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TRVL rolls out PRSS magazine app maker, Travel by Handstand gets superseded by Crave

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Content may be king for web publications, but content distribution is the kingmaker in iPad publishing.

At least that appears to be the case for TRVL, which believes its strongest revenue stream may come in enabling distribution of content rather than exclusively focusing on creating it.

That contrasts with the struggles of Travel by Handstand, a similar travel magazine iPad app that launched around the same time as TRVL and that is essentially re-launching as an iPhone app called Crave this week.

TRVL’s success also contrasts sharply with the efforts of traditional travel magazine brands, such as Departures and Conde Nast Traveler, which have struggled to adopt to the digital world.

TRVL for iPad


Forget Conde Nast Traveler or Travel + Leisure.

The travel magazine that’s most downloaded on iPads is TRVL, which self-reports more than 1 million app installs, and says that about of its 600,000 magazines are “read” per month. (These numbers are up from its November 2012 claims of 700,000 installs and 450,000 regular readers.)

With 109 magazines under its belt, the Utrecht-based startup publishes a fresh edition on a new destination every week, while rivals only get out an edition every month or so.

Cofounder Michel Elings tells Tnooz that the company has “massive plans for TRVL.”

That said, the company is putting a huge amount of energy into its spinoff PRSS, a tool for letting people self-publish iPad apps for free via a low-cost iPad magazine factory on Amazon’s cloud hosting servers.

Elings says:

“Thousands of publishers have requested access, including many major publishers, small publishers, brands, airlines and individuals…. It’s the software Apple forgot to make.”

It’s not just travel related companies who are interested. The PRSS tool appeals to various industry verticals. The tool allows multiple people to design a magazine simultaneously, in an iPad app that support communities and e-commerce.

The story of TRVL’s success says something about the travel content business and travel content marketing in general.

At launch in September 2010, TRVL stuffed loads of content in a single downloadable issue with a large file size at a monthly price of $3 — in a model very similar to what major publishers like National Geographic and Travel + Leisure adopted.

It bombed.

TRVL was using same technology that the major publishers used: Adobe InDesign, which, starting in 2010, was going around to New York City editors telling them that its software would let publishers simultaneous create content for print editions and iPad editions and other platforms in a seamless workflow.

But by trying to be talented at all platforms, Adobe InDesign proved inadequate for all of them except for print.

So TRVL developed its own digital publishing tool, excelling specifically at the task of making great looking iPad apps. And now the tool itself is proving central to the business model, similarly to how The Atavist is finding market traction not for original content but for selling tools for distributing content.

Making the app free also helped with downloads.

TRVL’s PRSS tool lets the company deliver downloads (about 35MB, down from 200MB) than most existing iPad magazine issues, which is a real benefit for users.

It also takes advantage of native iOS features that Adobe and other tools ignore, such as pinch and zoom on images, and native APIs, so that things run smoothly and quickly in portrait and landscape modes with much less development work than other software requires.

The company goes into private beta with PRSS next month and is aiming for autumn for its public release, going after creating an iPhone-app maker as soon as possible after that.

Says Elings of the free app:

We are going to revolutionize this market with our cost structure.
I can’t tell you more about it at this point, but it will be a shock for the market ;)

Tnooz suspects that making a tablet app may be free but once you decide to distribute your magazine on the iOS App Store, you will have to pay a small fee for using the software — but the fee will be much lower than Adobe’s InDesign’s commission, which can be as high as 30% of sales.

Here’s a promotional video of PRSS:


Travel by Handstand becomes Crave Travel

On June 14, Apple’s App Store approved Crave Travel, a new travel app for iPhone, from Handstand, an application developer based in the US.

This means the end is probably near for Travel by Handstand, an iPad app using destination-focused editorial content in the minimalist style of Monocle city guides as its core attraction — with an iPad-friendly function to enable readers to plan, save, and share an itinerary as they skim articles fed from multiple providers worldwide.

Travel by Handstand won the prestigious Gold award for travel apps in the 2012 Lowell Thomas awards from the Society of American Travel Writers

But the Travel by Handstand received merely 4,500 app installs. This winter, it re-jiggered its staff and searched for fresh models.

travel by handstand

The result is Crave Travel, which will publish original travel guides daily, with each guide including recommended listings that can be saved to a folder or shared with others via social media. Additional features haven’t yet been rolled out.

Stephanie Ray, the Austin-based editor of Crave Travel, tells Tnooz:

The relaunch of Crave comes directly from conversations we have had with readers as well as potential business partners, particularly OTAs and hoteliers.

Customers were asking essentially, How can I plan more effectively with the Travel by Handstand app? And on the business side, hoteliers and OTAs were asking, How can I get this kind of app to my customers?

The Crave app directly addresses both of those requests and speaks to our fundamental business model, as well.

We have defined My Favorites as a place for users to access services from our partners, such as hoteliers and OTAs, through bookings (OTAs) and extension of ancillary revenue services (primarily Hoteliers) such as concierge services, spa bookings, room service and more.

We are helping OTAs and hotel groups by extending their services (thereby revenue) as well as placing premier (sponsored) content into the hands of their guests through a simple on-boarding experience that serves to extend our readership as well.

Our readers will find the ability to open their app on the way to their destination and find a sponsored guide from the hotel they are staying at, as well as the ability to access the hotel’s key services and have their room service ordered and their spa appointment booked.

This puts our partner content front and center for the user as they are about to travel, extends their revenue potential, and alleviates the partner’s need to support their own app and develop their own content.

Our hotel and OTA partners have clearly told us that planning does not just stop at the point of booking, and that they are craving a way to reach their guests before, during and even after their trip.

Our new Crave app was designed to directly address that request from partners. We are also currently developing API integrations directly into the trip planner to support user bookings at that level.

With our onboarding with partners approach as outlined above, our app would remain free.

Because Crave is an iPhone app (versus Travel by Handstand is an iPad-only app), it has to be downloaded separately. We plan to update users in the Travel for iPad app about our new name and direction ASAP.

We will be be bringing Crave to the iPad version in the near future. In the meantime, we continue to support the Travel for iPad, though we’ve pulled it from the App store.

In our tests, we were stuck by how you need to supply your email address to be able to use Crave Travel.

We were also struck by how it was the identical content for Copenhagen as Travel by Handstand had in last July 2012, a situation that seemed similar for the two-dozen other destination themes.

All that seems new so far is that it’s ready for iPhone and lacks the content syndication updated daily from multiple sources.

It seems like revenue for the free app will partly come from custom services and content marketing direct fro participating travel providers.

The editorial content will be used as a base for the real business, advertorial and pre-qualified leads for bookings.

Related: A very rough guide for new online travel companies working with writers

Original author: Sean O'Neill
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