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Nicholas, Coburn, Van Doren, MacArthur
Digital Publishing Tips
for Creating Digital
Magazines in a Tablet
Publishing World

Bigital Nagazine Publishing

Mequoda Team Advisory Board
Copyright 2014 Mequoda Group LLC

Report Authors:
Don Nicholas
Ed Coburn
Mary Van Doren
Amanda MacArthur

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Don Nicholas
CEO & Lead Consultant

Ed Coburn
Chief Content Officer

Aimee Graeber
Chief Technology Officer

Laura Pittman
Chief Operating Officer

Amanda MacArthur
Managing Editor

Mary Van Doren
Lead Copywriter

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Analytics Manager

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Contributing Editors:

Kim Mateus
Christopher Sturk
Jane Zarem
Peter A. Schaible
Patrick Hughes
Michelle L. Rodriguez
Jeanne S. Jennings
Roxanne OConnell
Active Interest Media
American Lantern Press
American Quarter Horse
American Society of Pension
Professionals & Actuaries
Biblical Archaeology Society
Business & Legal Resources
Capitol Information Group
Center for Science in the
Public Interest
Ebner Publishing International
Farm Progress Companies
Hoffman Media
Natural Health Advisory
Oxford Media Group
Program on Negotiation at
Harvard Law School
Prime Publishing
Psychotherapy Networker
Retirement Capital Strategies
Revolution Golf
The Successful Investor
The Motley Fool
Vida y Salud Media Group

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Mequoda Group, LLC
Customer Service
(617) 217-2559
225 Franklin Street, 26
Boston, MA 02110

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Table of Contents
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The Bistoiy anu Futuie of Bigital Nagazines ............................................................................................. 16
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What Is a Reflow Plus. ......................................................................................................................................... S7
What Bo People Want in a Fiee App. ............................................................................................................ 42
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Piicing a Bigital Nagazine: 0niveisal Bigital Access ............................................................................... 7S
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Populai Science Tuins its Bigital Euition Aiounu .................................................................................. 1S1

Bigital Nagazine Publishing

Bigital Nagazine Publishing
Digital Magazines Will Dominate

Tablet users will prefer digital to print in the next seven years

Did you ever think that consumers would prefer digital magazines over print
magazines? We do, and we think itll happen within the next seven years.
And that judgment isnt even based on speculation.
The 2013 Mequoda Tablet Study
revealed that in 2013, 55% of Internet users own
or have access to a tablet.
If growth occurs at the same rapid pace weve been witnessing thus far, we predict
that market penetration will be at 85% by 2020.

Our study, which surveyed over 1,200 tablet users, showed 26% prefer digital
magazines to print magazines. Keep in mind that the iPad (the leading tablet in our
study) was released barely three years ago. 0 to 26% in three years? Remarkable!

Bigital Nagazine Publishing
At the same rate of growth, we predict that number will rise quickly to 77% by
2020 as digital magazines get better and conform to the user experience that
subscribers expect.

We predict that by 2020, 65% of adult US Internet users will prefer digital
magazines to print magazines. To get this number, we calculate that the percent of
consumers who prefer digital magazine over print magazines is equal to the
percent who have access to a tablet (85% by 2020), times the percent who prefer
the digital editions (77% by 2020). In 2020, that calculation is 77% x 85% = 65%.
And how can we make such a bold statement when people still claim to like the
feel of paper?
Digital magazines are better in at least seven ways:
Timely When the issue is released, it can be viewed and downloaded
instantly. For news-based magazines especially, this is crucial. Its even
important for those who look forward to reading the latest celebrity gossip
as it hits the newsstands.

Portable When given the choice to bring seven magazines on a 12-hour
flight, or an iPad mini, which takes up the least amount of space?
Bigital Nagazine Publishing

Collectible Just as tablet users collect apps, they can collect magazines.
Magazine apps are increasingly allowing subscribers to clip and save
certain articles of the magazine too, which makes it even easier to replace
print. And again, apps take up a lot less space than print magazines!

Searchable Usability of print magazines has never been optimal.
Sometimes its hard even find the index amongst the pages of ads.
Searchable (and tapable) magazines reduce the barrier to engagement.

Shareable App publishers are getting savvy about allowing subscribers to
share content. In a social media driven world, customers want to share
everything with everyone, a feature of print that simply doesnt exist

Video enhanced Thirty years ago, science fiction films predicted that
wed be watching video news clips in our print magazines. That was just
silly. Digital magazines with video tutorials, interviews, and even video
advertisements make much more sense!

Audio enhanced Along the same lines, subscribers enjoy listening to
sound clips, interviews and advertorials, something not even possible in the
print medium.

Tablets have bridged the gap between magazines and magazine websites. Theyve
created a complete hybrid of information. Once tablet users actually see and
engage with a digital magazine, theyre more likely to subscribe.
The rapid consumer adoption of tablets, and an early preference for digital
magazines over print magazines by their users, leads us to conclude that a long-
range digital publishing strategy is imperative to the survival and prosperity of
every magazine publisher.
That strategy should consider format, partners, and a premium subscription
website to be used as a home base for all paid magazine subscribers. Mequoda
advises and guides its clients on achieving these goals, and you must begin to
chart your course, too.
While its certain that format and platforms will shift, it seems clear that the web
will remain a nexus for all consumer activity and the number one application for
tablet users.

Bigital Nagazine Publishing

Digital Magazine

Bigital Nagazine Publishing
The Perfect Digital Magazine

Nine characteristics of a digital magazine that are defined by
the user experience, and dictate the future requirements of
what will become the template for digital magazine publishing

We have seen the future of magazine publishing, and its paperless.
Its not only we publishers who think so.
Today, many consumers have begun predicting the demise of print publications.
Pay-for-access online content is gaining newfound acceptance, and e-readers and
computer tablets are enjoying soaring popularity. Many of the publishers we work
with generate more than 10 percent of their new subscription sales from digital
So, is it possible? Will all magazines be digital in the not-too-distant future?
Whether that not-too-distant future is three years, five years or 10 years away,
we see the inevitable metamorphosis. The 10 percent of the literate population that
consumes the lions share of all written information has begun to devour digital
content on new, intriguing and attractive platforms that are convenient, portable
and theres no denying it fun!
Will the digital magazine template required for tablet publishing success redefine
the medium we now call magazines?
What characterizes a magazine in the future, as many publications transform from
print to digital and deliver content on a tablet computer thats part netbook, part
phone, part personal digital assistant, and part mobile Internet device?
What is the true essence of a magazine in the digital delivery world of today and
What is a magazine? Our criteria may surprise you.

