One of the more unusual — and honest — press releases comes today from Colorado’s High Country News. The magazine announced a change to its subscriptions that allow full subscribers access to its website, a new digital edition and premium iPhone app content. There’s also a new digital subscription that provides access to a replica edition of the magazine, and to premium content on the website and the iPhone app. These days, digital subscriptions are not so unusual. But these lines in the news release are:
- A taste of early reader survey results include “This web-only app sucks. I much prefer just reading on the website to this crap.”
- “CN’s demographic is typically over 55 years old and not among the hottest digital information market.”
- “The staff then turned to highly underpaid coders to help navigate the winding road of iPhone app development.”
Special Projects Marketer JoAnn Kalenak explained the truthful approach by phone, “We’re an unusual group trying to do business like everybody else.”
“Having been in the business for a long time I knew, this is a smart, scrappy way to do it, and I just kind of talked out of experience. That’s how it felt to do this whole thing. We were doing it on a shoestring and we were doing it very carefully because we’re supported so much by donations and grants and we’ve got to be careful.”
High Country News Carves Unique Publishing Path with New Digital Subscription
December 9, 2011
COLORADO — In keeping with the shifting publishing landscape, the award-winning magazine, High Country News has enhanced its print edition with two new digital products: The HCN digital edition and the HCN iPhone app.
A taste of early reader survey results include “This web-only app sucks. I much prefer just reading on the website to this crap.” …and “I will likely subscribe for a year to the digital edition based on this free look. Thanks. Keep up the good work.”
Like hundreds of media outlets across the U.S., High Country News continues to search for — and hone — ways to delivery its unique coverage of the American West to new audiences. While its nonprofit model is being emulated by many other publications and information websites, High Country News understands that the next frontier goes beyond print.
“No matter how great a publication’s content, if you’re not thinking mobile, you’re a dying resource,” says Mike Maxwell, HCN’s director of operations.
The decision to develop more digital access — besides hcn.org — was a hard one. HCN’s demographic is typically over 55 years old and not among the hottest digital information market. Armed with the sure knowledge that people are shifting the way they get information, High Country News carefully and thoughtfully set out to develop and implement a digital strategy that would reflect the “scrappy but smart” spirit for which the publication is renowned.
With limited staff and even less money, High Country News spent weeks looking for digital edition production software and settled on a little known company based in London. Yeah, no where near the American West.
The staff then turned to highly underpaid coders to help navigate the winding road of iPhone app development.
“Our long-term plan is to develop a mobile website, but who has $100,000 to spend on that at a time when magazines are folding all around us?” says Maxwell. “We’re getting our feet wet, first and we believe we’re on the right trail, even if it’s the longer way around.”