Small Auckland-based publisher and design studio Threaded Media has been showcasing New Zealand's and the world's best designers and creatives since 2004 via its "collaborative design publication" Threaded. And now, after a two-year investigation/evolution into expanding the digital division, it's launched a new iPad app that brings some of its aesthetically-pleasing content to life.
Photo: Troy Goodall
Design director Kyra Clarke says it had hands-on technical support from both Earl Tipene at Adobe and Marcus Radich and the team at Digital Arena to create the app platform, and while the studio arm of Threaded Media, which was established in 2007, does a lot of digital design work, she says the team had to get to grips with a host new programmes and learn a range of new skills to make it happen, partially in order to keep costs down.
She, quite humbly, says the app might not look that groundbreaking, “but in terms of what we had to learn to do it, it was huge".
The "housing device" is free to download but each issue costs $5 (the printed magazine costs $20, which, while expensive in comparison to most mainstream magazines, is cheaper than some similarly artistic publications like Eye or IDN).
She says it's difficult to quantify success at this early stage, but a couple of weeks after launch—and with no digital marketing—she says there have been over 200 downloads and 11,200 interactions with the content through video, interactive elements, scrollable content and hyperlinks etc.
Certain titles and sectors are better suited to the world of apps, and a highly visual and slightly experimental product like Threaded is one of them. But recent figures from the US show that while the digital realm certainly offers some exciting opportunities for publishers, it's still difficult to monetise, with sales of digital versions making up just three percent of the total magazine circulation in the US, and almost one third of that coming from one title, Game Informer. But it is an area that publishers hoping to position themselves as pioneers and early adopters need to be exploring and, with Threaded's tech-savvy, Mac-loving, creatively-attuned audience, Clarke says that was a big motivation for doing it.
She says it still offers the magazine on Zinio (also $5 per issue) and gets around 200-400 downloads of each issue, and while she would now obviously prefer to point readers in the direction of the much more interactive iPad app, selling the magazine in PDF form through this platform does offer some additional revenue and increases the publication's international profile.
Last year, Clarke gained an Art Venture Scholarship, an initiative run by Arts Regional Trust for creative entrepreneurs, which gave her the mentors and focus to develop the digital division of the business. With support from Art Venture, the British Council and The BizDojo she was able to attend London's design festival in Sept/Oct last year, where she met with international distributors and industry leaders such as Tony Chambers of Wallpaper* and Tyler Brûlé of Monocle, to name a few.
“This was an incredibly valuable trip for me as a creative, an independent publisher and director of a creative firm.”
She doesn’t have any desire to replicate Brûlé’s media empire, however, which has grown from around eight staff to 120 in just a few years. At this point, Clarke is happy with three full-timers and some contractors who can be called on when required to ensure her “passion project” continues. She doesn't gauge success in monetary terms, but she does hope to put the team's new-found app development skills to good use in the studio for paying clients, possibly even trying to apply them to things like catalogues for some of the more progressive retailers (among many other clients, the studio has worked with DB, Billabong and the soon-to-launch Jewish Online Museum, a one-year project funded by David Ross)
Each issue of the magazine has a theme and it opens up the book to five creatives or designers, one of whom is always from New Zealand, to do what they want (the magazine used to be focused solely on Kiwi agencies and individuals, but she says it basically ran out of options so it had to start looking further afield).
“We make sure there’s a diverse mix. But they have to care about the people coming up. The whole idea is to offer inspiration to up and coming designers and give them an insight. There’s a freedom [for the contributors] that you very rarely get in magazines. Sometimes it's aspirational, sometimes it's the hard truth, but that's what we want.”
So far it's featured plenty of the usual local suspects, such as Alt Group, Designworks, Special Group, Inhouse, Strategy, Resn and Sons and Co, and the next issue of the magazine will be launched in November after Clarke returns from the Frankfurt Book Fair. She was invited to attend as a guest of Fedrigoni papers, one of the many stock suppliers it works with to create the magazine, and was asked to contribute 16 pages to Fedrigoni's show-off book, 16/2, and Clarke says it has used that opportunity to contemporise some lesser-known Maori myths (Threaded's designer Nick Baillie also developed a special typeface called Plateau).
Students from around the world are also able to submit their work and ten of the best are selected to feature, offering a chance for agencies to ensure they get hold of the best talent.