There are few things more heartbreaking for an editor than turning the lights off on a publication. Unfortunately, today marks the second time I've had to perform that unrewarding task. And while I plan to make good on my promise to take what we've learned here at Distro and transfer it to Engadget at large, I'm no less disheartened to have to flip the switch.
When Tim Stevens asked me to take the reins of what was then referred to as Project X, I was skeptical. It was the summer of 2011, just over a year since the release of the first iPad, and tablet magazine publishing was largely an untested market. Sure, mainstream media was investing massive amounts of money in the space -- we're looking at you, Rupert -- but part of me couldn't shake the feeling that turning a blog into a magazine (digital or otherwise) was a step back, not a step forward.
I couldn't have been more wrong. We've published 109 issues of Distro, seen nearly a half-million downloads of our various apps and consistently reached digital readership numbers that meet and exceed those of old-guard media brands. Meanwhile, publishers continue to flock to the tablet as a means of distribution. According to our latest (and last) Weekly Stat, at Distro's launch, there were 562 magazine apps in the US; as of last count (Q4 2012), there were 1,871. Some of those magazines will thrive. Others will eventually fold, and while Distro will be counted among the latter, I'm lucky to have had the chance to work with such a talented group to do something that few, if any, had ever attempted. It hasn't been easy, but working ahead of the curve never is.
In our final issue, we pay homage to a group of prophetic projects that failed to catch on. From Microsoft's SPOT watch to the ill-fated QUBE, these devices informed future triumphs and proved that success can't be measured by sales alone.
Sometimes, a lasting influence is the sweetest reward.
This piece originally appeared in Distro #109.