Applying the iTunes model to magazine content

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Magazines sprouting up on the iPad range from spruced-up replicas like Wired to iPad-only creations from Richard Branson and News Corp (coming soon). But it's not just publishing powerhouses beating their chests: The iPad also has opened the door to a new era of indie publishing and magazine start-ups. 

Nomad Editions, a start-up run by print industry veterans, just launched the first round of its digital weeklies. Earlier this year, Sideways launched an iPad magazine, partially to showcase its technology solutions for publishers. The most recent iPad-only start-up, travel magazine TRVL, has a more rebellious take on iPad magazine consumption: Why not offer it in single-article chunks, à  la iTunes, rather than bundled together in the traditional print style? 
 
Dutch co-founders Jochem Wijnands and Michel Elings publish the free, single-article publication using freelancer writers and photographers and on a start-up budget of $40,000. Jochem Wijnands, co-founder of TRVL, an iPad-only magazine
So far the team has published 10 issues, each featuring a single article and photos about a specific destination (view in the Apple store).
 
Why free? “We don’t have all these expenses that normal magazines have; we don’t need to ask our readers for money,” Wijands (right) said in an interview. Eventually, co-founders plan to pursue advertisers and are also considering paid content with ancillary products like travel TV or photo books. 
 
Some brands and investors have already reached out to them, but so far TRVL hasn't responded, and isn't too concerned about profitability yet. “We’ve been focusing on getting our magazine the way we like it, on building a community, on making sure we are found and we are downloaded,” said Wijands.
 

A new way to produce magazinesMichel Elings, co-founder of TRVL, an iPad-only magazine

Whether the magazine's forthcoming business model will be sustainable, Winjands seems confident that TRVL is reinventing the magazine for the iPad in a way that big publishers just aren't getting. 
 
“Because we are free, because we are ignoring the mainstream publishers and doing it ourselves, because we are selling or actually offering single articles like iTunes did for music, you see a different style of magazine appearing,” he explained. 
 
Since Nov. 29, TRVL has been downloaded 10,000 times, sometimes getting about 1,000 downloads a day, Winjands said. 

TRVL magazine for the iPad

An iTunes model for content  

TRVL's à la carte distribution model allows consumers to download what they like more quickly, said Elings. The 35-40-megabyte issues take 1 to 2 minutes to download - a sharp contrast to the much-criticized 15-minute downloads of some full-issue magazines. 
 
On the iPad, there's no need to bind magazine content together; it's the individual articles that matter, Wijnands noted. “We strongly believe that what we’re doing is what a lot of other magazines will be doing in the future,” he said. "We’re just the first."
 
WoodWing, known for providing cross-platform publishing software for big publishing clients like Time Inc. and Condé Nast, provides the software for TRVL through its partner PubliQare. Eventually TRVL wants to create HTML5-based content and potentially move onto tablets beyond the iPad. 
 
TRVL might not have all the bells and whistles that Murdoch and Branson can offer with their iPad publications, but the concept of single-article issues has a disruptive feel to it. How much easier would it be if you could choose (and pay for) only The New Yorker articles you want to read?
 
TRVL magazine for the iPad applies the iTunes model to content.

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