Java Magazines

Last week I wrote a somewhat controversial post about developing Java applications for mobile. Some people seemed to think that I was dissing Java per se, which isn’t the case at all – sometimes only Java cuts the mustard and here’s a nice example.

Mobizines by Refresh Mobile allow companies to make their own magazines for mobile phones. People can then download them, if they have a Java or Symbian phone, for a small fixed price plus minimal operator data charges.

The beauty of this type of application is that, once downloaded, it can be used off-line and free – like an off-line browser. As we know, while WAP is getting faster and better, it can still be frustrating to wait while pages download in this broadband age or the connection is dropped, whereas this experience is instant and no connection is needed once it’s been downloaded.

What I also like about this idea is that while Mobizines have a range of titles, the Java application itself needs only be downloaded once. This means that the cost and hassle of porting that I was talking about last week, can be shared across many magazine titles.

Another advantage of Mobizines is that content can be refreshed once it’s on a phone. So new content and articles can be uploaded and the user notified that there’s new stuff there to explore.

I’ve been aware of Refresh for some time now, but was reminded by a post on The Big Picture last week, who had created one for our friends at Sony Ericsson. However, Refresh have done a great job of signing up loads of publishing brands, ranging for GQ Mobile through Time Out to OK, the gossip and celeb magazine.

Publishing brands are charging a one off 25p (46c) for one edition. While the site is at pains to point out that this is not a subscription charge, if the publishers look at Mobizines on an ongoing basis, a subscription model will naturally emerge, alongside casual sales – much as paper-based magazines have been sold historically. However, with all the issues surrounding Ringtone subscriptions, Refresh Mobile are probably wise to steer clear of this initially and to point out that people aren’t signing up for a subscription.

If advertising can also be sold within the Mobizines themselves, a nice, profitable publishing niche will have been launched, without the expense of printing and distribution.

The only slight cloud I see on the horizon is that WAP is getting faster, cheaper and more reliable. At some point, it will be questionable if the delivery mechanism is better handled by Java or WAP. But that transition isn’t a big issue for Refresh Mobile, who will still be the magazine’s digital printer.

So, nice work so far. Let’s see if it can be converted into ongoing and sustainable success.

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