There are casual iPhoneographers, and then there are Hipstamatic users. The 4 million cult users of Hipstamatic's flagship $1.99 app choose custom lenses, films, and flashes to take professional-looking photos, which many of them email directly to Hipstamatic—of their food, their travels, even their kids. But until now, Hipstamatic didn't have a designated space in which to showcase them.
But today, Hipstamatic will launch Snap, a free monthly culture and lifestyle magazine for the iPad featuring original editorial content and, naturally, gorgeous spreads of Hipstamatic photos. Snap reads like a traditional magazine: Eight sections (with names like "Cultured" and "Obsessed") detail the hippest in music, fashion, food, and travel, gussied up with plenty of large and lush photographs. But more than a magazine, it’s also a clever pull for new Hipstamatic users, who CEO Lucas Buick tells Fast Company he draws in by capitalizing on a concept called FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for the misanthropes).
"Everyone wants to know why your friend’s photos are better than yours," Buick says. "That gives us another opportunity to highlight our users. And when we highlight any of our users, they become evangelists for life."
If Facebook has taught us one thing, it’s that long-term user engagement is invaluable currency. Hipstamatic made a big push for deep users in March, when it partnered with Instagram to allow users to seamlessly push their photos onto the Instagram platform. But where Instagram-induced FOMO is triggered by how much fun people seem to be having without you, Hipstamatic-induced FOMO is triggered by how much better their photos seem to look than yours.
Which is exactly why Snap is a smart product for Hipstamatic, who can now present you with a sleek magazine chock-full of photos that are, well, better than yours. They may not be photos taken by your friends, but that’s irrelevant to a company that was never designed to be a social network. The photos in Snap are tangible representations of what the average or future Hipstamatic user can aspire to. To that effect, Snap includes information on the different lens, film, and flash combinations used to achieve many of the magazine's shots. Yes, this is possible, the pages say, and Hipstamatic can help you get here.
Often the things in those photos are desirable, too, and Snap is linking out to a few boutique products featured in its photos—it's not hard to imagine a monetized future where Hipstamatic photography is the gateway into a Hipstamatic-powered cool-hunting or shopping experience.
For now the photo process and those who've mastered it are the focus. And that’s where Make Beautiful comes in. It's Hipstamatic’s new social photo project that also launches today. It provides a gateway for the average photographer to get his work featured in Snap. Make Beautiful streams users’ #makebeautiful photos from Instagram and Twitter (for now), some of which Buick says Hipstamatic will eventually feature in Snap. Make Beautiful will also offer downloadable files of Hipstamatic artwork for users to repurpose for their own projects, whether that’s a custom desktop background or a T-shirt.
Make Beautiful provides a low barrier to entry: Anyone can snap and hashtag a photo. But Buick knows that true enthusiasts feed off the exclusivity of its community's top talent. Whereas the reward of posting to Instagram lies in likes and comments from friends, the reward of shooting with Hipstamatic lies in being recognized for your talent. And what better way to feel recognized than to have your photos featured in a magazine? "We want to engage the community and get Hipstamatic users used to the idea of contributing more," Buick says. "The Make Beautiful platform is going to be a way to pull content into the magazine that's not possible in print."
That's not just good for users, it's also great for Hipstamatic's business. By setting the tone for what’s hip right now, Hipstamatic is neatly setting itself up to sell special lenses and other extras designed for specific interests. (It’s already begun to do this, with a food-specific lens developed with food photographer David Loftus. "Nobody wants to look at weird, green food when it's not supposed to be green," Buick says.) Anything featured in Snap, from street art to fashion, could conceivably feed into a new moneymaking vertical.
"When we first came out, it was all about retro photography," says Molli Sullivan, Hipstamatic's director of communications. "But now, we're also releasing lenses that are more about creating a specific look for a certain setting. The more we can educate people on how to achieve that certain look, the more people will shoot with Hipstamatic."
[Base Image: Flickr user Panaromic]