Digital magazines continue to be a polarizing topic among publishers. Some see them as central to the industry’s future; others claim they’re likely just a passing fad. Still, they continue to become more entrenched in most publishers’ digital strategies, and the rise of mobile devices and e-readers offers publishers more platforms on which to display their content.
Ben Edwards, marketing manager for PageSuite, a U.K.-based digital editions provider, told Publishing Executive Inbox that he believes the Apple iPhone and smart phone applications in general provide publishers and their digital magazines with a wealth of opportunities.
INBOX: More publishers are considering shuttering their print publications for digital-only ones. Aside from the economics involved with the decision, can you offer any insights to help publishers make this decision any more easily? What other major considerations are involved?
BEN EDWARDS: … The labor involved in at least testing digital editions is minimal, as all production processes are automated and the extensive marketing opportunities such as mass e-mail and analytics tools are quick and effective to use. Potential headaches such as subscriber integration, cross-selling archives and customizing editions are easily achieved, as publishers should call upon their account managers for industry tips and help. Software providers have a vested interest in publishers’ success in generating genuine ROI, so taking even the most tentative step into digital is met with huge enthusiasm and endeavor from the software providers!
Other considerations: Many customers enjoy the tangibility of a quality magazine, so the publisher should examine what proportion of their customer base is this experience crucial to. The clarity and gloss of magazines can be replicated digitally, which can compensate … for the material loss, and then be enhanced by the addition of rich media and the interactive experience. Customers do still then have the ability to print, export to CD or download editions if they want a portable experience.
INBOX: Digital magazine adoption by readers remains a barrier for many publishers. What advice would you give publishers to help familiarize their audience with the technology, and can you offer any tips for building a digital magazine’s circulation?
EDWARDS: [To familiarize their audience] publishers use editorial and advertising space in their own publications, Web pages, blogs and social networking sites to talk about their digital editions [and to get] people excited about the opportunities—be they rich media, accessibility or green publishing (i.e. less waste, print and distribution). Allowing limited free access, [using trials] or releasing a demo also prompts customers to explore the edition for themselves, and there are tutorials available in the edition for readers to use too.
To increase circulation, in your software itself, there are a number of tools to use: Use the mass e-mail tool to promote your latest edition, to detail special offers, top stories and a front cover shot to drive traffic. Embed a mini flip edition on your Web site to promote your digital titles, which draws visitors’ attention directly to the e-edition. SEO tools will push publishers up organic rankings, which is crucial to attracting new readers. Utilizing the analytics tools indirectly helps, as clients can profile their customers and then more effectively target key audiences. Paid-for titles can release supplements or certain features for free on their landing page to entice customers to subscribe.
INBOX: What are some of the more common mistakes you continue to see publishers make with their digital magazine strategies?
EDWARDS: Some publishers’ strategy is just that, a plan, rather than affirmative action, which given the competitive pricing and quality of digital edition software is a mistake. Once publishers embark digitally, they need to maximize the available resources. Use your Web site, your titles and free online tools to advertise your editions. Trust in the quality of your publication and your audience’s receptiveness and digital editions will deliver.
INBOX: How do you anticipate the rising popularity of e-reader and e-ink devices will affect digital magazines?
EDWARDS: Publishers’ e-reader strategy will positively affect digital magazines, as digital has with Web sites, as it will enable publishers to grow their multi-channel strategy and increase customers’ accessibility. I feel iPhone and smart phone applications can match, if not outperform, the e-readers, so there could be a convergence of this technology over the next few years.