The magazine is a reading experience like no other.
What has made the medium so successful over the past 100+ years? What
brought it to its initial success?
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How has the magazine survived as initially radio, and later television
challenged the medium for readers time and attention?
What differentiates a magazine from a book, or a website, or any other
collection of written content?
I have always loved magazines! But frankly, over the years, Ive wondered if the
magazine, as a medium would survive. And now, with the advent of the digital
tablet the perfect platform for digital magazines I am no longer worried that
the magazine medium will disappear.
In fact, I believe it will evolve and thrive. Heres why.
The essential core characteristics of a magazine are those that define the user
The attributes that define a magazine are not necessarily better or worse than those
that define other media websites, movies, books, etc. They are simply different
in terms of the user experience.
The combination of a magazines attributes make it desirable and survivable for
some part of the reading population, for certain topics.
The magazine will survive because magazine lovers will continue to demand this
magazine user experience, which transcends its physicality.
Paper or tablet, the essential attributes of a magazine will not change. Consumers
are not going to let publishers change the characteristics of a magazine that have
made the medium so successful over the years.
That it has traditionally been printed on paper is not an essential characteristic of a
magazine. Some publishers will inevitably disagree, but they are mistaking
physical appearance for user experience.
Heres what I believe is the core of a magazine. As your publication is
transformed from print to tablet, make certain it doesnt lose even one of these
essential attributes, which define the user experience.
#1: Magazines are linear.
Magazines are designed to be read from front to back. Magazines have covers and
a table of contents. Magazines are arranged in a series of articles.
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Magazines are not meant to be read in their entirety. For the three decades that
Ive been a publisher, the average time spent with the average issue of a magazine
whether a weekly, monthly or quarterly is about an hour.
Compare that with other media, where the articles constitute hundreds of pages,
are arranged with taxonomies and hyperlinks, and are not linear.
Hyperlinking is not linear. Any medium that enables or encourages the reader to
bounce around among hundreds or thousands of articles is not a linear medium.
#2: Magazines are finite.
Magazines share this characteristic with books, movies and other media, but not
Internet websites. The web is an infinite medium, with no beginning or end. You
can never finish it.
Humans desire closure, which magazines provide. A reader can say, I have read
the April issue of Vanity Fair. I finished it on Sunday.
And that doesnt mean the reader has read every word and studied every photo. It
means he started at the cover, read the table of contents, read the articles that were
of interest (usually a combination of reading and skimming), and eventually put
the magazine down and declared, Im done with that. And now Im looking
forward to the next issue.
But no one has ever said she has finished the Vanity Fair website. And no one
ever will finish it.
#3: Magazines are periodic.
Weekly, monthly or quarterly, magazines are periodic, based on how often the
user wants to consume content, and how often the content is needed and changing.
If youre a knitter, and you need six new knitting projects each year, a knitting
magazine thats delivered six times annually is ideal for you.
If youre a political news junkie and you love to catch up on the politics of the
week on rainy Sunday afternoons, then a weekly subscription to The American
Spectator or The Nation is your ideal.
Traditionally, the economics of printing and the postal system pushed magazine
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publishers to lower frequency. When publishers complete the switch from print to
digital, well pay greater attention to the natural organic frequency of magazines,
rather than the economic frequency that has been imposed by postal delivery.
Some users will wish there were a new issue of Vanity Fair published every
Friday afternoon instead of monthly. Or published with 75 pages every week
instead of 300 pages once a month.
Such a publishing schedule might capture an hour of the users time each week
instead of an hour monthly. And if a publication meets the users frequency needs,
they will be more engaged with both the editorial content and advertisements in
the medium, and more inclined to buy more affiliated publications and products.
Overall, customer satisfaction and subscriber retention rates will increase.
#4: Magazines are cohesive.
Part of the appeal of a magazine is that its been edited and curated. Its editors
have culled out the most interesting and most relevant content for the reader.
The content is not an isolated collection of articles or stories. Instead, the editorial
content is connected and cohesive. Frequently theres an introductory letter from
the editor that creates context for the content that follows.
The whole (the collection of curated articles) is greater than the sum of the parts.
The cohesive property of its editorial content is core to great magazine publishing.
#5: Magazines are portable.
Users can fully experience a magazine on the beach or on the toilet.
Tablet computers do not diminish this experience.
But laptops, desktops, e-readers and smart phones were not adequate media for the
digitization of magazines. Going forward, tablets will do for magazines what e-
readers have done for books; they will kick-start a resurgence of reading among
literate people who consume elite media.
#6: Magazines are textual.
Magazines are an elitist medium.
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Most Americans are not regular readers and are appallingly ignorant of anything
even remotely resembling enlightened thought. Unfortunately, this condition will
not change with new delivery platforms. Television will continue to be the mass
Newspapers, magazines and books are all elite media as compared with television
because they are textual. Magazines and magazine articles are text first;
photographs are ancillary. This will not change as magazines are delivered on
Editorial content, the art of storytelling, and the ability to write a paragraph that
paints a picture with words and enables the user to close her eyes and visualize
what the writer is describing, is not going away.
Readers live in the world of ideas. The written word is their raison dtre.
Magazines are an elite experience, with the written word what readers enjoy most.
But what 70 percent of Americans dont have is the magazine experience on a
regular basis.
#7: Magazines are collectible.
People like to own magazines.
As a child, I lived in a household that collected and displayed every issue of
National Geographic and Readers Digest magazines.
Steve Jobs said that while theres a small group of consumers that wants to own
television shows, most want to rent.
But many magazine subscribers collect their back issues. For some specialty
magazines such as Sunset and Interweave Knits, as many as 70-80 percent of
subscribers keep their back issues for future reference.
At a magazine website, users must be able to download an issue of the magazine.
If not, its not a magazine website.
Going forward, magazines will be universal and searchable
In the future, magazines will not be limited by platform. Readers (subscribers) will
expect to be able to access the content of your magazine on any platform that
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delivers four-color-saturated, editorial content. Currently, that means desktops,
laptops and tablets.
Publishers will make their magazines available on the Apple iPad, the Samsung
Galaxy Tablet, Kindle Fire and all other lightweight, portable, touchscreen, tablet-
sized, personal computers, regardless of operating system.
Users will expect their subscription content to be available to them everywhere.
Publishers will not risk disappointing them by making exclusive platform alliances.
Additionally, in the future, a magazine delivered on a digital platform must be
Whether he previously read an article in Sunset and is now actively planning a
Hawaii vacation, or previously read an article in Consumer Reports and is now
preparing to buy a kitchen appliance, the user wants to be able to revisit and find
specific information.
Why every publisher will need a subscription website
In 2013, every publisher must build a subscription website that is the nexus for all
the other platforms.
Of course, the subscription website must enable the user to experience their
magazine using all these criteria.
With a companion website, publishers will disaggregate all the magazine content
and create a searchable content database.
While the traditional print magazine could only be searchable in a linear review of
past issues, a companion magazine website enables the publisher to offer
subscribers a searchable HTML database of editorial content.
In 1997, we advised Consumer Reports magazine to publish on two platforms and
offer two separate subscriptions. One is the print magazine, for a linear, one-hour,
once-a-month experience. The other is an online database call it a reference
book or even an encyclopedia, if you like for researching previously published
editorial content in preparation for making a purchase.
We would offer the same advice today. And we would recommend the launch of a
second website a truly subscription website that would enable subscribers
the nine magazine user experiences we have described above.
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Note the difference between a subscription to the reference book website and a
subscription to the magazine content website. The magazine website would enable
users to buy and download individual issues or a 12-month subscription.
The magazine website would power the digital issues, viewable on the iPad and
other tablet platforms, and would have a searchable archive of all the editorial
content that appeared in the magazine as a subset of the reference book website.
The subscription magazine website and the subscription online reference book are
different products with different uses. These differences are detailed in our
handbook on subscription website strategy.
The Consumer Reports reference website is used exactly like a book. The average
subscriber accesses it 2.7 times annually for 5-10 minutes each time.
In contrast, the average Consumer Reports magazine subscriber spends 50-60
minutes per month with each new issue.
Subscribers access the online reference book for solutions. They read the
magazine for mastery.
Users can buy either the subscription magazine, or the subscription reference book,
or both.
What do you think are the essential elements of the perfect
magazine template?

