If in 2011 I had known what I know today, I probably wouldn’t have decided to start PressPad. This is a brief answer to the question raised in the title. Today we love what we do with mobile publishing but the beginnings have not been easy. And this is the stage with which a publisher who wants to build their own tool for publishing magazines on mobile devices has to deal.
I get this question a lot. How much will it cost? Is it worth doing? I’ve identified four areas that in all probability may create great difficulty for everyone who is trying to build and launch one’s own magazine app.
I assume that a publisher who makes an attempt to build their own tool has or is able to buy certain IT competences. Such a small assumption virtually excludes from the very start writing the system on one’s own but let’s forget about it for a second and let’s see what would happen if the hypothetical publisher was an IT company at the same time.
A painful process of knowledge gaining
As I’ve written at the beginning, if I went back in time 2 years, I would say a lot of interesting things to myself. One of them is that It’s impossible to plan, implement and maintain an IT system according to one’s plan. Me and my co-founders had previously had outsourcing companies and we knew that planning in the case of IT is very tough. However, building something in the situation when we were clients turned out to be even more difficult. Two biggest traps that we encountered were re-evaluating specifications and getting ourselves into a dead ends once every coupe of days.
As for the former trap, its symptom is that we’re planning a perfect product in the situation in which we should plan the one possible to be implemented with the current budget/team. The latter trap depends on the team’s abilities – even we, despite having years of experience in IT, wasted weeks on features that clients didn’t even use.
Unpredictable costs and time
Estimating time of the project and indispensable budget stems directly from the previously mentioned paragraph. We’ve spent half a million dollars to build PressPad. Luckily, our R&D is situated in Cracow, Poland, in the country in which employment costs are incomparably lower than in the West or in America (it’s owing to the costs of living, not because we pay unreasonably low fees).
We estimate that building PressPad in America would cost around 3 million dollars so far.
The second trap is time. In this case location isn’t important any more. We’ve been on the market for a bit more than two years but we can see that 10 months of this period were wasted. Of course, we haven’t been able to make such an observation until now and there’s nothing left for us but to cope with it and optimise processes in the future.
Learning through iteration
One of the most interesting things that have happened to us during the last two years is connected with iterations. We’ve learned that it is indispensable to present the product in the A version in order to get some feedback and start working on the B version. And so it goes on and on.
When we started building a publishing platform we spent months before we presented the 1.0 version to the world. We found out almost right away that more than half of all those months were spent on features nobody needed. The process has been repeated up to now and the only difference is that the periods are getting shorter and we’re wasting less and less time.
Bonus: technology doesn’t matter
As a bonus to all the thoughts I’ll add one very important thing: after 2 years with PressPad we’ve learned that success is often determined by content, the way of reaching the client, or communication. It is very rarely due to technology.
I do realise that I’m in no position to give such a statement but I’m still going to say it: don’t waste your time on building systems that can be bought for $199 per month. Publish your magazine as soon as possible and devote the time and money you’re going to get back to reaching clients and marketing your mobile app.
– Paul Nowak, CEO PressPad