Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Instapaper begets The Magazine, for Apple's iOS only

October 11, 2012: 12:03 PM ET

Marco Arment launches a bi-weekly online publication "for geeks like us"

FORTUNE -- Like a lot of people who keep up with such things, I know quite a bit about Marco Arment.

I know he was one of the founders of Tumblr. I know he created Instapaper. And because I follow Build and Analyze, his weekly podcast on the 5by5 Network, I know where he lives, what his wife does, how old their baby is and how he likes his coffee.

What I didn't know was that he wanted to be a magazine editor -- something I know a little bit about.

But a magazine editor is what Marco Arment is, starting Thursday, with the launch of an Apple (AAPL) iOS-only publication known, appropriately enough, as The Magazine.

From his mission statement:

My podcast is mostly about software development, but whenever we talk about non-development topics such as coffee or cars, we get strong feedback from listeners who love it and want more. We realized that it shouldn't be a podcast about development — it should be a podcast for developers and people who love topics that appeal to geeks like us.

The Magazine is similar: rather than be limited to technology, its topics appeal to people who love technology.

The format is simple: Two issues a month, four articles an issue. Issue No. 1 features:

  • Guy English on the Fireball format
  • Jason Snell on baseball misfits
  • Alex Payne on how technology pulls people both together and apart
  • Michael Lopp on why startups tend to melt down after version 1.0

The Magazine costs $1.99 a month, with the first issue free. iPhone and iPad owners running iOS 6 can get the app (which appears in Newsstand) here.

There is no version for Google (GOOG) Android devices, and there may never be. "The Magazine's (straightforward) business model depends on Newsstand and direct payments," Arment says. "I don't think Android will be a viable platform for it for the foreseeable future."

Although it's laid out like a print magazine -- but without all that graphic foofaraw -- it carries none of the legacy costs of a print publication. And unlike any magazine I've ever worked for, it's programmed to self-destruct.

"I'm starting this with a staff of one," writes Arment. "I can develop the app, procure and edit the articles, and write occasional articles myself. There's no venture capital funding, no corporate backer, and very little starting capital. My biggest fixed cost is the up-front design and development of the app, and my biggest recurring cost is paying writers. If it doesn't turn a profit within two months — just four issues — I'll shut it down...

"All of this is a bit crazy, and it's not guaranteed to succeed. But I bet it will."

Knowing what I know about Arment, I think he may be right.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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