As we prepare our digital publishing strategy, its clear that our digital editions
will climb from a single-digit percentage of revenue into double-digit numbers.
Understanding the core modality of our digital magazines along with the need to
create magazine templates that display text, photos, and video in a format
appropriate to the leading caplets is essential to powering that growth rate.
As readers become more familiar with digital magazines, their expectations will
rise above what can be met with a simple replica digital magazine template. The
need to resize our magazine pages for these smaller formats will become required
table stakes for success.

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The History and Future of Digital Magazines

Mainz, Germany, 1439: Johannes Gutenberg, a goldsmith, invents movable type
technology. This launches the information age, and the use of the printing press all
over Europe even leads to a name for the new information media, the press.
Germany, 1663: The Western worlds first magazine, Edifying Monthly
Discussions, is published. The magazine industry is born.
It took 224 years for an entrepreneur to harness the printing press for
generating what we now know as magazines, and create an entire new
London, England, June 20, 1981: The Economist mentions the World Wide Web
in an article about CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research).
United States, Aug. 12, 1981: IBM releases its first personal computer.
United States, Oct. 27, 1994: The first commercial magazine website, HotWired,
is launched by Wired magazine. The digital magazine publishing industry is born.
It took 13 years for the magazine industry to jump on the computer
California, United States, April 3, 2010: Apple releases the iPad.
United States, May 26, 2010: Wired magazines iPad edition goes live and sells
24,000 copies in the first 24 hours. Cond Nast is only slightly behind Wired. The
digital magazine publishing industry is born again.
It took 53 days for the magazine industry to begin leveraging the iPad.
United States, Jan. 17, 2013: Forrester announces that in the three years since the
iPad was released, 200 million tablets have been sold worldwide. By contrast, they
note, it took the laptop 10 years to sell 27 million units. And today the laptop is
being abandoned for tablets.
United States, April 9, 2013: The iPad newsstand includes 8,419 magazine apps.
Amazon, creator of the Kindle tablet, has 609 magazine apps.
It took 3 years for the magazine industry to make digital magazine apps as
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readily available as any other product on the market today.
Anyone who doubts that the iPad is the most important media-related
technological innovation in all of human history should re-read those dates. If
speed of adoption indicates affection, then consumers and the magazine industry
are truly, madly, deeply in love with tablets.
And the exciting thing for those of us who live and breathe magazines is that we
get to live through this incredible era!
The other exciting, but also sobering, thought is that the iPad has clearly
become the savior of our industry, once on the verge of extinction.
The iPad and its competitor tablets are perfect for lean-back consumption of
content, in a way that computers never could be who wants to sit at a desk to
relax with their favorite magazine? and consumers are increasingly demanding
rich digital content that print obviously cannot deliver. Finally, tablets are more
portable than laptops, but have a large enough screen to make reading content
Tablets, led by the iPad, are hotter in the marketplace than anyone ever imagined.
Forrester has projected that 112.5 million US adults, or 34.3%, will own a tablet
by 2016. In Europe, that number is 105.7 million, or 30.4%. And thats small
potatoes: Forrester also believes that the Asian Pacific region is growing in tablet
ownership so fast that it will be the home of 34% of all tablet owners worldwide
by 2017.
Caution: iPad ownership in Asia, Eastern Europe and South America is
currently lagging behind to the extent that magazines trying to reach the
digital audience there may have to rely on iPhones for the time being. And
reading magazines on iPhones is problematic.
At the same time, the Alliance for Audited Media reported in February 2013 that
the number of US magazines sold on tablets and other mobile platforms in the
second half of 2012, while still small as a percentage of overall magazine sales,
more than doubled from the same period in 2011. There are 289 titles with digital
editions audited by AAM, which saw 7.9 million sales, up from 3.2 million in the
same period a year earlier.
Put tights and a cape on the tablet, its a superhero!

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Consumers quicker to adapt than digital publishing industry

Oddly, many of the publishers we talk to regularly still havent recognized the
significance of the tablet to their own survival. Todays tablets are not the boring
black-and-white experience of the early Kindle, which was designed for a book
reading experience. These tablets deliver a user-friendly, four-color publishing
The iPad has taken off well beyond Apples expectations, and I suspect Steve Jobs
who initially considered content consumption a minor hobby use for the Apple
tablet will go down in history not for the Mac or even the iPhone, but for the
iPad, in exactly the same way Johannes Gutenberg did almost 600 years before
For awhile there, it was touch and go for digital magazine publishing. Some of us
feared that the industry would collapse before the right technology came along.
But today were thrilled that both the reading public and the digital publishing
industry have so quickly adopted the tablet as the lifeline it is today.
Indeed, the data starting to flow indicates that consumers might even love reading
magazines on tablets more than they do in print. As reported in FOLIO:, Time Inc.
has been researching its subscribers since it launched its app, and those readers say
they return to view the same issue close to five times, and spend about 40 minutes
with each tablet edition, comparable to the average for print.
Better still, reports Cond Nast, their tablet subscribers (including those who are
tablet-plus-print subscribers) are renewing their subscriptions at a higher rate than
print-only subscribers and theyre also paying higher prices for their renewal
Certainly, some publishers are farther along than others in riding the tablet train.
Generally speaking, FOLIO: notes in Digital Magazines 2013, the larger the
company, the faster and farther the tablet adoption has come. The MPA Swipe 2.0
conference (their poorly-named conference on digital magazines) speaker list was
filled with Hearst, Cond Nast, and other large-circulation publishers discussing
their latest app launches, or even relaunches.
But that doesnt mean smaller niche publishers shouldnt get in on the action.
While Forbes magazine has an absolutely awesome, technology-rich app, lets not
forget the comparatively tiny Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), whose digital
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magazine publishing strategy has powered revenues unimagined by the publisher
before the advent of the tablet.
BAR is the publication of a nonprofit organization, and has roughly 50,000 unique
visitors monthly. Its digital edition drove 6.4% of the organizations revenues in
2012, even though digital wasnt launched until October of that year, and that rate
doubled in the first two months of 2013.
Digital magazine publishing and you
Obviously, Mequoda urges every publisher to get going with a digital edition,
whether youre BAR or Forbes, or something in between. The monetization of
your content will go through the roof for a plethora of reasons.
First, as FOLIO: notes, tablet editions open you up to younger and more affluent
readers. Usually you can get one or the other in your audience, but not both: This
is the best of both worlds. In addition, with the cost of printing and mailing print
issues eliminated, your content can be delivered and read all over the world.
Then theres advertising. You probably already know that advertisers are fleeing
print for digital in droves, but did you know that you can charge more for those
digital ads? Rich content enhanced with extra photos, slideshows, videos and
audio content such as that seen in Forbes and The New Yorker is worth more to
readers, keeps them engaged longer, and of course, builds a bigger audience base.
Not only that, but many platforms allow for interactive buying from within an ad.
At Wired, 2012 saw digital ad revenues hit 50% of its total, and The Atlantic hit
59%. Some observers are cautious, but with the rapid and enthusiastic adoption of
mobile magazine reading by consumers, were optimistic here at Mequoda.
There are dozens of companies out there looking for your business in translating
your print product to a mobile edition. BAR, our modest-sized client, partnered
with BlueToad, and Forbes went with MAZ for its fancier version.
Of course, if you can do it in-house, the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite is the
industry standard, although arguably not the best tool. Were big fans and partners
of Mag+ which offers comparable functionality to Adobe DPS at a price thats
much more comfortable for most small and mid-size publishers. (See the next
section for more on digital magazine publishing software.)
So dont wait. If you havent jumped into the pool yet, take the leap!

