Nearly two years after launching  a digital publishing company for mobile devices, Nomad Editions founder Mark Edmiston is still figuring out how to make a business model that works in the electronic age.
Edmiston—who was president/CEO of Newsweek before going into media investment banking—was shooting to have 20 titles and 200,000 in combined circulation within a year, but for Nomad, a virtually unknown startup with little promotion, that’s been harder than expected.
Along the way, he’s tweaked the model, shedding titles that didn’t take off and lowering the subscription price. One title remains, a weekly wine magazine called Uncorked, that sells for $1.99 for four issues or $19.99 a year in the Apple App Store and as an HTML5 Web version.
Edmiston's main complaint is discoverability. Even after Apple launched its Newsstand , making it easier for publications to be found, it’s been hard for them—especially the less-established pubs—to get noticed in a sea of titles. Industry observers have also criticized the Newsstand as difficult to search and opaque about the criteria it uses to decide which titles to promote.
“When people subscribed, they were renewing at 60 percent," Edmiston said, referring to people who renewed for a year; he added that the monthly renewal rate was 90 percent. “The trouble is, there just aren’t enough downloads. We weren’t getting people aware of what we were doing.
“Even in the Newsstand, there are hundreds of publications,” he added. “Everyone faces exactly the same problem.”
Now, after experimenting with different approaches including custom publishing, Nomad has struck deals with two partners to distribute its titles to their already-established customer base. One is the Snooth Wine Buyers’ Guide, a monthly that is sold to registered users of Snooth online wine guide for wine lovers. It sells for 99 cents an issue or $9.99 a year.
On June 20, Nomad will launch Hemmings Classic Wheels with the Hemmings car marketplace. Hemmings will promote the publication to its 650,000 auto-enthusiast subscribers. It will sell for $1.99 for four issues or $19.99 a year (the same as Uncorked). Nomad shares the revenue with the partner.
“Having not been able to be discovered enough, we’ve decided that the best thing is to find people who already have an audience,” Edmiston said. “They’ll promote it online and via email. What we’re saying is, ‘We’re buying your promotion and giving you a revenue share.’”
So far, the results seem to be encouraging. The first Snooth guide was downloaded 12,000 times in the first two weeks since it was released. Nomad is seeking to produce more titles via other such arrangements, as well as custom publishing.