A chat with David Jacobs, co-founder of 29th Street Publishing. Lotsa great titles!
29th st publishing

In the coming weeks we’ll be featuring some of our favorite titles coming from 29th Street Publishing, a new-ish publisher of digital magazines! They’re working with some of today’s literary-splashing, voice-y editors to release fresh content delivered right to your tablet device. Be on the lookout for titles like Maura Magazine, One Teen Story, The Awl Weekend Companion, The Rumpus Weekly, and The Emily Books Reader for your subscription radar. But first! An intro to the whole operation with David Jacobs, co-founder of this NYC-based venture…

Where did you get the idea for 29th Street Publishing?
My business partner Natalie Podrazik and I had been working with publishing products for years. We saw that the design, content strategy and software were all being built to accommodate certain business metrics, not reader experiences or the quality of content. We actually spent a year working on different kinds of problems to see where the area of greatest need was, and we ended up at mobile publishing.

What were some of the challenges you faced with launching your first title?
Well, our first title (V as in Victor) was actually launched the same week as Hurricane Sandy, which obviously ground the city to a halt. So all of our preparation around outreach and marketing had to be stopped.

What other new ideas or trends do you see surfacing, in terms of where publishing and technology intersect?
I think people are more open than ever exploring different ways of making money. Subscriptions, memberships, sponsored content, traditional display advertising and affiliate sales are all things that people are experimenting with, but none of them are actually scaling the way the industry has expected. We definitely think of our platform as subscriptions first, but we also are working with folks experimenting with other means.

How do you determine with editors what would make for a good e-magazine as opposed to having all that content online for free?
Every publication is different. Someone like the Awl has a very large audience that they want to offer an ad-free, curated, set of articles to. Maura [Johnston, of Maura Magazine] has a large audience, but her magazine is really her own side project. Emily Books was an existing product that we’re offering a new distribution outlet for.

What goals do you have for 29th Street Publishing in 2014?
We want to accomplish two things: One is that there is a feeling about the folks on the edges of publishing and technology that the “modern magazine” is something more than the replica products that make up the majority of apps right now. But most folks haven’t been a part of that conversation yet. We (along with others) have been trying to push this definition in new directions, but there is a lot of work to do. So that’s the first thing — helping to spread the gospel, so to speak, of an improved reading & writing experience on mobile.

The second, as the first emerges, is to look at how people are user our platform (both readers and writers) and learn what we can from that to iterate on the product further. I often compare our product to the first sword you get in the old game Legend of Zelda. As the game carries on your tools become more complex and the challenges you face become more complex. So we want to make sure our tools are keeping up with what we and others are learning. If we can accomplish the above, then I think the financials of the company will take care of themselves.