Some things I learnt when launching a doomed digital magazine for the iPad in 2011 but that do not necessarily apply only to that specific scenario or this would be a really weird post for what is basically a generalist site about anything that comes to mind and that does not always pay full attention to high-quality SEO targeting headlines. Mostly.

First. Failure leaves you if you let it. Success is nice and warm, like a favourite jumper, you can always put it on and make yourself feel better. It keeps you warm no matter the weather and even when the jumper has made that trip to the charity bag of middle-class guilt you can always reminisce about the warm fuzzy feeling it once gave. Failure is a bit like that goop you find at the bottom of the bin, that stuff you inevitably stick your hand in. Or, that baby nappy you’ve lifted the leg cuff of to check for content and, well, hot fire sewage comes to mind. It gets stuck under your nails, makes you retch, leaves you looking wistfully into the middle distance cursing the things that might have been. However, once you’ve washed your body in bleach, clipped your nails until they are bleeding from the tips and had an optician fix your middle-distance antimetropia then all of that stink and stink eye is but a middle-distance mirage.

B. It is possible to get everything right and to still have a negative outcome, but much more likely is getting about 50% right and the rest is just dumb chance and circumstance. Like, for a random example I’m pulling from thin air… you could have decided that a good day to launch your paid for issue is the same day that Apple decides to increase pricing tiers and that screws everything up and even so it is YEARS before you realise that actually the price increase had absolutely zero to do with download numbers really and it turns out people won’t pay for a digital magazine so you were worrying about completely the wrong thing. A complete lack of interest in iPad based digital magazines wasn’t an option in the ‘threats’ column. Lesson learned.

iii. Communicating your intention is much, much, much harder than you might think. Saying the same thing over and over and over again, might and I mean might help about 7% of people get on the same page as you, but honestly, the other 94% are just not interested or listening or that good at maths so detail that should, you’d think, stand out like a sore thumb goes unnoticed. And here I mean on your own team, not the generally interested passers-by, I mean the people in the car with you, some of whom may be driving or at least changing gears or tuning the radio. The very people who have bought in are on payroll are super enthusiastic. It’s not that they aren’t on the journey with you, it’s more they’ve all got the same Google maps location, but to a slightly different postcode. Some of them might even be using Apple maps so are completely, utterly, irredeemably lost.

Further: Picking the ‘right tools’ is about 1/10th of 1% of the process. Any good salesperson will tell you that it’s 99% of the thing, but honestly spending time worrying about how to get something done just gets in the way of getting something done. Pick a tool you like and use that. When Geoff, the guy who’s never publishing done anything original says “see, this is why you should have gone with a container app build on HTML5” tell Geoff to go fuck off to the far side of Fuck and when he’s found the mayor of Fuck Off town to keep going to Fuck Off street until it meets Keep Going Geoff Avenue and then turn left. But what if Geoff is experienced and knowledgable I hear you whisper, well, if Geoff truly is knowledgable and experienced he’ll give you better advice before not after and it will be based on options, not opinions. Even then, Geoff doesn’t have to be a dick about it is all I’m saying.

  • Digital is so brittle that the thing I created only 9 years ago is completely gone. One Google search for the title of the doomed digital magazine I made will bring back a legacy page on the publisher’s website that one day will too be gone – publisher and legacy page both. Honestly, the only thing left that I have are some emails and, I shit you not, some print outs of the first issue. Actual physical copies on A3 paper – the digital containers are unopenable. I don’t even have the drafts of the copy I wrote. This is not to say that my copy was worthy of remembrance, but rather that digital doesn’t decay it just dies and disappears. Gone. Go to the Halifax library, well, any library really, but the Halifax one is attached to the Piece Hall which is lovely, so go there. Ask the librarian for the microfilm copies of all the digital content they have and that librarian will look at you like you have lost your mind, then tell you to take a nice walk around the Piece Hall, it IS lovely after all. Seriously, I’m trying to labour the point even more heavily than is strictly necessary, but it’ll be easier for you to find the news from 1911 than 2011 in the Halifax library archive -everything digital is gone.

In conclusion

Failure stinks, but the smell goes away. The reasons something doesn’t work are very likely not the reasons you think are the reasons why something fails and only about a decade of reflection will help. Your vision isn’t as clear as you think it is and you need to bang on and on and on and on and on and on about it, then when you think people get the message you need to reiterate it over and over and over and over and over again. Tools are tools and you should pick one and use it. Digital is permanently temporary.

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