Will Apple Apps Save Motorcycle Magazines and Journalism?

Will Apple Apps Save Motorcycle Magazines and Journalism?The print motorcycle magazine industry is not a healthy thing.  British magazines like Bike and TWO (now VisorDown taking the name of the magazines website) have developed content bulimia, shedding pages on a free-fall purge, and several American magazines are on the verge of anorexic extinction.  There is hope though in a confluence of consumer technologies positioned to revolutionize and assure the future of publishing.  The problem of course is, that in media terms, the motorcycle industry is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and is just now coming to terms with this “new thing called the Internet.”

The technologies of course are the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Nobel Nook, Apple’s current and ubiquitous iPhone and iPod Touch and the Cupertino firm’s rumored iTablet – an iPod Touch grown to magazine size and proportions.  These technologies are of course tied to online stores, which are revolutionary in themselves, but not as much so as Apple’s iTunes App store which is giving enterprising magazines a fighting chance for survival.

Apple has recently changed its user agreement regarding free applications being able to draw content across the web and charge for it within the application, previously that was only the domain of paid applications.  As a result the company is now working with the likes of the New York Times and other major publishers (source) to utilize this new distribution model for content.  A move that is especially relevant to the new iTablet (just a convenient handle, likely not the real name), which could provide a full color magazine like experience – just like many ebooks found on the iPod.  But, really there is no need for magazines to have waited so long.

A non-Motorcycle related magazine, McSweeney’s, of quarterly fame, recently launched the Small Chair.  In essence this application is a repackaging of the publications online site, the Internet Tendency .  For $5.99 (CND) the application gathers this multimedia content, and places it on your iPhone or iPod Touch.  Not just prose, but audio and movies too, the content waiting in the application for you when you want to consume it.

In the act of creating an application that updates itself, and alerts you to those updates, The Small Chair, solves the major problem of the web – the active searching for content.  Repackaged like this a site that I only occasionally visit, becomes a morning read over coffee or other sitting locations – the iPhone having solved the other bane of online media, not being able to take it to wherever your sit-down time happens to be.  It’s a subtle distinction, but the convenience of not having to search for the content, constantly check for updates and actually engage in going to a website is worth the nominal price.

The key here is that the McSweeney’s application pulls high quality content worth reading, and wraps it in a conveniently consumable form, so as always content is the key.  But for an industry with low-volume news flow and a consistent flow of features like Motorcycle’s this model is a near perfect fit – especially if the publisher is already providing web content.

Here then is a business model gift wrapped for the flounder motorcycle magazine industry, the problem though isn’t with the publishers so much as the manufacturers.

Internet uptake on the part of motorcycle companies in North American has been glacial.  Internet magazines like OneWheelDrive.Net continue to fight an uphill battle, attempting to educate the industries leaders regarding the effectiveness of the web in reaching a buying audience and the metrics behind web advertising.  That sadly isn’t going to change.

What has changed is that print magazines faced with an economic downturn are facing the same problem as established internet players as they are forced to transition to a new media playing field.  That brings credibility to the effort, as does the move of bigger less specific magazines.  GQ will be publishing an pay iPhone app version of it’s December issue, a complete and faithful digital representation of the print magazine.  More importantly the numbers from that apps sale will count towards the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) paid circulation numbers (source), a formality that brings industry validity to the emerging medium.

So the stage is set for the transition of print to electronic “iPrint” form, at it could well be the salvation of print motorcycle magazines, and the continuance of onlines into a more portable and usable format.  That’s regardless of whether the motorcycle industry continues to cling to its ongoing tradition for failing to support innovative new media ventures through ad revenue.

Under previous “online”  and print models, the industry has had the big stick of advertising budget, which with it could punish publications who’ve dared to have negative opinions of products.  The scenario of “print that review, and we’ll withdraw or reduce advertising support”, surely exists though more so in the US than in Canada.  Often it’s a fear internal in the structure of a magazine that places the editorial staff at odds with the advertising sales, perhaps not spoiling journalism, but coloring it’s integrity.

This model of the magazine application sold though a app store though, sees the reader actually paying for the content consumed covering the core costs of content creation, development, and distribution (such as it is).  While it will undoubtedly favour lean operations, there’s a more important ramifications for online media, which until now has struggled with creating a viable and self-sustaining financial model, and indeed journalism.  At the point where advertising is the gravy for a new media publisher, there is a freedom to engage in direct and honest journalism within the industry without having to consider the repercussions.  Content, not advertising becomes the core of the business model.

It won’t happen overnight, but the rise of the application store and magazine application may be the salvation of floundering motorcycle print publications, and the jumping point for online publications.  It also sees journalistic integrity and freedom restored, as core lean internet publishers are partially abstracted from the concern of continually wooing advertising for a profit.  Our first step?  OneWheelDrive.Net is now iPhone and Android enabled on the web for your ease of reading… wherever you go.

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