A while back, Apple introduced Newsstand. The idea behind the Newsstand app was to let publishers create digital magazines and deliver them to customers. The problem with Newsstand was that it took complicated tools like Adobe’s InDesign to make Newsstand apps, which kept them out of the hands of nearly everyone but professional graphic design artists. That’s when a Dutch company called Prss came up with a simple digital magazine design tool dubbed “the app that Apple forgot.”
Apparently Apple took notice of their weak acceptance of Newsstand and the strong appeal of Prss because Apple recently acquired Prss, presumably so they can improve Apple’s tools for creating digital magazines. With easier tools for creating digital magazines, perhaps more people will be able to create them and boost the popularity of Newsstand in the process.
The big question is how will digital magazines differ from web sites and e-books? Typically an e-book provides a great deal of information collected in one place while a web site offers timely information. On the other hand, a digital magazine is a cross between a web site and an e-book. The information is related like an e-book but timely like a web site. The goal is to get people to subscribe to digital magazines and eagerly anticipate new issues periodically.
Can Prss help Apple boost the popularity of Newsstand? Maybe, but they’re already facing an uphill battle. The main question is how will digital magazines make money? Web sites typically make money through advertising. E-books typically make money by forcing consumers to buy them sight unseen. Digital magazines are caught in between. Should a digital magazine charge? Popular ones can get away with this since their reputation can attract subscribers, but a new magazine may have trouble attracting subscribers. Advertising? Maybe, but like real magazines, digital magazines may need to use both methods to make money.
The key to Newsstand’s success is whether a company like Prss can make creating digital magazines simple, easy, and fast. The easier they can be to create, the more likely someone will actually create them. Then people can worry about how to make money from them.
For now, think of digital magazines as a cheaper way of creating a newsletter. The difference is that sending a newsletter by e-mail goes right to the customer while a digital magazines requires someone to deliberately open the Newsstand app.
Keep an eye on what Apple may do in the future, but realize that digital magazines may not translate very well from their print equivalent.