What kinds of unique challenges do
publishers have when it comes to creating apps?
Mr. Bean: One of our challenges is finding ways
for our content to appeal to a wider audience. Apps users are not a
one-to-one map of Men's Health magazine subscribers. We have 11
million readers, but if you narrow that down to the number of
people who have an iPhone and narrow that down again to the number
of users that want to pay $2.99 for a Jimmy the Bartender app, it's
not a viable business position. So you have to find a way for those
key franchises to appeal to different users.
Ad Age: You have said that there are things
that work in print or online that don't necessarily work for
mobile. How do you guys brainstorm new concepts for mobile? What's
your process for this?
Mr. Bean: It's not a free-for-all, but a lot of
the ideas come from using other applications and just being
familiar with our content. I've encouraged the entire staff to send
me ideas, but often we come up with new ones while designing other
apps. You realize, "Oh, we can do this in the Jimmy the Bartender
[app], maybe we can do this in the Smoothie Selector [app]."
For example, we have about 70 drink recipes in Jimmy the
Bartender, and we wanted users to be able to submit their own drink
recipes as well. So now they can take a photograph, they can list
the ingredients, it goes to a staging server, and then we can push
it live to the site, and other users can rate it. So that kind of
user-created content will make its way into other apps like the
Smoothie Selector. It's not until you get under the hood in some of
these applications that you understand what they're capable of.
Ad Age: Your editors and writers also have
print and the web to work on. How do you get them to create content
Mr. Bean: In some cases we have archives of
content, but there's still a process of formatting that content and
making it fit into an application. But some of the content is brand
new content. So for me, the challenge has been finding time with
the editorial staff to use key people on staff who have an
expertise in a particular field to contribute to this fly-by-night
operation on the side.
It's difficult when we're trying to close the November issue to
find somebody to churn out 70 drink recipes. But there's such a
passion about what we're doing now. One of my chief staff members
helped me put together a random but seamless photo backdrop with
stuff he bought for $37 at a craft store to photograph all of our
smoothies over the course of two days, just because it was an
exciting thing to do. It's one of the advantages we have. People
are excited for this stuff. They don't mind a little extra work if
it means, at the end of the day, they'll have something cool like
an app in their hand they can show off to their friends.
Ad Age: Will apps be a revenue-producing line
item going forward for you guys?
Mr. Bean: Absolutely. We don't currently have
any agreements with advertisers, but the way to approach it is not
to sit there on the sidelines and wait until an advertiser says to
you, "Hey do you have an iPhone platform?" We need to be out there
and showing what we're able to do, both from a content perspective
and a technology perspective. Then those discussions with
advertisers don't have to take place in the abstract. You can whip
out a handset and say, "Look what we've made. Here's how we can
connect your brand to our audience."
Ad Age: You have to be careful about adding
advertising to your paid apps, right?
Mr. Bean: I don't currently have any plans to
release a paid app that also includes advertising. I have the [$5]
ESPN fantasy app, and it has a Bud Light ad in it. I don't
particularly mind, but some people are absolutely vitriolic in the
forums about it. I'm not comfortable with doing that at this point.
I believe there's a light platform that can be established that
does present sponsor information in an entertaining fashion without
making anyone feel cheated.