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Digital Magazine Publishing Software

Publishers have been trying digital magazine publishing software during the last
few years in hopes of creating the best digital products for their audiences. And
like everything else in digital magazine land, digital magazine software has
evolved at light speed since we made our initial recommendations.
Heres our latest look at the magazine software landscape.
Major digital magazine publishing software options

Adobe Digital Publishing Suite: The Adobe Publishing Suite
is one digital magazine publishing software option that offers a
complete digital publishing solution. It allows users to publish
for print, the web, and tablets seamlessly. Whether selling
digital products or using digital products to develop larger
audiences, Adobe has created an option that brings content
layout, graphics, illustrations, and distribution to digital
However, getting into DPS Enterprise requires an upfront cost of more than
$50,000, and Adobe also charges $.35 per download. This makes DPS best suited
for large, multi-title publishers 10 publications or more. Some of our earliest
clients to jump into the digital space, such as Interweave, were such multi-title
operations. But because Mequoda tends to champion the little guy that is, small,
independent niche publishers weve identified another provider as the best
choice for them.
But because Mequoda tends to champion the little guy that is, small,
independent niche publishers weve identified another provider as the best
choice for them Mag+.
Mag+: A spin-out company derived from Bonnier Corp.s very early Popular
Science app, Mag+ is our new go-to provider. Full disclosure: Weve signed a
partnership agreement with them and direct our niche clients with one to three
titles their way.
We find that Mag+s feature set and functionality are similar to Adobe, and also
support our best practices such as content reflow, including HTML links and other
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interactive features. But Mag+ is simply more affordable for small publishers,
both the base price and the entitlement price for downloading issues to clients
Youll pay just $599 per month to publish to all devices, and about $.04 per
download, depending on the size of the issue. And unlike Adobe, Mag+ allows
publishers including our clients who use Haven Gate, our comprehensive
premium subscription management program to host their digital magazines
themselves. So you dont even have to pay that entitlement cost.
This also allows you to eliminate the newsstand middleman and keep the cut
youd normally owe them for each issue sold. Another benefit: You also control
your own subscription offers, including copy, price and incentive testing, not to
mention offer tracking and data harvesting.
Another benefit of Mag+, in our experience, is that the culture there is more
compatible with ours as champions of the independent publisher. Their executive
team is open and very willing to answer questions and work with small publishers.
At Adobe, not surprisingly, youll find a closed culture where youre routed to
resellers who often know less than you do about digital magazine publishing, and
little if any support comes from Adobe itself.
Frankly, we expect that Mag+ will eventually pass Adobe and take over the #1 slot,
because there are simply more independent small titles than there are companies
like Hearst, Meredith and Time Inc.
GTxcel: Texterity has merged with Godengo and created a mystifying new
brand name to both provide websites for magazines and create digital editions
and mobile magazine apps. Their multi-channel approach is available to audiences
in digital, on the web, and through mobile, providing readers and advertisers a
modern experience.
BlueToad: Similar to GTxcels offerings, BlueToad provides digital magazine
publishing software for digital editions and mobile apps. BlueToad takes PDFs
and turns them into viewable formats online. We have some clients who jumped
into digital publishing before Mag+ arrived and found BlueToad fit their needs
As the magazine and newsletter industries continue down the path of digital
evolution, new product solutions will reach the market.

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Launching a Digital Magazine

Some industry insiders are still skeptical about the power of digital magazines.
And theyre still ignoring them. At Mequoda, we urge our clients to begin the
process of launching a digital publication yesterday, because, as you know if you
follow our posts on Mequoda Daily, we firmly believe the future of our industry
lies in mobile publishing.
I know some publishers feel paralyzed by the idea of a new process. After all, this
isnt like launching a direct mail campaign, or selling advertising, or redesigning
your magazine, or any of the things publishers have done for decades.
But its not as complicated as it seems. Because were always here to help, here
are the five steps you must take to launch your first digital magazine, whether
youre starting with a legacy product or you have a brand new digital only
publication in mind.
If you read through this list, youll know exactly what to expect launching your
digital publication. This is exactly what we do with our clients, and its true
whether youre starting with a legacy product or you have a brand new digital-
only publication in mind. In fact, about a third of our clients dont have a legacy
publication at all and exist only online. That means that while they dont have
print material to draw on, they do have their portal, blog or video content they can
use to create a digital-only magazine.
So fear not. Let us walk you through the process and hopefully propel you into
Launching digital magazines: Step 1

The very first thing a budding digital publisher must do is decide on the format of
the magazine. Will the magazine be a simple replica, or offer enhanced features
(replica-plus)? If you follow Mequoda best practices, youll choose to reflow your
print content for maximum readability. That means redesigning each page in a
vertical format, so long articles flow into bottomless pages and the reader swipes
vertically to read the full articles.
Youll also include as many live hyperlinks as possible for additional resources
both the links included in your print product and new ones that youve added just
for the digital product. Consumers tell us they love having extra information and
content that they cant get in the print product. If you just upload PDFs of your
print pages, youre not taking advantage of the technology.
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As weve noted already, Mequoda has a partnership agreement with Mag+, a
company weve chosen because of its wide range of options for publishers and its
accessibility and affordability to smaller operations like those of our clients. We
urge you to check them out, along with other options such as Adobe, GTxcel and
Launching digital magazines: Step 2

Adding interactive elements to your digital magazine is essential. And the thing
consumers love most about tablets is video. This may sound daunting, but dont
assume this is out of your reach. Existing DVD or downloadable video content can
be repurposed. You can start producing video content of your own, or at least dip
your toes in the water by reaching out to bloggers and others in your niche who
might have videos theyd be willing to share with you.
One of our clients began just that way, and soon found that demand outpaced the
supply of existing video content. That gave them the motivation and confidence in
the market to start creating their own videos.
In addition to video, you could at least deliver photo galleries of images that didnt
make it into the print product, or behind-the-scenes shots or similar material.
Finally, you should be prepared to have at least one bonus article, with interactive
elements, in every digital issue to enhance value.
Launching digital magazines: Step 3

Two words: Subscription website. If you dont have one, create one. Mequoda
clients use our comprehensive premium subscription management program called
Haven Gate to launch a premium subscription website as part of their product
There are a number of advantages to having a subscription website related to your
print and digital magazines. First, it helps you develop a relationship with your
readers and keeps them engaged with your brand. And since you have other
products to promote (you do, dont you?), it gives you the perfect platform to do
just that.
Having a subscription website associated with your print or digital products also
allows you to sell subscriptions and back issues yourself, instead of relying on
Apple and other newsstands which in turn means you get to keep the cut youd
have to give those third parties.
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You also control your subscription offers, including copy, price and incentive
testing, not to mention offer tracking and data harvesting.
Above all, having that premium subscription website means you can bundle your
products website, digital and print in a way that drives an increase of 30-40%
in per-customer revenue.
Whats more, because the average customer stays with you for about three years,
youll be getting $90 from that customer instead of $60 over that lifetime.
Launching digital magazines: Step 4

Choose your pricing strategy. Take this example from the Biblical Archaelogy
Society (BAS) to heart:
Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) digital at $19.95
BAS digital library on the premium subscription website at $29.95
BAR digital + BAS library at $34.95
More than half of BAS sales are for the highest priced product $15 more
than the lowest priced product.
The second highest sale price point is the middle price. Few consumers
bother with the cheapest product!

