Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Please Welcome "The Awl's Weekend Companion," for iPad and iPhone

There's a whole bunch of ways to read now, and we'd like you to indulge in all of them, as you wish, even in the ways that don't particularly help us publish writing. One thing we've often heard from folks is that they would like a quiet thing to sit down with for reading—away from the laptop and the desktop, away from the IMs and Twitter and email and noise.

With the help of 29th Street Publishing, we've made The Weekend Companion. It's a weekly Awl magazine, and it comes out every Friday, for iPhone and iPad, through Apple's Newsstand. Each issue has just five or so substantial things to read from the week. And a wee intro, and that's it. Unlike lots of the web, it's pretty, deluxe, fun and it's also easy. Plus, the great joy of a web magazine is that it comes to you.

We'd love it most of all if you checked it out and actually wanted to subscribe for a month or for a year. It costs all of $4 a month. (There's another free month if you share your info with us, too!) But you can also download it for free and check out three free recent issues. And if you wish, you can buy issues one by one. So go on.

While you do that, we wanted to talk a little bit, should you be interested, about this in a more meta sense.

Apps aren't for everyone. (Haha, obviously.) We want this to serve a group of readers for whom this is ideal. They—you?!—would like to support writing and publishing, and also enjoy a particular kind of reading, reading that's a little more luxurious in format and in manner.

Also they must own iPads or iPhones, right? What was that Marx said about "the means of consumption"? (What's that you say?)

Anyway. Right now, much of the way the web is made, particularly at places designed for reading, is becoming a bit more "app-like," as we think of that now. That'll increase, and it's good. Overall, things are getting less ugly! Even our famously unattractive website will be heading that direction… somewhat.

And at the same time, app-making is becoming more democratic. 29th Street's goal is that selling subscriptions on iTunes should be "as simple as blogging." Perhaps you remember when blogging was not so simple! It only became so because people built tools that made it so.

Right now apps are currently way out of vogue. People like, spit on the ground when someone says "apps." (I mean, pretty literally, I saw some web publishers do this at a panel recently.) And for good reason! A bunch of big companies went crazy about apps, and spent a lot of money making them. They did not, many of us were un-shocked to find, get a "return on their investment." They were doing it wrong. And they probably shouldn't have done it in the first place! Or they should have, but for fun!

Democratizing app production, however, makes apps scale. And also subscription products—whether it's an app, or newsletters and emails, or books, or physical objects—help small business and independent purveyors succeed. So now a smart company has built the infrastructure as a product for companies without that big expensive backbone, thereby eliminating the need for insane burn rates, fleets of designers and catered conference room lunches. (Who is going to democratize catered conference room lunches? That is what we are waiting for.)

Recently I visited with a publisher of a pay reading product. He was acting mock-furious with us—though he clearly really disagreed with our choices—for "giving things away for free on the web." It was kind of funny but it was also so alien to me. (He also had a much nicer office than our sad/adorable little hobbit-hole.) We want people to be able to read things for free! On one very real level, if every reading product cost money, well, many of us wouldn't get to do very much reading then, would we? And from our point of view, I didn't understand really why he was holding all that writing hostage.

And yes, "reading for free" serves the advertising model, which is usually going to be imperfect. We—along with everyone else!—have not solved the problem of the finances of writing online. (Though the ways that advertising works online in general are, in many ways, drastically improving. For instance, some brands whose goal used to be "make banners that people will click on" now sometimes have the goal of "getting credit for being the underwriter of great editorial content.")

It's incredibly important right now for publishers whose income largely derives from advertising to, well, we hate to use a business school word like "diversify," but, yeah: diversify. At the same time, subscription products give readers a chance to be, essentially, members. (This is referred to, usually derisively, as "the NPR totebag business model.") Of course we'd love it if you wanted to join up. Maybe we can invent a secret handshake or something. And if not, that's cool too. We think people reading for free on the web are absolutely just as valuable as those who want to pay a wee bit of money for reading in a very handsome iPad app. You do you. We can dig it.

42 Comments / Post A Comment

deepomega (#1,720)


@deepomega I'd love to service your Android. (Twss!!!) But that's down the road. You know how we are! :)

deepomega (#1,720)

@Choire Sicha@facebook You rapscallions.

jfruh (#713)

@deepomega window 8 or GTFO

jfruh (#713)

Sooo … are the articles in the app stuff that isn't free on the site? Is it "bonus" content? Can we pitch articles to you specifically for the app? QUESTIONS!

@jfruh YOU will likely have seen most of the articles. Producing originals for this may or MOST LIKELY may not be a good investment for artists and writers; we are going to see how that shakes out. But we are gonna mine the archives, which–there's amazing stuff back up in there. (TWSS)

Murgatroid (#2,904)

So… anyone else can't go beyond the intro screen before it crashes? Or is it a Canada thing?

@Murgatroid It's just you. (JK no idea.) (It might be a Canada thing!) (It's also not small. (TWSS.))

29pco@twitter (#239,723)

@Murgatroid, we certainly want you to enjoy this app! Send us a note – – and we'll walk through what you're seeing over email.

derwood (#3,482)

@Murgatroid I also experience post-intro screen crashing. I also have one of those iphones from before there was Siri.

See, The Awl?! Your app will cost some people a little more than $4 per month!

