There’s no denying it, photos look great on the iPad. So it makes sense that quite a few iPad-only photo magazines are cropping up to take advantage of its lush display and low digital overhead.
In particular, we’ve been watching Once Magazine. Over the last few months of its development, we've seen beta versions filled with thoughtful and provocative photo stories. On Oct 6, the magazine is launching its first paid edition on iTunes for $3.
One thing that makes Once stand out from some of the other iPad photo mags is its revenue sharing model for its contributors. The founders, including San Francisco freelance photographer and CEO of Once, Jackson Solway, hope it will pave the way for photographers to start benefiting financially from the digital revolution instead of being crushed by it. It was a decision that the magazine's executive editor, John Knight, describes as a "no-brainer."
"When we realized we could know exactly how many subscribers we had on a given issue," says Knight, "It made it possible to calculate exactly how much each issue was making. The whole idea started as a way to pay photographers what they deserve for their work, and so splitting that revenue seemed obvious. Right now we only share that revenue with the photographers and we pay a fee to our writers. In the future we’d like to expand that model to include writers as well."
The mag launched a free pilot issue last month which featured three long-form photo essays accompanied by audio clips, written stories, maps and infographics. Readers can expect a similar format in the paid edition.
In addition to friends, family and colleagues, the Bay Area crowdfunding site ProFounder helped get Once up and running. The magazine's goal is to eventually be sustained by subscriptions, but are currently looking for sponsorships and angel investments. Of the subscriptions, Apple takes 30% and the remaining 70% is split between Once's operating costs and the photographers. At the moment, each photographer gets roughly 11.6% of the profit.
Once has amassed a team of narrative-minded employees from other publishing heavyweights, including Mother Jones, our own Wired, McSweeney’s, Getty, Aperture, San Francisco Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle. (Disclosure: Raw File was originally pitched about Once by Timothy Kim, who at the time was a research intern at Wired magazine and has now left. We believe we've evaluated Once on its own merits.)
While its treatment of photography is why we were attracted to Once, Knight says the staff is determined to exploit all the narrative tools available to create the most compelling storytelling possible.
"It’s tempting to just lump all digital publications together," says Knight, "But iPad publishing is, I think, different for both subscription models and content presentation. We spend a lot of time trying to think through the best way to visually tell a story on the iPad. That includes touch, it includes layered pages. There are some great online magazines, like Fraction and Burn, and they were clearly created for the internet, as they of course have to be. We take a different approach from the beginning."
Knight wants readers glued to the iPad the way he knows listeners are glued to good radio storytelling like This American Life. If he can achieve this goal, there are 30 million iPad owners out there as potential readers.
If you have an iPad, check out Once and let us know what you think.
Seal hunter Rasmus Avike travels from Qeqertat village to Qaanaaq, Greenland, one of the northernmost towns in the world - a nine-hour trip. Rasmus dreamed of studying at a university, but his father pressured him to become a hunter. Now he is unable to support his family with hunting alone.
Jon Knight: "When we found Andrea’s photos it was impossible not to want to publish them. These are the kinds of photos you see and can’t help showing them to other people. The first two were among many in Andrea’s work that were like that. It was immediately like, 'Hey look at this!' That’s what publishing is all about."
Photo: Andrea Gjestvang