Launching digital magazines: Step 5

Determine your marketing strategy. This means establishing a schedule to
integrate digital magazine promotions into daily, weekend and spotlight emails
that you send out to email subscribers from your portal. (You do have a portal,
dont you? Right there associated with that premium subscription website you
should also have, right?)
You should plan to promote your digital product once every six weeks or so. We
have plenty of advice for using email to market your products, in case youre
That wasnt so bad, was it? Mequoda has already worked out the process, so you
dont have to stress over it. Whatever choices you make, at least now you know
the outline of the process.
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Digital Magazine Design

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The Short + Sweet of Magazine Apps

Six best practices in digital magazine publishing, plus five
definitions from the new digital age

Now its time to take a look around and quantify some best practices that weve
noted in researching apps and digital magazines.
First, some definitions. Terminology is changing daily, as it always does with new
technology and new products, but for now we should at least attempt to clarify a
few things. Some of these definitions come from outside Mequoda, but others are
our own preferred definitions that serve to clarify some of the confusion in the
industry right now.
Digital magazine
The Alliance for Audited Media (formerly ABC) defines a digital edition as
distribution of a magazines content via electronic means. The digital edition must
maintain the same identity of the host publication by maintaining the same brand
characteristics. Mequoda agrees with this definition.
At Mequoda, we consider a replica edition to be one thats fairly simple, with print
content digitized on pages exactly as the print edition does it. The user swipes
right to left in order to read left to right, and the pages are exactly as they appear in
the print version, only downsized to fit on a tablet screen.
This is the most advanced version of a digital magazine currently available. Now
the publisher is adding the interactive bells and whistles to a nicely reflowed
magazine. This gives you everything that readers are looking for in digital
magazines. In practice we have never found an example of a simple reflow
edition. Apparently, if publishers are going to invest in a reflow edition, theyre
also enhancing it with additional features.
A Mequoda Best Practice, reflowing your magazine so that the pages and type
arent downsized and unreadable makes your magazine much more reader-friendly.
In this version, the page is redesigned to fit the screen without shrinking the type.
Additionally, it can be designed so that the page fits horizontally, but not vertically.
The user swipes up to scroll through what is essentially one very long page.
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This is the most advanced version of a digital magazine currently available. Now
the publisher is adding the interactive bells and whistles to a nicely reflowed
magazine. This gives you everything that readers are looking for in digital
Magazine app
For the publishing industry, Mequoda considers a magazine app or just app
to be the program that allows users to access their digital editions on a mobile
device. Readers download the app from a digital newsstand, and most apps are
currently nothing more than a sales outlet for subscriptions and single copies.
More creative apps, such as those of New York and Forbes, offer free content of
some kind thats updated every day, in order to keep readers coming back for
more. Others at least include a free issue or free sample content, in addition to
selling subscriptions.
Gadget app
At Mequoda we use this term to distinguish certain kinds of apps from the ones
that most publishers are familiar with the app that sells the magazine and to
avoid confusion. A gadget app doesnt sell the magazine, but it provides some
other function thats related to the magazines content. For instance, Farm
Progress has an app called Growing Degree Days for use on smartphones,
which measures the maturity of your crop by viewing current and past growing
degree days data for your farms location.
Another example would be Martha Stewarts Marthas Everyday Food: Fresh &
Easy Recipes.
Unfortunately, gadget apps often seem to have serious usability problems that
annoy users, and few publishers are actually making any money with them yet,
and most of those that do are doing so through sponsorships. Thats why were
careful to distinguish between magazine apps good! and gadget apps
generally not so great yet.
When writers refer to tablets, theyre often talking about mobile computers such as
iPads and all competitors such as the Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble Nook, products
from Microsoft and Blackberry, and the Google Nexus. Others only consider
tablets to be the iPad and similar larger devices that have multiple functions, while
the smaller Kindle and Nook devices are referred to as e-readers, being largely
limited to reading functions.
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What Is a Digital Replica?

Publications like New York, Forbes and The Atlantic have become leaders in what
we consider the second phase of mobile publishing development the technology
is dependable, early jumpers are releasing their all-new versions upgraded from
their 2010 efforts, and standards for what consumers are willing to pay for are
establishing themselves.
But there are hundreds of smaller publishers out there bravely forging ahead
without the expensive bells and whistles of the big boys. These companies are
only on their first app iteration, not their second or third, and have substantially
fewer resources to throw at a digital magazine.
These are the publishers for whom the digital replica was made. No one says you
have to start out like New York, with a spectacularly innovative digital magazine
platform. Nope, you can ease into the mobile publishing age with a simple digital
replica magazine, and still satisfy your readers, your advertisers and your bottom
A replica edition is fairly simple, with print content digitized on pages exactly as
the print edition does it. Usually this means simply uploading PDFs of your pages
into software of some kind, or having someone else do it for you. The layout,
advertising and content are exactly the same as the print version, no more or less,
and each page, accessed by swiping horizontally, is identical to the print original.
(Note: If you currently create your magazine pages as PNGs, please resist the
temptation to upload those. The iPads technology makes those pages look fuzzy
and pixelated. Thats definitely a no-no.)
Producing a digital replica is a fairly simple process now, with dozens of providers
offering software and even hosting, marketing and analytics services.
And if youre concerned that youll look like a publishing dinosaur by putting out
a simple replica, fear not. At least not yet. These days, many perfectly respectable
publishers are opting for the replica because of the lower price points for design
(none) and production.
Among the simple replica brethren are the brand-new Atlantic Weekly, Black Belt
and other magazines from Active Interest Media, Fine Gardening and other
Taunton Press publications, Sound + Vision and other Bonnier magazines; even a
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brand-new digital-only science magazine called Brain Dump. Youre certainly in
good company if you choose to go replica only.
Digital replica: The cons

Obviously the biggest downside to creating a digital replica of your magazine is
that its an entirely new expense, requiring more manpower and technology that
you never needed before Steve Jobs and his iPad came along. Well get into the
actual costs later.
In addition, many publishers find that their sales staffers have trouble selling
advertising now that its so much more complicated in the digital world. The
metrics are complex and not standardized, and explaining the benefits to a new
advertiser may take more knowledge than your print ad salespeople have.
From the consumer point of view, one of the biggest complaints we hear about
replicas is that the page, being simply minimized to fit into a tablet screen, delivers
type thats too small for many people to read. Enlarging the view then expands the
page beyond the confines of the tablet screen, so the reader has to move the page
around with a finger to read all of it.
Another problem that no one seems to be measuring is that a replica edition, if
done sloppily, can generate animosity and drive consumers away from your brand
even long-time readers. In the iPad newsstand, I see dozens of complaints about
the technology of every app Ive ever reviewed here, and many I havent and I
mean 1-star ratings out of 5.
An example from TIME magazine, which should have the money to do these
things right:
(1 star)
No longer interested
I have not been able to download the last three issues, even thought they
appear on the library shelf, and I have downloaded the upgrade. This is a
waste of time, and I am going to write my subscription off.
I guess that subscriber wont be renewing any time soon.

