May 6, 2014 Last Updated 1:52 pm

Immersion: New tablet-only travel magazine starts from scratch to seek audience

The odds for any magazine start-up are long, as any veteran magazine publisher knows. But the odds for a new digital-only magazine may be even longer as the new title has to be found inside the various app stores, gain an audience and new subscribers, then try and attract advertisers.

Some digital magazine start-ups seek inexpensive digital publishing platforms, often PDF based, that offer low production costs, or even a revenue share model. Then there are the native tablet publishing platforms, some expensive, some not, that offer a truly interactive product, but mean more work and more expertise. For the editor or publisher it is good to have some design or technical help to make things easier.

Clare Hancock was able to find Christopher Scotti at the University of Oregon, and together they have launched a new tablet travel magazine called Immersion Travel. Their first test issue has launched into the Apple App Store as a stand-alone app called ITM Issue t1 (which one supposes could be translated as Immersion Travel Magazine Issue test 1).

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“This is it!” writes Hancock. “After weeks of brainstorming, planning, filming, interviewing, crawling over cliffs, running around with goats, shooting photos, stuffing our faces with mac n’ cheese, writing, more writing, editing, designing, and sacrificing sleep, Immersion Travel’s first issue is ready for you to enjoy.”

The app uses Adobe’s Single Edition solution to create the digital magazine. As is typical of the solution, the end result is rather massive – 746MB. But while readers will be asked to dedicate a large portion of their iPad’s storage to the issue, they won’t have to pay anything as the app and issue are free of charge.

Hancock to TNM that after graduating from Humboldt State University with a bachelor’s degree in travel writing she started writing freelance travel articles, but said it “it wasn’t really fulfilling. It wasn’t what I thought travel writing should be.”

Immersion-iPad-TOC“I thought there should be a way for travel writers to be fully reimbursed by the magazines they work for,” Hancock said. “That they shouldn’t have to go into these little towns and say ‘trade positive reviews for a free night’s stay.’ I ran into this a few times, and I knew other writers who have run into this and so I wanted to find another way to create something that will take care of writers but will also focus on destinations that beneficial for everyone involved.”

So when Hancock went to the University of Oregon to get her Master’s Degree and work on the new idea she met Chris Scotti who was responsible for the app.

“He’s more the visual side of things. He is a great photographer,” Hancock said. “I’m more the writing side of it, and he puts together a lot of the visual elements and multimedia.”

For the first issue the team picked a subject fairly close to home: the Bay Area, from San Francisco’s Chinatown, to the kitchen of an Oakland Italian restaurant, to the shores of Half Moon Bay, the issue is called Big Bridges, Back Roads and Bolognese.

“This is actually a trial issue,” Hancock said. “This is the first time Chris and I have ever put together an issue, so this is more for getting feedback from readers, and to try and build a little bit of an audience. Then we take that audience, we take those numbers from our trial issues and bring those to advertisers.”

Assuming they succeed in building the audience then they will be able to start charging for subscriptions, as well as sell the ad space. Hancock has come up with an estimate concerning how many readers they will need to make a success of the magazine – a figure that may be high when compared to what many of the magazines being audited by the AAM have been able to achieve.

DonnaHay-coverOut of curiosity I asked Hancock if she read any digital magazines that inspired her – thinking that she might mention the pioneering digital travel magazine TRVL.

“Well, actually, one of our favorite digital magazines is Donna Hay, a cooking magazine from Australia. And Qantas is another favorite digital magazine. We looked at them and how they are putting things together. But they also don’t use Adobe, they using a different program and Chris and I are going to experience with that other program this next time around, and their software is better at crunching down the size of the app. So we’re hoping this next time around it won’t be as large and will be easier to download.”

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