A Q&A with the Wonderfactory Co-Founder Joe McCambley
Wonderfactory Co-Founder Joe McCambley answers questions about apps, digital magazines and the future of digital publishing.
Excluding your ventures, what are your favorite iPad apps?
Not a fair question, because ours ARE the best.
Still, I spend more time watching movies now than at any other point in my life thanks to the Netflix App. I love the ability to find a movie and watch when and where I like. NPR keeps me company while I shave each morning, after I set up a playlist of programs I want to hear. In my car, Google Maps has replaced the GPS device, and Pandora is as good to me as XM Radio. Both DropBox and Instapaper give me access to documents and articles everywhere.
What is the biggest challenge in developing a magazine app?
Usability. Most magazine apps are based on print magazines, and created by teams that are traditionally focused on print. Helping print teams understand the differences in interaction models between print and digital products is difficult, but well worth the effort. The end product ultimately combines brilliant design, and great usability.
Where do you stand in the growing debate of web-based apps versus native apps?
Right now I'm in the native-app camp. There's no better way to take advantage of the inherent capabilities of a device. Next year, or the year after, I'll probably be in the web-based camp as it will likely require less need for customization of apps across devices, operating systems, screen sizes, and screen resolutions.
What enhancements would you like to see in future digital publishing software options?
Our industry needs to do a better job of collaborating with advertisers. Money will flood back into publishing when advertisers are able to create experiences that are as entertaining and useful as the content they sponsor. When advertising is an ENHANCEMENT to a magazine's experience, everyone wins--the magazine, the advertiser, and especially the reader.
What new features do you think will be/should be in v2.0 of digital magazines?
The ability to search by topic in the app store, find individual articles related to my interest, and then buy individual articles via micropayments. Buying entire magazines is like buying entire albums or CDs. I doubt if micropayments will happen. Short of that, I wish it were easier to search for content about topics of interest to me.
What is the most common feedback you hear from publishers who are trying to figure out this new platform?
It's too expensive, and the sales don't justify the expense. That will change as Apple and the industry come to terms over subscriptions.
What is the most common feedback you hear from media buyers/advertisers who are trying to figure out this new platform?
It's too expensive, and the reach doesn't justify the expense. That will change as more tablets are sold.
How big of an impact do you expect Apple's Newsstand to have on the sales of digital magazines?
Because the magazine stand groups magazines in one place, and makes it easier for consumers to find them, it should lead to increased magazine sales. In general, anything that improves the user experience in the app store will help the sale of digital magazines and other apps. As good as the iPad is, and as many apps that are sold, the app store is the least usable of all Apple products. Our teams would kill to get their hands on THAT redesign.
How close do you think the current crop of digital magazines are to what can ultimately be produced for the iPad?
We've barely scratched the surface of what magazines can become. The next few years will be the most exciting in the history of media.
What kind of elements can be added to create an even more engaging and interactive reading experience?
I think there's a lot that can be done here, but one concept that comes immediately to mind is super aggregation around topics. Why, if I'm reading an article about Istanbul, can I only get that article? Over the past 100 years there has been tons of content created about Istanbul, text, maps, videos, audio, etc. It's all sitting in digital vaults somewhere, not being used or monetized by its creators, and not accessible to me, the consumer. If I really, really, care about Istanbul, I should be able to dive in and pursue it's history, politics, art, culture, crime, food and restaurants, hotels, religions, everything. Just as the web unlocked massive amounts of content from the vaults of publishers-the Time Archive comes to mind, the tablet will add momentum to that trend. It can't happen soon enough.
Looking into your crystal ball, what is your short-term and long-term prediction for digital magazines on the iPad?
Short term there will be struggles until the tablet gets greater penetration and subscription issues between Apple and the industry are ironed out. Maybe browser-based apps will help there. Long term, if you're in the content business, you're in for a lot of fun and reinvention. People who today think that magazines are words printed on pages and screens will learn that magazines are purveyors of information and entertainment. They'll break out of their print mind set, and their products will become more multimedia in nature. There will probably be a shake out of brands that cannot make this transition, so some will go out of business. New entrants that are not constrained by old business models will rise in stature quickly.
You'll also see advertisers who grow tired of waiting for magazines to make that transition, and who will start taking matters into their own hands. We'll see an increase in branded apps created by advertisers, and that will lead to a morphing in advertising--ads will become more app like-more useful and entertaining.
All of this will be great for consumers. We're all learning that if your product is not user-centric, it may get downloaded once, but users won't engage with it, and it won't be downloaded twice. The applies to magazines, apps, branded apps-everything. The app economy is re-teaching all of us that we have to be completely focused on users and user needs first in order to be successful.
Ron Matejko is the President of Phoenix, Ariz.-based MVP Media, an award-winning digital publishing company. Matejko has 16 years of publishing experience in print, Web and mobile and has worked on the staff of two award-winning publications.
MVP Media publishes MVP Magazine, the first interactive sports publication, which won a Bronze 2010 Digital Magazine Award for Best Sports Magazine, besting entrants from 26 countries around the world, and was a finalist for Designer of the Year. MVP Media will launch its own magazines on the iPad in 2011.
MVP Media also helps existing publishers convert their print products into dynamic publications for the web and tablets. Visit the MVP Magazine website at www.mvptoday.com. Contact Ron by e-mail at email@example.com, or connect with him on LinkedIn or on Twitter @mvp_media.