New Platform puts Mobile Magazines in Pockets Around the World

Now that smartphones are here, magazines have come full circle with a portable and, hopefully, scalable platform. Mozine is a new mobile publishing platform created by ThumbMedia Group.   In exchange for revenue shares, the company optimizes magazine content for smartphones including the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and Android.   Smartphone sales are picking up all over the world, says ThumbMedia CEO Mike Cartabiano, but what about magazine sales?

“The challenge for the magazine business is that they’ve been pretty stable for many years and now they’re going to have to rethink in a major way how they’re going to reach their customers,” Cartabiano said. “They’re now looking at a rate of change that far outstrips their experience. “

The problem, said Cartabiano, is that “mobile technology and distribution is so complicated. The investment to understand and support it is very, very high. Most publishers aren’t able to make that investment and they don’t want to. “Â   Magazine publishers are ” good at developing their brand and subscriber base and reaching out to their customers,” he said. “We’re really good at exploiting the mobile media channel. They don’t want to do that. If they look under the hood, they’ll run away screaming.”

Mozine’s service packages include design, development, app store placement, account management, support, maintenance, hosting, reporting and analysis, product upgrades and customer service.   The company can create and distribute advertising campaigns in-house from Mozine’s design studio in Burbank, CA. Publishers can also have a storefront where readers can subscribe to the magazine, buy a single issue or buy merchandise like mugs and t-shirts.   Said Cartabiano, “we don’t want to change the way they’re doing business, we want to enhance that.” Clients pay a flat monthly fee that covers development, hosting and QA, with a separate menu for revenue shares.

One of Mozine’s first customers is pop culture and fashion magazine Nylon. “Right now Nylon is covering fashion week in New York,” Cartabiano said, “so what they’re doing is giving us new photos and articles and links from the runway, and that’s appearing in the Mozine. So it’s very current and contemporary content. And you can share it with all your friends” on Facebook and Twitter.

Cartabiano said that mobile magazines have the potential for worldwide distribution, even if the content is written in English. “It doesn’t seem to slow the adoption rate if the magazine has global recognition,” he pointed out. “It’s really urban centers where you have a very sophisticated audience and a very, very high level of education.”

According to Cartabiano, the Latin American market is booming, with an ad response rate that’s three times higher than any other consumer group.   “They’ve started their technological communication with mobile phones,” he explained. “They trust what they see on their mobile.”

ThumbMedia has localized sales teams in South American countries, but the consumers don’t need a lot of convincing. Out in the street “there are people who are basically human phone booths and they stand on street corners with a bunch of phones,” Cartabiano said. ” Someone will come down from a village and need to make a phone call. They pay them 5 pesos for 5 minutes.”

Similarly, “in Korea there’s a huge mobile market,” said Cartabiano, “and it’s incredibly advanced.” Mobile usage, especially with the Android, is growing faster there than in the U.S., he continued, and “the reason seems to be that in the United States you have a contract with your carrier for two years. They say, ‘well, you can’t upgrade, you’re not ready yet. If you want a new phone it’s going to cost you $600-$700.” Because carriers in Europe and Asia don’t have contracts, Cartabiano said, “you can go in and get a new phone anytime you want. It’s also subsidized by your carriers, so you can get a new Android for $200 or $300. So anytime there’s a new phone that comes out, these people rush to the stores – and there are many stores – and buy them. It’s like shoes. “

If Americans are missing out on faster upgrades, Cartabiano said it’s because the service carriers “feel that they own the customer. They provide the infrastructure, they provide the billing – it’s amazingly, stunningly expensive to do this. They’ve spent billions of dollars in developing their customer base, so they want to recoup that. The only method for them to do that is to make sure that they keep their customers for as long as possible. There isn’t anything really wrong with it,” he added, ” it’s just a different way of doing business. “

Adoption rates aside, Cartabiano said “no business solution for smartphones can really succeed if they don’t have a wide variety of really great content that’s easily accessible by their users…I love these brands, these magazines. I’ve grown up with them, I use them, I’m passionate about them, and now I have a chance to work with these publishers, with these great bands, this great intellectual property, and bring it to an entirely new media channel for them.”