Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
James Pindell is trying to bring The Boston Globe’s election coverage to everyone by being everywhere
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Nov. 28, 2012, 2:36 p.m.
Mobile & Apps

Atavist begins offering in-app subscriptions to its stories

Subscriptions will offer the story/technology publisher a way to expand its readership and create a persistent source of revenue.

Atavist, publisher of both technology and ebook-esque stories, is taking a cue from the world of magazines and newspapers by getting into the subscription business.

Starting today, readers can sign up for a three-month subscription for $6.99 through The Atavist app, which will give customers access to newly released multimedia stories as well as material from its archives.

You may note that we called the company “Atavist,” not The Atavist, the name it debuted under in 2011. There’s been a split in nomenclature: The company is now just Atavist. The publication/app/marketplace/producer-of-narrative-stories is The Atavist. Actually, The Atavist in their styling, like a magazine. It’s a nice external marker of the company’s shift into being a technology platform that happens to publish stories, rather than a publisher of stories that happens to have some technology. Atavist’s website refers to The Atavist as “our flagship publishing arm — built on our own platform.”

Atavist is basing its future on blurring the lines between being a publisher and a technology maker. They partner with authors to produce stories packed with multimedia, while selling their technology to allow other publishers to produce the stories on their own. But subscriptions are a kind of old school idea, and getting a subscription to The Atavist is different than a subscription to Sports Illustrated or The Washington Post. What you get when you sign up with The Atavist is a brand — not a daily news source, not stories on a particular subject area, not even a consistent masthead of writers. Atavist CEO Evan Ratliff told me it’s about capturing readers who are drawn to a new kind of immersive, engaging, narrative journalism.

“We suspect that a good portion of our readers just like this kind of work. People come to us on Kindle, or in-app, or are interested in one title,” he said. Ratliff said The Atavist has reached a point where they have a somewhat regular publishing schedule, which, combined with access to their archives, could be a good incentive to subscribe.

Just as with the individual stories The Atavist sells, subscriptions are available as an in-app purchase in its apps. Authors will still get a cut, even if subscribers aren’t paying for a specific story; at the end of each month, subscription money will be divvied up based on the number of downloads for each individual author.

The company has published 18 original stories so far, and is releasing a new title today, “Agent Zapata” by Mary Cuddehe, which looks into the killing of Jaime Zapata, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent killed by a drug cartel in Mexico.

The company, which received a round of venture funding earlier this year from people like Google’s Eric Schmidt, generates revenue off sales of titles as well as the Atavist publishing platform, which counts TED and The Paris Review as clients. Subscriptions would add to that a more consistent flow of dollars, thanks to Apple’s automatic renewal system. “It’s an ongoing source of revenue, opposed to selling each title individually, which we’ve been successful at,” Ratliff said. “But why not do both?”

Subscriptions have been on the company’s radar for some time. Ratliff told me subscription functionality was also built into the Atavist platform to allow other publishers the ability to sell subscriptions to their work. TED Books, for example, gives readers the choice of $14.99 for a three-month subscription, or $2.99 for individual books.

Ratliff said offering subscriptions fits into their larger idea about providing access to this new breed of stories in whatever shape or form readers want. That means creating stories that can cross between iBooks, Kindle, and Nook, but also changing up delivery options. “I think our philosophy has been that we don’t really care how we reach the reader — we just want to reach readers,” he said. “We have stories to tell and we want to find the readers.”

POSTED     Nov. 28, 2012, 2:36 p.m.
SEE MORE ON Mobile & Apps
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
James Pindell is trying to bring The Boston Globe’s election coverage to everyone by being everywhere
“Whether it’s their inbox, whether it’s for Twitter, Facebook, Medium, Instagram — the idea is to reach audiences where they’re at.”
The New York Times collaborates with This American Life on a special investigative report
The New York Times is running its story Friday, while This American Life’s complementary report will air this weekend and be available for download as a podcast Sunday.
With an interface that looks like a chat platform, Quartz wants to text you the news in its new app
“The content type is always messages, and that’s always true whether you’re getting the message inside the app or as a notification.”
What to read next
0
tweets
From Nieman Reports: Startups are revitalizing journalism in Brazil’s challenging environment
Despite a fraught political and economic environment for journalists, new outlets in Brazil are now experimenting with fact-checking, longform narrative writing, and citizen media.
0The Conversation expands across the U.S., freshly funded by universities and foundations
The news site that uses academics as reporters and journalists as editors now boasts 19 paying member universities and is opening up posts in Atlanta (and maybe in the Bay Area).
0A Howard project is debunking myths about African-Americans and teaching students fact-checking
“There are more black men in prison than college.” “A dollar spent in the black community stays there for only six hours.” A project at Howard University aims to dispel oft-repeated myths.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Amazon
Detroit Free Press and Detroit News
The Christian Science Monitor
The Daily Voice
AOL
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
TechCrunch
Neighborlogs
ESPN
Quora
Semana
New York