is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
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.+