Last fall, Marco Arment launched a general interest magazine. It's called, aptly enough, The Magazine. Writers are paid $800 per article. There are no ads. Until recently, it was available only via iPhones and iPads. Astonishingly, it's already turning a profit.
Arment walked me through the numbers. He has 25,000 subscribers who pay $1.99 a month. Apple takes a 30 percent cut, leaving Arment about $35,000 a month.
This cost of putting out the magazine is a bit over $20,000 per month. It comes out every two weeks, and each issue costs about $10,000. Roughly $4,000 goes to writers. The rest goes mostly to copy editors, illustrators, photographers and editors.
Then again, given all that, why go to the trouble of creating a magazine?
"I don't really know why I started it," Arment told me yesterday. Then he listed off a bunch of reasons why he started it.
He knew lots of good bloggers who weren't doing any magazine writing. He wanted a magazine that he wanted to read. ("General interest, with a geeky slant.") And, weirdly, the business case for a magazine was really compelling.
"What I saw was a fluke in app store pricing," he told me. "If you have an app, you can charge, realistically, about $3 these days." Somebody buys the app, and that's it. But for a magazine, you can charge $1.99 every month.
Of course, when you're publishing the magazine, you do have to pay for a new issue every two weeks. And if you're a publisher with no full-time staff, you're pretty much locked in.
"With Instapaper, I can take a few months off," Arment said. "I can't stop publishing The Magazine for two months and work on something else."