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Summary:

Prss wants to make publishing magazines on a native iPad app easier, cheaper and prettier than traditional iPad platforms.

Prss

A Netherlands-based company wants to revolutionize iPad publishing. In much the same way that Quark enabled desktop publishing in the eighties and platforms like WordPress and Tumblr allowed anyone to cheaply and easily set up their own blog in the aughts, Prss wants to put iPad publishing in the hands of people who lack programming skills.

The app is the latest in a series of tools that democratize publications, giving high-level capabilities to those who want to distribute their message but don’t necessarily have the technical skills.

The idea for Prss came after entrepreneur Michel Elings and longtime travel writer and photographer Jochem Wijnands constructed their own iPad publication called TRVL. They had been using an iPad conversion platform WoodWing but became fed up with what they saw as its limitations. The platform is based off InDesign, which they felt made it inherantly print-centric.

“In the two-and-a-half years that we publsihed TRVL, we didn’t see something that did justice to the iOS platform,” Elings told me.trvl

After devising a “cookbook” of all the features they wanted, with an eye toward capitalizing on the iPad’s native features for interactivity, TRVL was born. It’s now the most-downloaded travel publication for the iPad, with a 5-star rating on Apple’s Newsstand and over a million installs.

What makes Prss different

Like Quark, Prss has its own type of file: .prss. These files are smaller than traditional magazine layouts because Prss reuses the same image for different orientations and uses algorithms to shrink their size. According to Elings, this can lessen the file size of retina-version magazines from 200 MB to 25 MB without visibly losing photo quality. The small file size is extremely important because Prss operates off the cloud and streams information, as opposed to downloading it.

michel elingsWoodWing, which counts Time Inc. and Hearst Magazines among its clients, requires the use of Adobe InDesign and essentially converts those layouts of text and images into iPad format as JPGs. Readers then download these heavy files all at once. Prss instead utilizes Apple’s native Core Text, which communicates the text as text and holds places for the images, which load from the cloud as you read each article.

“We wanted to increase the speed from the start,” Elings said. “Much like just picking up a magazine and turning the pages—not waiting to download the whole issue if you’re simply reading one article.”

Alternatively, one can save the entire publication for offline use—much like most iPad magazines work now.

It’s in the design

Among the other features: Users can tap on images and they will appear on a map using Apple’s map API. Voice-over capabilities read the Core Text (as opposed to text rendered as JPGs) aloud for those who are visually impaired. Share Sheets enable all of the content to be shared over a variety of social media. Elings says that Prss will soon incorporate other native iOS capabilities.

In an earlier career,  Elings, a self-proclaimed Apple fanboy, helped organizations transition from Microsoft to Macs at his company AppleCloud. Now the 30-year-old is fixated on the iPad.

The problem with many iPad magazines, he says, is that they bring print—with all of its contraints—to technology, instead of beginning with the technology and its possibilities. From the bottom up, Elings wanted Prss to fit iPad. That included designing its interface to visually fit with iOS. With the introduction of iOS 7, Elings had to make further updates.

prss

Prss magazines won’t have menus but instead will rely on what Elings says are intuitive commands: swiping, tapping and double tapping, and pinching. Social media and mapping functions are located at the lower right. If an image contains geolocation data, you can tap on it to see where it fits on a map.

“I want to make print feel stupid,” Elings said of Prss. “The way to do that is to add more functionality than print.” Elings believes that good design will make readers excited to read magazines again.

What he believes will most disrupt standard iPad publishing is Prss’s price structure.

Under WoodWing, TRVL had to pay both the licensing costs for the software as well as the distribution costs for Apple Newsstand (30 percent of revenue). Publishers use Prss for free and instead pay a small fee per download. They can decide whether to pass that cost on to consumers or to find other revenue models. Elings would not disclose the fee’s amount but said it was far under a dollar and so far from the current pay models that “it will be funny.”

Apple has developed a platform called iBooks Author to help anyone from large publishers to moms make e-textbook for iOS. But it hasn’t built anything specifically for magazine publishers yet. 

What it will take to succeed

Prss will need widespread adoption to be successful. Though the app is aimed at smaller publishers, it will need at least some bigger clients to demonstrate that it’s a viable alternative. Many of the large publishing companies already have their iPad apps and are notoriously inflexible about change.

Or perhaps, like Tumblr is to WordPress, Prss can succeed in being the small and much-loved alternative.

Prss will start its beta this summer. So far Elings says 10,000 publishers have expressed interest, but the beta will start with only a handful of those. The public release is set for the end of summer.

Below see an introductory gallery of how Prss will appear to publishers.

 

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  1. Reblogged this on Casey Waltz and commented:
    Really love TRVL and so glad Prss is revolutionizing iPad publishing.

  2. This is exciting news. Love how digital publishing has become more inclusive now that technological barriers are disappearing. Can’t wait for Prss’ release.

  3. Pass. One of the things I like most about iPad publications is that I can enjoy them offline.
    If I have to be hooked up to the internet to see the full publication, I’m not interested.

    1. It says they can be downloaded too.

  4. @jrhmobile, you can make all magazines available offline. Very easy.

  5. Jeff SKI Kinsey Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    I would suggest this solves a non-issue. It takes less than a minute to download even a very rich magazine. Putting images in the clouds requires constant network connectivity. Not good. IMNSHO

    1. @Jeff, thanks for your reply. It took 5 minutes till 20 minutes to download magazines in the US. Prss doesn’t require constant network connectivity, it downloads the content and saves it on the device (cache).

  6. This is great. Should have been done a long time ago

  7. I wish them all the best with the new platform. I signed up for the beta a while ago but haven’t heard anything for a while. We currently publish VIEW a photography magazine for the iPad ( http://appstore.com/viewmagazine ) using a different system that I am quite happy with. It remains to be seen what Press actual pricing model is, since pay per download can get expensive for small publishers. Meanwhile the iPad publishing market is getting crowded with a variety of options so I hope to see Prss model very soon.

    1. Hi Alon. I read your comment, then checked out VIEW. Very nice. Would you mind my asking which platform you have used – which you are happy with? Thanks – Mark

  8. Alon, thank you for your reply. I’ve seen your sign up and your profile. Thanks for all the information. We are now doing a small number of beta’s and we will scale from there. We are planning to send another email in a few weeks.

    I can see that as a publisher you could be happy with the different system. I don’t know your number of downloads, so don’t know how our pricing will compare to yours.

    1. Will prss work with android tablets?

  9. Reblogged this on kanvaasi and commented:
    Prss is an interesting alternative creating magazines for iPad. Just look at their TRVL magazine at Apple Newsstand, and you get the idea what can be done with it.

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