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Digital replica: The pros

So why should you trust your brand to a digital replica? Most importantly, because
consumers now expect and even demand a mobile version of your magazine. The
longer publishers wait to jump on the bandwagon, the more they risk losing their
audience to rivals who already have a mobile version.
On top of that, consumers are starting to actually prefer digital magazines to print,
partly because of the convenience and, especially in the case of millennials, partly
because of the green factor: A full 37% of respondents in a 2011 MPA survey said
that digital medias lighter environmental impact was one of the reasons they buy
digital media.
And while I mentioned above our consumer research showing that the small type
of a replica can be a pain for readers, there is an alternative to the basic replica that
we call the vertical swipe reflow, which allows a larger font size as each article
is then reflowed into a long single page thats accessed by swiping vertically.
Well get into this option more deeply in another chapter. Its something most
publishers could choose at a minimal expense at Mequoda, for instance, we
charge $35 per page to redesign a magazine to reflow to overcome the replica
con of small type.
Besides, consumers are increasingly willing to spend serious cash on mobile
media, unlike expectations of website content back in the early Internet days when
everyone demanded that all content be free. PriceWaterhouseCoopers has even
predicted that consumer spending on digital magazines will top $80.2B by 2016.
You certainly want to be getting in on that action, even with a plain replica!
By the way, tablet magazine readers are also younger and more affluent, according
to numerous studies a two-fer thats rare for any commodity making them a
tempting audience for both publishers and advertisers.
Thats one reason why you may also be able to charge higher prices for
advertising. Another reason is that readers have been shown to be more engaged
with, and spend more time on, digital content than on print. Although as Ive noted,
advertising rates appear to be lagging behind, others report higher prices being
charged successfully.
Furthermore, by going electronic and taking delivery costs out of the equation, you
can afford to expand your reach globally for the first time. And as some publishers
have proven, adding a digital magazine to your product line might allow you to
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actually raise subscription rates without substantial pushback from your readers.
Finally, data is starting to trickle in showing that digital subscribers, including
those who get the digital edition as part of their print subscription, renew at higher
rates and at higher price points. Thats not too bad, either.
So is it worth your time and expense to publish a replica?

While youre weighing the above pros and cons, youll also need to consider cost.
The best thing about the replica is that uploading PDFs is pretty much all there is
to it: No need to redesign around fancy options like interactive ads, videos, or
interactive content. If you want to move beyond the simple replica, most providers
will happily do so for you, but lets consider the basics of producing a plain replica.
When it comes to providers in this space, Adobes Digital Publishing Suite is the
granddaddy of them all. However, getting into DPS Enterprise requires an upfront
cost of more than $50,000, and Adobe also charges $.35 per download. This
makes DPS best suited for large, multi-title publishers.
Number 2 in the field is Mag+, which Mequoda generally recommends for its
clients. For Mag+, youre going to pay $599 per month to publish to all devices,
and about $.04 per download. (And unlike Adobe, Mag+ allows publishers to host
their digital magazines themselves, eliminating the download cost.) This package
is much friendlier to smaller publishers.
There are so many other factors and options that Ill be revisiting this issue in an
entire blog post later, but for now Ill just mention that you can also get software
only and do all the rest yourself, or even use free, open-source software such as
How much should you charge?

Pricing for digital magazines is as chaotic right now as your average Macys sale.
No two pricing policies are alike! However, weve determined that the average
single-copy price is $4.97, while the average 1-year subscription rate is $19.97.
Some folks bundle their digital subscriptions with print for an extra $5-$10. Others
maintain completely separate subscription options.
If youre feeling bold you can add bundle your digital subscription with your print
subscription, and take that opportunity to raise your print price.
Of course, the real question in pricing is how youre going to break even and make
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money after investing in your digital edition. And as I said, the cost of going
digital is complex enough to merit its own spreadsheet.
But heres the bottom line based on Mequodas research so far:
To launch a simple replica, you can expect to pay about $7200 per year for Mag+,
plus another $2000-$3000 in labor. If you have a $30 subscription, with the
average 70% remit, youll need to sell 500 subscriptions to break even. And even
the smallest of publishers weve heard from are selling 10,000 or more in their
first year. If thats not enough to get you on the digital bandwagon, we dont know
what is.
There are dozens of replica editions already out there, and there are enough
advantages to mobile publishing that Mequoda believes no one should hesitate.

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What is a Replica Plus?

When we first saw the Forbes app, we were wowed. Ah, how quickly things
change in mobile publishing.
In that brief time, weve discovered newer, better apps that give us second
thoughts about Forbes. I think well start adding a disclaimer to our case studies
along the lines of This is awesome today. Tomorrow, who knows?
The digital replica is the most basic version of a digital magazine you can create.
Upload a PDF of your publication to the Internet and voila! Youre a mobile
A digital replica is, as we explained before, a version in
which print content appears on the tablet screen exactly as
it appears on a print page. The layout, advertising and
content are exactly the same as the print version, no more
or less, and the pages are accessed by swiping horizontally.
Forbes delivers what we call a replica-plus. And normally
youd think that doing as Forbes has done in adding bells
and whistles to a plain old replica, such as video, audio,
HTML links and other technology-rich features, would be an improvement to the
simple replica. Were not so sure that its a good enough upgrade, and heres why.
The problem with adding bells and whistles to a simple replica to create a replica-
plus lies in one of the disadvantages of the replica mentioned in that previous
chapter. But first, lets look at the pros and cons of the replica plus.
Replica-plus digital magazine: Pros

The advantages of the replica-plus are similar to the replica, in that consumers
increasingly expect digital versions of their favorite magazines, either because of
convenience or because of the green factor. Whats more, consumers are also
becoming more willing than ever to pay for digital content.
And the replica-plus model creates an even more audience-engaging environment
for advertisers than even the simple replica, with all those interactive features.
Finally, renewal rates are gradually showing themselves to be higher for mobile

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Replica-plus digital magazine: Cons

You probably remember from a few pages ago that the major drawback to the
replica is the small type necessary to shrink a print page down to tablet size. You
can pinch out to enlarge the type, but then the page no longer fits in a tablet screen.
This is more than just an inconvenience; its a major source of complaint for many
consumers weve talked to. And it makes your mobile magazine basically
inaccessible to anyone over the age of 40.
So heres why we believe the replica-plus is not enough of an improvement over a
basic replica: It doesnt solve the type size problem. It just increases the users
frustration by creating more things he cant see. And when youre in enlarged
mode with part of each page missing, youre that much more likely to overlook the
links and tappable buttons that lead to the videos, audio and other fancy features
In short, the replica-plus is akin to adding fancy whipped cream, chocolate syrup
and cherries to a bowl of dirt. It costs more to create, yet does very little to make
the dirt more appealing.
Solution to the digital magazine replica dilemma

Instead of dressing up a plain replica with whipped cream, Mequoda advocates for
something we call a reflow version. The reflow allows the type to resize and
reflow around ads and images in order to fit on a tablet screen while still being
readable. Nothing shrinks. Your readers over are happy.
Best of all, the reflow isnt as costly or time-consuming as you might think. As we
noted already, Mequoda redesigns digital magazines for clients for $35 per page.
A visual difference

So lets take another look at Forbes, which admittedly has some truly awesome
bells and whistles. Im looking at a page on which a full-page opinion piece is
squeezed onto a tablet screen. Even in real life its hard to read, especially the eye
exam at the bottom in all caps, listing the contributors to the piece.
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Now check out a page from the nicely reflowed Bon Apptit. Does the original
page fit into the tablet screen? Nope. It fits horizontally, so theres no need to push
the content around with a finger to find the beginning and end of sentences. But
vertically, the content runs off bottom of the tablet screen, and, as the arrows at the
bottom indicate, you scroll down to read the entire piece. And, blessedly, even a
50-something can read the type.
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If you want to improve your basic digital replica, we do not advise going with the
next step that so many publishers seem to believe is logical, the replica plus.
Instead, invest your money in a reflow. Your lovely, user-friendly mobile
magazine is going to increase revenues, after all, and it wont be long before you
can afford to add the bells and whistles you long for.

