Be honest, how often do you actually open up Apple’s Newsstand on your iPhone or iPad? Chances are, probably not much.
Offline Magazine, a hip new mobile publication for iOS ($1 per issue, $10 per year), is working to change your perceptions of the Newsstand. The company (which has the same name) launched its digital magazine a few months ago, with a focus on a clean design, high-quality articles, and most intriguingly, professionally-produced dictation for all of its stories.
Now, Offline Magazine (the company) is aiming to expand by offering its platform to other publishers. First up is Brooklyn Magazine, which launched its Offline-powered app for Newsstand today for $3 per issue and $30 a year.
Aside from huge media outlets like The New York Times, which have the resources to put into complicated mobile apps, there aren’t too many compelling mobile publications on Newsstand. That’s particularly the case when apps like Pocket and Instapaper offer a wealth of reading content outside of it (often for free).
With its platform, Offline aims to give smaller publications a way to compete with much larger publications on Newsstand. And with its dictation feature, which is produced by a studio that also does work for Audible e-books, Offline offers something that I haven’t seen on most high-end news apps.
“We believe [Newsstand] is probably the most underutilized space [on iOS],” Offline co-founder Tom Smith told VentureBeat in an interview. “What we’re trying to do is change behavior.
“Game Center [Apple’s iOS gaming platform] became a discovery destination — we’re trying to bring enough really interesting new publications to Newsstand so that it becomes an interesting discovery space as well.”
Smith, a former Apple employee who helped to launch the iPhone 3GS and also worked on Siri and Apple Maps, tells me Offline Magazine has seen a “tremendous” amount of downloads since it launched. While he didn’t offer up any specifics, he noted that Offline’s steady growth was enough to attract five publishing partners (including Brooklyn Magazine).
What’s most striking about Offline’s platform is its clean and simple design — you won’t find any noisy video embeds or interactive ads here. Offline optimizes articles for ideal viewing on the iPhone and iPad, and it balances media so that it doesn’t get in the way of the text.
Khoi Vinh, the creator of the iPad collage app Mixel and the former design director of The New York Times, is also consulting on Offline’s design.
While Smith wouldn’t rule out ads in future partner publications, there currently aren’t any ads in Brooklyn Magazine‘s app, and he says there will never be ads in Offline’s core news app. The company currently is sharing app subscription revenues with Brooklyn Magazine.
As for what’s next, Smith is aiming for some tried and true magazine categories: Food and travel.
“We’re bringing what we believe to be the best content for mobile,” Smith said. “It’s [for] brands who don’t really have the expertise to execute something like this.”