Sail racing ‘app mag’ enters unchartered waters

Catching the breeze: sailracing

Sail racing is possibly the first ‘back bedroom’ iPad magazine to launch – and to judge by the initial response, it looks set to blaze a trail. 

Established and self-financed by  Justin Chisholm for ‘around £10,000’, its target was to reach 10,000 views and downloads by the first week in February.  It passed that milestone nearly a fortnight ahead of schedule and, says Chisholm, the response from advertisers has been ‘very enthusiastic’.

Chisholm has been a well-established freelance journalist working for sailing titles for eight or nine years.  In recent times he has run the website offshorerules.com

“There are lots and lots of sailing websites”, he explains.  “I aimed to get beyond the regurgitated press releases that are the staple of most of them.  Offshorerules is good, but I realised that I could spend another decade working on it and I might not be generating enough page views or advertising revenue to it to make it really worth while”.  

Inspired by The Times’ success charging for apps, he decided to change tack.

The app development was undertaken by Yudu.com for somewhat less than Chisholm’s overall launch costs, and the magazine is designed Andrew Mays.  Each edition is created as a pdf, and supplied to Yudu, which converts it into the app and manages the relationship with iStore.

The first edition is free to view on a browser, iPhone or iPad, thereafter the magazine will cost £3.99 an edition.  “Initially I intend to sell single editions – until we build up enough audience and trust to sell subscriptions.  Registering for the app means that we have readers’ details so we can push a message to readers each time a new edition is available.  Apple takes 30% of the cover price.

The 79-page magazine looks a lot more like a printed magazine than websites generally do – and a very slick, professional product it is too.  Hyperlinks, slide shows, audio files and video (particularly on the iPad edition) enhance the package.  Chisholm has assembled some of the biggest names in sailing journalism, who he is paying, per article, as any other magazine would.  It also benefits from serving a sport that has both a globally audience and advertisers that market their goods around the world. 

To date, Chisholm reports, the response has been overwhelming, with over 1,000 downloads a week.  He accepts that competitors are unlikely to be slow to respond – but at his current rate of growth he might well be hard to catch once there are others jostling for attention in the iStore.

About the Author

www.tim-dawson.com