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What Is a Reflow Plus?

So now weve covered the simple replica and the replica plus. The other two
digital options are the reflow plus and the digital-only magazine, which has no
legacy print publication to compare it to or to hold back its designers.
You might wonder how I skipped from replica plus to reflow plus, without
considering the reflow by itself. Thats because we havent found anyone doing
just a reflowed version of their magazine. Everyone whos invested the time and
money into reflowing their publication seems to have also added the bells and
whistles that make their magazines pluses.
Whats a reflow?

A reflowed magazine has been designed so that the text and images are enlarged
but still fit onto a mobile device screen horizontally, instead of forcing a magazine
page-full of content onto the smaller screen by shrinking everything, as the replica
does. Content that doesnt fit on one page is simply flowed onto the next.
This means the reflowed version is vastly superior to a simple replica where a
magazine page-full of content is shrunk down enough to fit as one page on a
mobile device screen, especially to folks whose eyes arent quite what they used to
And there are two ways to reflow your content: Keep it flowing horizontally, so
that the reader simply reads your entire magazine horizontally from newly-flowed
page to newly-flowed page as she would a print magazine.
Then theres the vertical reflow, also known as vertical swipe. In this version, the
content in each article, if it doesnt fit on one page, flows downward, and is
accessed by swiping up. Consumer Reports navigation section gives us the big
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The reader swipes horizontally to navigate from article to article, and vertically to
read articles longer than one tablet-sized page. Note that when you reach the
bottom of a vertically-swiped page, you dont have to scroll back to the top to
swipe horizontally to the next article. That can be done from anywhere within the
long vertical page. Magic!

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Reflow-plus: Pros

As Ive been saying all along, having a digital version of your magazine is a basic
advantage, given the light-speed adoption of mobile devices by the reading public.
And the reflow-plus is superior to both a simple replica and to the replica-plus.
The most obvious benefit is, of course, readability. Increasing access to your
content is always a good idea.
And were definitely not fans of the replica-plus, a simple PDF with added bells
and whistles. Why spend your money on extras when readers have to squint to see
Compare a page from Forbes, left, which is a replica, to a reflowed page from The
Economist, right, for readability:

In addition, a reflow is also an excellent use of the technology that digital natives
seem to want in digital products. Users accustomed to digital media become
impatient with low-tech PDF replicas.
Finally, the plus part of Mequodas name for this version tells you that the
magazine uses technology to enhance the reading experience with video,
additional popup content, audio and more. That means more engaged readers,
happier advertisers and a more profitable magazine.
Reflow-plus: Cons

Yes, a reflow-plus costs more than a simple replica. I cant share provider prices
with you because theyre usually negotiated with a sales rep, but Mequoda partner
Mag+ says that on average it take about 10 minutes per page to reflow the content
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five minutes for a short piece such as a letter from the editor, and a few hours for
an eight-page feature.
And Mag+ tells me that many of their customers who start out with the simple
replica move to custom design, including reflow, after only a few issues.
The only other disadvantage we can come up with for the reflow is potential
confusion for readers of vertical reflow magazines but thats easily remedied by
explaining how it works in your users guide (which of course you have, because
its a Mequoda Best Practice) and by including visual cues or icons, such as
arrows, in vertical articles to tell readers how to find the rest of the content.
Best examples of reflow-plus

An example we often cite of reflow is The Economist, which offers horizontal
reflow. It tells readers where they are in each article with small dots at the bottom
of each page.
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Vertical reflow is illustrated by Bon Appetit, which uses nice big arrows to help
the inexperienced reader find the rest of the reflowed articles.
You can reflow sections of your content within a
reflowed page, too. This interesting twist is employed
Scientific American, for one.
The reflow-plus is one of our preferred design styles.
We certainly believe that its worth the extra cost if
you can swing it, and certainly a better way to spend
your money than tacking fancy features onto a simple
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What Do People Want in a Free App?

As the first wave of digital magazine apps has passed, weve discovered one thing:
People hate apps with nothing in them.
And yet, the vast majority of digital magazine apps available today are nothing
more than a retail outlet for single copies and subscriptions!
They are labeled as free, but have nothing to offer unless a purchase is made
within the app. This practice is the reason why so many magazine apps have low
ratings, as can be witnessed by reading the reviews.
While we often talk about prices and opining on the dire need to raise them, at the
same time, magazine readers are like many other digital consumers in expecting
something free on their tablets. And disappointing them right out of the gate when
they first download your app is not exactly a marketing Best Practice.
In case you hadnt noticed, your competition and peers are starting to solve this
problem. So it behooves publishers to rethink their app strategy pronto, if not
sooner! But fear not, we have some solutions to the app customer service
nightmare, courtesy of some very savvy publishers.

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What kind of apps do people want, #1: The magalog

Cond Nast, as weve mentioned before, is on the leading edge in digital magazine
publishing. So its no surprise that theyve developed an app for SELF (Motto:
Tap into your best self!) that combines free content enhanced with videos and
extra tappable content, with sell copy urging you to subscribe now.
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If that sounds vaguely familiar, its because its a lot like the magalog of old a
carefully crafted blend of free content and marketing messages. SELF does it with
a back issue from 2011. On a page titled Lets Get Physical, featuring two
exercises that are illustrated with video, SELF proclaims, Buy it now! Get the
new issue of SELF and let us be your personal trainer!
There are variations of this message on every page, from beauty to fashion to
healthy eating. One quibble: You cant get to the Subscribe page by tapping on
these messages. You have to know enough about apps to tap on the Home icon. At
least one of them includes instructions: Go to the home screen of this app to buy
the newest issue! Youll find tons of easy ways to eat better today.
All in all, a clever approach that combines the best of free content with marketing.
Watching someone actually do an exercise is roughly 2,376 times more useful
than looking at a static image.

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What kind of apps do people want, #2: The free issue

Interestingly, the publisher who perfected the magalog in the olden days,
Consumer Reports, doesnt do an app magalog. Instead, it delivers free issues.
This is the most common style of content-rich app, and you can choose to offer
either a free back issue, or a special issue youve put together for this purpose.
Consumer Reports does the latter, although I suspect its actually an existing back
issue. Why do I only suspect? Because there isnt a single date in this free issue,
not even in the car reviews. The reader has no idea which model year is being
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reviewed, and that goes for the tablet reviews, the washer and dryer reviews, and
everything else in the free issue.
As marketers, we love it. You get the full flavor of Consumer Reports rich
content, yet nothing is really being given away who would choose a car based on
data that could be years old, and then decide they already got what they wanted
and exit the app without subscribing?
Whats more, at the end of every article is a full-page ad featuring an image of an
iPad with a cover related to the content of that article the Best Tablets, Cameras,
TV, Phones, E-readers and More issue after the tablet review, the annual auto
issue after the car review, and so on. The text is the same on every ad: Enjoying
your free preview issue? Subscribe today and save up to 59% off the single-issue

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What kind of apps do people want, #3: Updated free content

Instead of just offering a free issue, you can really step up your game like New
York magazine. This is the most entertaining, awesome digital magazine app out
New York has broken new ground. With this free app, you get daily content
including news, features and columns. Pages and pages of free, new content. You
could easily spend an hour or more reading it.
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Then, when youre done, and youre well and thoroughly dazzled, you simply tap
on the magazine link at the bottom left, and you get the table of contents and the
opportunity to buy.
If youre already a subscriber, you still enjoy the free content, and when youre
ready to read your issue, its only a seamless swipe away. Finally, for the pice de
rsistance, theres a link on the Latest News page the home page for the free
content to the website.
New Yorks free news content and paid magazine content are both easily
accessible at all times with their unique window shade feature just pull the
handle with a finger. And then theres the thumbnail menu of the magazines
pages at the bottom when youre in that part of the app. There are just so many
ways to love this app, we cant list them all.
Everything New York magazine does is readily available, free or for a price,
seamlessly connected, and easy to navigate. Clearly you need a fairly large staff of
journalists to make this kind of daily content happen for free, but the app,
launched in early 2013 to mark the magazines 45
anniversary, is a home run.

