Hamish McKenzie at PandoDaily responded to my TypeEngine post with this inflammatory headline, insulting The Magazine’s content in the article (for no apparent reason) and mischaracterizing my argument so I sound even more arrogant and out-of-touch than usual:
Arment is right about the importance of quality editorial in attracting and maintaining a readership, but his argument about platforms is surprisingly out of touch.
My post was sloppy — I should have slept on it and rewritten a lot of it the next morning.1 I was making two points that probably should have been two posts. First, TypeEngine showed poor judgment in choosing their example template. This was the meat of the second and bigger point:
But I worry that TypeEngine, and startups like them, are focusing too much on the wrong side of this problem and filling a lot of people with false hope or misleading expectations. … Granted, not everyone is a developer or can afford one, but the recent demand (and impending oversupply) of platforms that enable mass creation of The Magazine-like publications indicates a lack of understanding of the market.
I never said that platforms like 29th Street Publishing and TypeEngine shouldn’t exist. We could use some great ones, and there will be a lot of duds, just like blogging engines. I should have reinforced that point.
What I wanted (but failed) to express was that I think a lot of people assume that the tools are the biggest thing holding them back from publishing a successful Newsstand magazine, and that once these platforms are available, they’ll just copy their blog posts into a magazine and start printing money.
In reality, I think it’s going to be a microcosm of the entire App Store: a few winners and a lot of unprofitable efforts.
The Magazine isn’t a Newsstand publication just for fun — it’s a Newsstand publication because I wanted to fund magazine-quality content without ads, and iOS makes payments easy enough to make that possible. There’s a reason it’s something else and not just Marco.org Magazine, and even though I now have a platform I could use for free, I’m still not making Marco.org Magazine.
Publishing platforms will soon make it easier to get into Newsstand. But making magazine-quality content on a regular schedule, getting enough subscribers to pay when there’s tons of great online content for free, and keeping the subscribers interested after they’ve paid — those are hard, they’ll always be hard, and a lot of people are underestimating those challenges and thinking the biggest barrier is an app.
A good magazine’s editor would have made me revise it, but single-author blogs don’t usually have editors — this is one of the factors that can distinguish good magazine writing from most blog writing. ↩