September 24, 2014 Last Updated 12:45 pm

Another look at TRVL: design simplicity, a lack of moving parts

Apple recently acquired the digital publishing platform Prss, but it may have been the app and publication design team that it’s after

There were plenty of emails to answer after word got out that Apple had “acquired” the digital publishing platform Prss. (I’m never sure whether the company should be spelled out in all capitals or not, but the developer account in the App Store says “Prss Inc. so we’ll go with that.)

TRVL-iPad-2014-lg“Acquired” may or may not be the correct term here, as no one knows exactly what Apple bought. Were they after the digital publishing platform? Many emails from other platforms certainly wanted to know this. Or were they really interested in the team, and in particular Michel Elings who moved to Palo Alto this summer?

It is worthwhile to remind ourselves just what Apple may have fallen in love with. TRVL, the digital-only magazine launched by Jochem Wijnands and Michel Elings is at the center of all this.

Launched in the early fall of 2010, it was one of the very first digital-only magazines that made a big splash. Apple’s App Store team loved it and it has been almost constantly promoted every since its launch.

Originally launched using the WoodWing platform, another company from The Netherlands, eventually the publishing team would begin looking for an easier, less expensive alternative. After all, its needs to small compared to major publishing companies.

So began the development of Prss.

It was pretty clear to me from the beginning that the team was very much interested in either finding a buyer for Prss or else finding another business model beyond just selling licenses to the platform. The platform was in beta for a long time while the team demonstrated Prss to major publishing houses. It went live just long enough for TNM to include Prss in the first edition of our Guide to Digital Publishing Platforms. But by the time we began work on the second edition Prss was no more.

The only other digital magazine, besides TRVL, which appeared in the Newsstand was that from The Next Web, a title called Shift (see hastily written post from the old TNM website). The end of Prss as a commercial venture meant the end of Shift (though there is a little more to the story than just that).

What Apple sees in Prss and its team can be seen in the TRVL app. Simple, elegant, just the kind of work Apple likes. The weekly digital-only magazine now a ridiculous number of free issues available through the Newsstand app, but the app has not been updated since October of last year, likely because it hasn’t needed to be.

What happens from here will be interesting. The Prss website has been pulled down, and I see that there has not been an update to the TRVL magazine blog since April. But the digital magazine continues to be produced. Whether this has been done just to put up a bit of a smokescreen is anyone’s guess. But the latest issue, Armenia, is as gorgeous as previous issues.

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