The other day, Electronic Sound, the magazine I started two years ago with Push, my old friend and colleague from our days working on the music press, made it to the top of the Apple Newsstand charts. Above NME, above Uncut, above even Gramophone Magazine.
Before we launched the magazine - which you can only get on tablets, phones and desktops - had you asked us how you get to Number One on Apple Newsstand our answer would have been something like:
1) Create a fantastic interactive magazine app
2) Fill it with great stuff
3) Go to Number One in the Apple Newsstand. Yay!
Apple Newsstand launched towards the end of 2011 and looked like it was going to revolutionise publishing. Just as we were thinking about launching a magazine independently, financed by maxed out credit cards and money found down the back of the sofa, it seemed that suddenly we could slug it out with the big boys and girls on an almost even playing ground. We would be able to get to our niche audience via the magic of the internet.
So we did exactly that, and in easy-to-digest bullet point style, we humbly present our guide to getting to Number One On Apple's Newsstand Chart.
• Have a great idea
Our great idea went something like this: There should be magazine for all those people who loved electronic music in the 1990s but don't go out so much these days (that's us, by the way). So this is a magazine for people who liked Orbital, Leftfield, and Underworld, and The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, who were were partial to a bit of techno or drum 'n' bass, or Aphex Twin, who bought records put out by labels like R&S, Ninja, Mute and Warp, and probably still do. It's for people who bought Daft Punk's first records when they came out Soma, or at least were all over Homework when it was released. And then we extended the line, back to the acid house explosion of the late 80s, and further back to the electro pop of The Human League, Numan, John Foxx, Blancmange, Depeche Mode... and that lead us inevitably to Kraftwerk and to the German electronic music of the 1970s, and the pioneers of electronic music earlier in the 20th century. And of course there's all the great electronic music that's coming out now, all of which has some of that DNA from its ancestors in its veins as it gets nominated for Mercury Prizes and the like. We wanted to create a magazine that gave the same kind analysis and respect to electronic music as Mojo magazine does to rock music, but without being a dance culture title like DJ. And we also figured that a good proportion of people who like all that may well also be making their own music, with a few synths in spare room/studio, so we though our magazine ought to deal with the machinery of electronic music, too.
• Make decent content
Sounds obvious enough, but decent magazines really do need proper writers and proper photographers. And you'll need to pay them.
• Get used to explaining what you do...
There remains resistance to this new medium in publishing. Despite it being the 21st century, you'd be amazed how often people ask if we do a print version.
• ... and then explain it again for advertisers
Despite the ability to create and accurately measure engaging and interesting advertising messages, many advertisers are still locked into the old model. They do still like their big numbers. That will change, but it's a waiting game that's expensive to play for small outfits like us.
• Be prepared to really, really care when Apple announces another iOS update
It will almost certainly mean everything is about to go wrong with your app and you will spend several days crying and hitting your head against the Retina screen of your 27-inch Apple Mac and throwing the various tablets and phones you purchased to test your app around the office.
• Learn to love Apple's quirks
Every time you update your app (every time you bring a new issue out) it has to be approved by Apple. To say it's a mysterious process is like saying space is big. It can take 24 hours, it can take 10 days. Oh, and if Apple decides to adjust their pricing tiers, which they did in January, auto-renewals of subscriptions are switched off. Hmm, thanks for that Apple *sobs*.
• Get selected to be in the 'What's Hot?' section of Apple's Newsstand
This happened to us. No one sent us an email, we just found it by accident. You can't ask, there's no button you press, no address to send a carefully crafted email. The honour comes out of a clear blue sky without warning or reason. We Facebooked the shit out of that screenshot.
• Do a Kickstarter!
We've got one on the go right now. We got to Number One on Newsstand before we started it, but Kickstarter is a great way for small but passionate publishers to make direct contact with committed readers and supporters. We're 85% funded with a little over a week to go. Check it out. We've got tote bags and everything...