Hipstamatic has made a successful business out of its popular (and paid) iPhone camera appand the many features it has incorporated to enhance that photo experience: four million active monthly users and 50 million photos snapped through it each month. Now the company behind it, Synthetic, is looking to build on that foundation and create more engagement among the existing Hipstamatic community, and perhaps find new users in the process. Today, it becomes an iPad magazine publisher, with a monthly culture and lifestyle title for the iPad called Snap, consisting of original content and images created by Hipstamatic users. Unlike Synthetic’s paid Hipstamatic app, Snap will be free.
Alongside that, the company is ramping up its social media profile, with the launch of #makebeautiful. This project will encourage Hipstamatic users to mark pictures using the hashtag to put them into a special stream on Twitter and Instagram and on its own site — the first time they’re aggregating their users’ photos in this way.
While moving into magazine publishing might sound like a pivot too far for a developer of photo apps, in actual fact it’s not too far from Synthetic’s roots.
Lucas Buick, the co-founder and CEO of Synthetic, started out as as a graphic designer at a magazine (the telecoms trade title Telephony, a sweet irony for an app maker). Fresh out of art school, it was there that he cut his teeth in publishing, and also started to get the itch to do something a little more creative. “After a couple years, I realized working at a magazine is great, but I wanted more creative freedom. I wanted to work on projects that excited me, and that might even make a difference in the world,” he writes in the introduction to the first edition.
“My love for the magazine format goes deep,” Buick told me.
He also notes that the idea of the iPad magazine also came out of the company’s existing social media activity: people on Hipstamatic are already posting a lot of content to Instagram and Twitter, so this is a way of better directing that long tail, as it were.
Snap will come out monthly, and will be focused around a single theme, played out through eight sections and three feature stories. (The first theme will be Make Beautiful, like the hashtag project.)
The sections have suitably vague headings, reminiscent of a lot of other lifestyle/culture magazines: Cultured; Obsessed; Climax; Situation; Hip Stop; Adventures in Hipstaland; Slash; and Lensed. But to be honest, the concept is more visual than verbal, so it’s maybe not worth pushing that point too much. (And in fact the pictures in this first issue, as you can see below, are pretty stunning.)
Rather, the main focus for the publisher/developers, led by editor Katie Carroll, should be to make sure that Snap doesn’t feel too much like an overt Hipstamatic promotion and more like a magazine in its own right — that’s what will get people downloading and using it regularly. (The chance of getting your own pictures into a monthly issue should also help with user engagement.)
Buick, I think, realizes this, too: “Yes, it’s a beautiful piece of eye candy, but I’m also really excited for our editoral content. In particular, Climax—an exploration of the things that we all think yet rarely speak about. I’m talking SEX, RELIGION, & POLITICS. It’s my hope that the section can help start the conversation.”
For now, there is no indication of advertising or any other revenue generation behind Snap. “We aren’t currently looking to monetize it,” Buick told me. “It was built as a way for us to highlight our users in a more curated and thoughtful way than social media. 100% of hipstamatic users are content creators and highly creative. Snap is an opportunity for us to showcase beautiful photos and continue to tell the story of the creative class.”
In itself, this is a turn of events for the company, given that the Hipstamatic app has had such good success in driving revenue through the app — $10 million last year — and the printing and other services built up around it.
Hipstamatic’s developers still have no news on whether and when they might extend their services to other platforms — for now everything is exclusively on iOS. “We find that our target audience is on iPhone/iOS, so that’s where we plan to stay for the time being,” a spokesperson told me.
When Instagram and Facebook announced their $1 billion acquisition deal in April, one of my early thoughts was about what that might mean for Instagram’s new deal with Hipstamatic, which seemed to hold out some commercial and content promise for both companies. Snap could be the company’s answer to how it will develop regardless of what happens there.