29pco@twitter (#239,723)

@derwood, shoot us an email –! We want to help.

tiemposbuenos (#10,137)

@29pco@twitter also crashing for me after the intro screen -_-

IBentMyWookie (#133)

Now THIS is the app that will tell you if your son's gay.

Ralph Haygood (#13,154)

The only iOS device I own is an antique iPod Touch, so like deepomega, I'll be waiting for you to "service my Android." But meanwhile, congratulations on this, and I hope it goes very well.

questingbeast (#201,738)

The last paragraph was so sweet. The loveliest way anyone's ever tried to flog me something. I almoooooooooost wish I had an iPad.
(How about an ebook version at some point? That would be great)

On reading this excellent essay yesterday one of the first things that came to mind was "weekly Awl." Good luck! (Though I won't be buying, yadda yadda Android yadda yadda Kindle yadda yadda no Apple products in house yadda.)

tiemposbuenos (#10,137)

@nevertooyoungtolearnaboutfreud I was also thinking of Craig Mod's essay when I saw this post, good call

tiemposbuenos (#10,137)

so exciting!

melis (#1,854)

FINALLY a chance to say "shut up and take my money" at the Awl!

BadUncle (#153)

So, this is like the Times Weekender? And I can become fluent in the Weather Reviews? Worth it to me. If only to keep you precious bastards in lemon scones.

@BadUncle "One question: will the App icon feature an awl?" Yes, yes it does. And we spent a lot time on that Awl ;)

BadUncle (#153)

@David Jacobs@twitter I edited that question out when I scrolled to the top of the page. Insert doh here.

Ha, it has a picture of an awl on the cover! That was Balk's doing, wasn't it?

Pierce (#3,939)


stuffisthings (#1,352)

1. So with this company, is each editorial producer's thing a separate app with its own icon, or is there one "29th Street Publishing" app from which you read all your stuff? I see advantages and disadvantages to both.

2. (Since I am a sensible person and own an Android phone) you should set up some way for readers who prefer the traditional blog — especially those who use an RSS reader — straight up give you guys money. I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one to do so. I mean, The Awl gives me more enjoyment that almost anything else on the Internet, and it's not like I'm about to start paying for porn.

That said, if you did let us pay you directly, it would also be nice to know, if only in a vague, outliney way, how the money contributes to supporting original writing. Like, are all contributors paid something? Some of them? None of them? Is it a fixed fee or some kind of revenue-sharing model? (If so, how does that work, since you usually don't have display ads?) What are your overhead costs like?

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@stuffisthings Better yet, you could sell shares, and then we shareholders could demand ridiculous cost-cutting measures like moving your offices to New Jersey and sourcing all content from Filipinos on

@stuffisthings Yes – every publisher gets their own app. We love and use apps where you get to read a bunch of stuff all together (Instapaper, Readability, Atavist, etc.) but our focus is building apps for publishers that are all their own.

And we've also played with ways to get paid distribution on the web & android (and I know other people are as well), but we've only shipped on iOS for now!

Leon (#6,596)

Oh weird. I just had a dream last night that some stranger won the powerball and started a new publishing venture full of people I love to read by editors whose web stuff I enjoy very much!

Except, it was made of PAPER ONLY. I'm not curmudgeonly and love online reading, but I also kind of feel like it would be very exciting to get home from work once a month and so "OH LOOK MY NEW MAGAZINE" and open it up and be SHOCKED MOVED EXCITED AWED INTRIGUED TITILLATED by what I find.

Instead, it's just some stupid Atlantic article I read online already cuz everyone is tweeting about it before my paper copy even shows up.

Don't forget to rate it, you upthumbing m-fers! (TWSS?)

hockeymom (#143)

What is TWSS?

hockeymom (#143)

@hockeymom Wait…is it THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID?
Because, REALLY? What are you, 12? (TWSS!)

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@hockeymom Awww, you're really putting the "mom" into Hockeymom

Spencer Lund (#2,331)

Deleted by user.

monkeyajb (#524)

I would pay a subscription fee to get the email newsletter every week. (I will also prolly pay for this tho.)

If this thing will read the articles to me in an Awl editor's after-several-bourbons voice, I will buy it twice. Three times if there's a slider to select the value of "several".

As a subscriber, will I be getting a gold star at the Hawliday Bawl or something?

theheckle (#621)

This "weekend companion"? For $4, will he/she get the coffee started on the stove before I wake up? Feed the cat? Play string with the obsessive cat? Tell me I don't look fat?

@theheckle you look great. And with the free trial, included issues, and if you share your email address with the Awl, it works out to 64 weeks for $40 – only 62 cents an issue!

Future versions could include some virtual cat string, I like that idea.

AW@twitter (#235,171)

I've waited for years to be able to support you. Are thier plans to expand to the other planets of the awl solar system?

sarahbee (#11,692)

On a related note, did you know that 75% of all new smartphones sold in the US are Android and only 25% are iPhones? I looked it up because days like this I suspect I am the only one not using an iPhone (slash iPad, as they say for some reason). Do you get weirded out when you open a sales flyer and see how many of the products are for iPhones? Judging by their flyers, iPhone-compatible crap must be 20% of what Bed Bath & Beyond sells. That's weird, right? Maybe people with iPhones just like to accessorize? I don't know, but rabid brand-loyalty is surreal. I once had a friend of a friend jump down my throat when I opined that Hunt's is as good as Heinz. He wanted to make sure I understood that I was FACTUALLY WRONG in this belief (also he has an iPhone).

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