App Watch: A Look at What Publishers Are Launching in the Mobile Space
Application: The Weekend Companion
Produced By: The Awl and 29th Street Publishing
Price: Free to download, with monthly ($3.99) and yearly ($39.99) subscriptions
There’s a couple of things going on with The Weekend Companion, the iPhone and iPad app launched by New York-based The Awl. There’s the app itself, which, according to Awl editor Choire Sicha, is designed to be a simple, clean escape from the noise and distractions of the typical Web experience—more print-like, in a way, with all the advantages of digital media, such as easy downloads and cross-platform accessibility.
Then there’s the way it was developed. The Awl worked with 29th Street Publishing, an app developer seeking to make app creation and distribution as easy as blogging.
“On one level, it was a great opportunity to experiment and try something new,” Sicha said of the decision. “With fairly low stakes for us, to be honest, because 29th Street Publishing was the one taking a lot of the risk—or at least, cost.”
29th Street Publishing founders David Jacobs and Natalie Podrazik conceived their business as a low-cost alternative for small publishers looking to create apps and sell them on Apple’s newsstand. The Awl was looking to diversify revenue channels by branching into paid subscription territory (all content on The Awl and sister sites Billfold, Splitsider, The Hairpin and The Wirecutter is free and ad-supported), as well as offer a highly-curated mobile experience distinct from what readers get online.
With the app, The Awl hopes to reach the “anti-advertising crowd,” Sicha says, as well as people who follow the website but are interested in supporting the publisher directly through subscription payments. There are also readers who simply prefer the clean, lean-back presentation of the app, which is updated with fresh long-form content every Friday. “They prefer to read less often but better, and they often … prefer to read on a device [rather] than on the Web,” Sicha says.