December 13, 2012

The Magazine And What Marco Arment Got Wrong

Marco Arment, of Instapaper, and more recently The Magazine, fame has written a post on the future of publishing. He says that several parties have contacted him about licensing The Magazine’s platform, a business he is reluctant to be in. He also says this:

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.

Well, too bad. Success will be copied, and The Magazine is not only successful, it is successful within a niche where people are starving for a solution, any solution really. I’ve already explained why that is, so let’s all take a moment to remember, shall we?

Marco Arment then says this:

If the App Store gets spammed with hundreds of bad clones, The Magazine itself will lose credibility and potential subscribers as people make incorrect assumptions about its article quality.

I disagree. With that reasoning there could not be any blogs with credibility, since there are so many “bad clones” out there. Still there is, and still there is quality writing, bloggers with fanbases large enough to launch niche tablet magazines even…

All credit to Marco Arment and his reasons for making The Magazine, I’m a subscriber and would gladly contribute. However I do believe that while the reasoning is sound, it is based on the wrong assumptions. While it is rarely fun to be cloned and copied over and over again, that really doesn’t mean as much as one would like to think. Next year there will be hundreds of The Magazine clones, but although the novelty of the format might wear off, it won’t matter in terms of readers or income for the original product. It might even be a validation of The Magazine’s worth as a trend setter, which could mean even more readers outside of the obvious reach of the product.

Finally, I have to quote this, still from Marco Arment’s post:

It was made to have magazine-quality articles: that’s why I hired a great editor, why we’re paying print-competitive rates to attract print-quality writers, and why we’re starting to integrate illustrations and photos where they can be beneficial.

Emphasis is mine. I have a hard time with “print-quality” as something positive. There is so much rubbish being printed, I’m not even sure that it is on par with the commercial online offerings anymore, if ever. I’m nitpicking perhaps, but this sort of uncritical validation of anything on paper always stings my eyes.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere.