Forget Murdoch and Branson, could TRVL’s gorgeous iPad magazine transform publishing?

Forget Murdoch and Branson, could TRVL’s gorgeous iPad magazine transform publishing?

It looks like iPad-only publications might be a trend to look out for in 2011. Rupert Murdoch has a team busy preparing ‘The Daily’ newspaper app, while Richard Branson yesterday launched his flash ‘Project magazine. While it’s a big shift to see tablet-specific releases from the big boys, the real revolution could come from smaller, independent publishers.

Enter TRVL, a travel magazine app from two Dutch entrepreneurs that manages to fuse gorgeous, compelling content with a disruptive business model.

You see, TRVL doesn’t have one vast weekly or monthly issue to download, instead the app offers a ‘rack’ of articles and lets you download them as you choose. Each article concentrates on a different travel destination and features beautiful photography. It really is a joy to browse.

Why is this so disruptive? It shows that you don’t need vast resources to create a compelling iPad publication and that maybe the “Full magazine download” approach should be userped by a more flexible á la carte model.

Indie publishing in the iPad age

Founders Jochem Wijnands and Michel Elings work with a network of freelance travel writers and photographers to produce TRVL’s content. “Photographers and writers from all over the world have been very receptive and are all eager to join”, explains Wijnands. “One of the reasons is that regular publishers have been pestering them with ridiculous contracts, where they had to sign away their rights, hardly able to make a living anymore.”

Bootstrapped to the tune of just $40,000, TRVL is a long way from the resources available to moguls like Branson and Murdoch. Still, Wijnands believes his company’s size needn’t be a hinderance. “We would like to produce more
stories at a quicker pace, but I must say, our slow pace so far has been a blessing in disguise: we have been able to change course, to adapt changes in the formula, to re-think our approach. On the other hand, we have started our own Magazine in 4 months, and produced 7 issues in 2 months, how is that for slow? It is all relative!”

At present, TRVL and all its downloadable articles are free and Wijnands hopes to keep it that way, relying on advertising and sponsorship to sustain the business. “Magazines on iPad are not expensive to make, what’s more, once your app is approved you have worldwide distribution. We are convinced we don’t need to charge any money for
our magazine. Our biggest concern is marketing. How do we get known to the public?”

“Our hope is that people will pick up on us. It helps that we love traveling, and love photography, and that we
are making a magazine that we would like to read ourselves.”

TRVL may lack the interactive bells and whistles of Project or Wired’s iPad incarnation, but as a relaxing piece of escapism to exotic locations it’s a triumph and well worth trying. While many kinds of content will always be better served by a Web page rather than a tablet-based magazine, travel journalism is the perfect fit for Wijnands and Elings’ ambitions to “rock the publishing world”. Give it a try today. [iTunes App Store link]

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