishing. It’s called Offline Magazine, and it debuts today in the App Store.
Each month, Offline delivers five essays about culture, comedy or design, curated as a proper issue (I wrote one of the pieces in the debut edition). The Offline app itself is beautifully designed (not by me, but by Trevor Baum) and purpose-built for mobile reading. That last bit is incredibly important; this is a reading experience expressly designed to complement reading habits on phones and tablets, not demand new, unnatural ones.
Reading on the Go
The five essays are packaged together so that they add up to about an hour’s worth of content, and so they can be read on commutes or in short bursts on the go. Even better, each essay is accompanied by a spoken word audio version — delightfully read by a professional voice actor. The audio experience is fantastic, in my opinion, and a much more useful expression of ‘multimedia’ than what is usually passed off under that rubric.
What makes Offline even more interesting is its model for compensating writers. As TechCrunch explains it:
“The payment scale will be based on giving each writer 10% of the app’s revenue. Smith says that he hopes to eventually pay up to $5,000-$10,000 for an article this way, far above the industry averages of $0.50-$2.00 a word. The pieces typically run around 1,000 words, though some are longer and some are shorter.
“Offline’s pieces are initially all sourced from writers and personalities with large online followings. Because the payment for articles comes in the form of a percentage of revenue, there is incentive for those contributors to promote the app as much as possible. This ‘word of audience’ is what Smith is counting on to spread the word about the app initially.”
Who knows if this will work, but it’s as adventurous and savvy a guess as to what will work in the new landscape for paid content as any publisher has come up with. What’s more, this kind of big picture thinking, in which creative (but not overbearing) problem solving is applied to both the user experience as well as the author experience is what so many content ventures are missing, if you ask me.
Find out more at Offline Mag or download from the App Store.
Hi Khoi, downloaded the app, and so far a great read. Though having a little problem with syncing iPad and iPhone. On the second device, I seem to get stuck in a cycle of pop ups telling me I can confirm subscription and that I’m already subscribed. I keep tapping OK and confirm, though neither state seems to update the stories from their preview status. Maybe I’m missing something.
I love the time stamps, the audio version, and the bar letting you know how far into a story you are. Though I am a sucker for loading bars telling me how long the issue is going to take to download. Maybe that’s old school.
I’m an editor of a magazine that’s trying to make its way through the transition from print-only to print+digital. And what we constantly keep coming back to is what role graphic design has to play in digital? While UX design is so important, most apps are but a couple of inset photos and a decent style sheet. Do we have to lose graphic design to be on mobile?
And, boy, are those healthy rates. Good luck to everyone. Hope it works out.
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