A Letter to Our Android-Loving Readers
By Cameron Strang
January 9, 2013
Founder of RELEVANT, dad of Cohen, follower of Jesus, podcaster, design nerd, fan of the Magic and Gators. But not in that order.
As many of you know, in September 2011 we totally re-imagined RELEVANT for the iPad. Since then, our readers have told us it's a pretty awesome magazine experience—what with all the integrated multimedia, interactivity and exclusive content—and its audience has grown substantially. In fact, new iPad subscriptions each week recently surpassed the level of our print subscriptions. (But don't worry. Our print edition isn't going anywhere—it's as healthy as ever.)
We chose to launch our tablet edition iPad-only because at the time it had more than 80 percent of the market. We wanted to create one edition to reach the vast majority of tablet users and see what happened, before committing to roll out other versions. Would we sell any at all? Would we be able to sustainably produce a high-quality product? Would it eventually pay for itself? We're a small independent publisher, so we have to be careful with every new venture.
Our goal is to continue to innovate and evolve what a magazine experience is, and eventually create a native RELEVANT experience on every personal media device. So when a few months ago the software we use to build our iPad magazine opened up the ability for us to create an Android magazine app too, we decided to move forward with an Android edition. And for the last month, our design and digital teams have been working hard on it. Everything was planned for our debut Android issue to launch this week (something we've been talking about on Twitter).
Unfortunately, yesterday I pulled the plug on the project.
If you've seen it, you know the bar we set for ourselves with the iPad edition, and I'm sorry to say the Android app experience we created simply is not up to snuff. It's not Android's fault—though having to develop for so many different dimensions and processors and sizes doesn't make for an ideal product. But the poor app experience was primarily due to the limitations in the development software we're bound to use. That's the risk of early adoption—the software simply isn't ready for primetime yet, and we didn't know that until we got really deep into the project.
We don't want to give paying Android readers a product that lacks the multimedia and interactive elements of our iPad edition. (Not to mention, an app that's glitchy and full of bugs.) The Android magazine experience we were able to create is simply not up to our standards or the level of experience our readers have come to expect from us. We're not going to roll out a faulty product.Now I understand why major magazines that have amazing interactive iPad editions, like Esquire and GQ, have yet to deploy interactive Android tablet editions. (Everything I've seen is just a stripped-down digital replica of their print edition.) But Android tablets are a growing market, and a lot of companies are hard at work innovating for the platform. Because of that, I'm confident at some point this year we'll be able to deploy equal iPad and Android interactive magazine experiences. Just not yet.
In the meantime, we are working to enter the e-reader market and roll out editions of the print magazine for those newsstands. Our plan is to be in the Google Magazine, Nook and Kindle marketplaces ASAP, but all three of those platforms have to approve any new magazines, so the timing is out of our hands. (I've learned my lesson with the Android app and won't be giving any date specifics). Since these will be replications of our print magazine, not the interactive tablet edition, we will price them accordingly.
Our print magazine is $4.95, the iPad edition is $3.99, and the e-reader edition will be $2.99. We're the only magazine I know of that's setting prices like this. (Most magazines are the full print price no matter what, which makes no sense to me when there aren't any printing and shipping costs for a wow-factor multimedia edition, let alone a basic a e-reader PDF.)
I apologize for incorrectly promising a launch date for the Android tablet edition. The decision to nix it (for now) is mine alone, and while many of our vocal Twitter followers aren't going to be happy with me, I think it's going to be better in the long-run. I take full responsibility for the mistake.
Please know that the RELEVANT team and I are committed to innovation and to deploying high-quality content as widely as we sustainably can. But many factors go into making something work, and we only want to do it the right way.
If you have any questions or concerns, definitely let us know either by contacting us or posting below. We appreciate your support—and understanding!
UPDATE: Good news. I spoke to the head of our app software company late today, and while he acknowledged their Android solutions are sorely lacking right now, he assured me they are fully committed to the Android platform. So much so, they're currently rebuilding their software from the ground up. In fact, we'll be partnering with them during development this spring to make sure the software can flawlessly handle everything we want to throw at it. He expects a Q3 deployment. After that, we'll reassess everything and hopefully begin work on a financially sustainable, high quality Android product.