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The Art of the Vertical Swipe

Isnt it fascinating to consider how the old journalism phrase above the fold has
evolved? Once it literally meant above the fold of a traditional broadsheet
newspaper. Editors, writers and designers battled over what, and who, would win a
coveted spot above that fold, where the most reader eyeballs would land.
Now, even as those broadsheets themselves are in decline, heading for dinosaur
status, the phrase still lives in tablet publishing.
Of course tablets have no fold. But they do have a single screen, and for
magazines employing the Mequoda Best Practice of vertical reflow, above the
fold that is, the first screen has become once again a layout consideration.
Vertical reflow, also known as vertical swipe, to describe how the user accesses
the content, means a layout where instead of squeezing a magazine page into the
smaller tablet screen, the content is resized and reflowed on a bottomless tablet
page. Users swipe up to bring up this long page as they read. The reader can swipe
horizontally at any point on this page to go to the next article.
Mequoda prefers this layout because its reader-friendly; even young folks can
have trouble reading content thats squeezed down from magazine size to tablet
size if you dont reflow your content.
And the growing popularity of this layout has led to new design considerations
what should you put on that first screen, above the fold?
Designing above the fold for the iPad

What with 62% of the market owning a full-sized iPad, Im focusing only on
designing for that specific device. When you employ vertical reflow, you dont
have to worry about responsive design, because the contents already laid out to be
easily viewed on that iPad screen.
And just as in the newspaper days when editors chose content to go above the fold
that would keep their readers engaged and coming back every day, iPad content
designers have to consider how to do the same. You dont want your subscribers
or single-issue buyers yawning and scrolling straight through your magazine.
Those readers wont be renewing, or buying a subscription, if theyre not captured
by your content in the first few seconds on each page. And its certainly a waste of
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resources if youre spending time and money to reflow your content without
taking reader engagement into consideration.
So how to get readers attention and keep it? At the moment, there are several
different design options popping up out there.
1. Use a big, provocative headline
This is fairly common. For example, New York magazine, one of our tablet
favorites, does this for every feature it publishes. This is gratifying yet challenging
for writers, and reminiscent of the days of 19
-century journalism where big fat
headlines were the only tools newspapers had to get readers attention.
In fact, the headline for one article in a recent issue was created in a font that could
have been ripped directly from one of William Randolph Hearsts newspapers,
circa 1899.

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2. Feature a compelling image.
Again, fairly common. The right image can really have an impact on a reader
casually scrolling through a digital magazine. In practice, an image completely
alone looks like an ad, so all of the designs with prominent images I found have at
least a small headline included to indicate that its editorial content. Wired does
this for most of its features.
(In an interesting enhancement, Popular Science lets you double-tap the screen to
make the headline and any text disappear, and enjoy the lead image all by itself.)

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3. Start with an engaging video.
Though video is something that consumers expect in their tablet magazines, this is
harder to find in practice. Popular Science, ever the leader, delivers. An article on
a vertical veggie farm opens with a woman talking about her work and video of
the farms produce flowing in behind her.

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4. Combine a compelling image with moveable text.
This is a technological offering that our partner, Mag+, is excited about. Layering
allows the designer to feature a stationary image and have the corresponding text
be scrollable. Mental Floss does this particularly well. In fact, it even offers a
compelling image above the fold, which, as the text scrolls into view, fades
gradually until the screen shows all text.
I dont know how much this contributes to reader engagement in the traditional
sense, but it certainly makes you want to find out what other technological bells
and whistles Mental Floss will come up with!

5. Do nothing special, but at least make sure theres a great image
above the fold.
This is how most regular departments are handled by the reflowed magazines I
surveyed. The design is really just a resized version of the print magazine page.
And we cant expect blockbuster, knock-your-socks off design for every single
lead page its just not a practical use of resources.
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Of course designers being designers, we may soon see other above the fold
offerings that we havent seen yet or even thought of. Thats the beautiful thing
about tablet magazine publishing!

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Digital Magazine Best Practices in
Design, Content and Functionality

Given that weve already revised our thinking since I started regularly reviewing
digital magazines less than a year ago, I concede that anything we name as a Best
Practice in digital magazines is purely temporary.
But Im going to bravely list our current Best Practices for the mobile magazine
that I know youre all going to publish, if youre havent already. Tomorrow
someone might invent something new that blows away a previous Best Practice,
so this is obviously an evolving list.
And now, without further ado, heres the official list:
Mequodas Current Digital Magazine Publishing Best Practices
Digital magazines should
1. Feature readable design.
Whether you reflow the content to fit the screen or use responsive design to reflow
content for different devices on the fly, you must make the pages easy to read.
Consumers dont buy tablets and smartphones so they can take eye exams, no
matter how young they are.
We offer up two options:
Design your magazine with vertical reflow, like that used in New York or
Consumer Reports magazines. The text is larger and fits more comfortably on a
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tablet screen, and flows off the screen in a long vertical page thats accessed by
swiping. This is also called vertical swipe. The reader swipes horizontally to get to
the first page of every article, then vertically to read each article. Consumer
Reports navigation tool shows exactly how this works.

Use responsive design like The Economist, so that text and images automatically
reconfigure themselves to fit the device theyre being viewed on.
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2. Be easy to navigate.
We learned from our Mequoda Tablet Users Study Video that users are a bit
frustrated at having to learn something new with every magazine they read. And a
full 89% of respondents in a November 2011 MPA study agreed that it would be
great if all magazine apps had the same functions and navigational features.
Since there are no standards as yet for digital magazine design, its helpful to your
readers to include a user guide just inside the cover that explains how to
navigate your publication.
Many publishers use line drawings of fingers scrolling and pages turning. The
Economist has a much fancier version featuring photos.
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You should also insert tappable links from the teasers on your cover directly to the
article; include a scrubber bar thats essentially a scrolling bar of thumbnails for
every page to enable browsing; and use icons to show readers what to do, such as
arrows pointing down if you have a vertical article that needs to be swiped.
3. Accommodate either portrait or landscape viewing not both.

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We think that making your digital magazine viewable in both modes is a waste of
resources better spent elsewhere, so unless you have very deep pockets, choose
one and focus those resources on making it look awesome.
And in case youre wondering, based on user preference, we recommend portrait
mode, unless you have a compelling reason to use landscape.
Digital magazines should
1. Use the available technology to enhance the reading experience.
Yes, digital magazine readers notice that youre wasting the technology if your
digital publication is a simple replica of your print edition. They want
interactivity: videos, audio, photo galleries, links to outside sources and extra
content thats not available in print.
In addition to adding reader satisfaction, interactivity increases reader engagement,
and thats a good thing for your advertisers and therefore your advertising
A good example of this comes in a recent Mens Health article on a hot new movie
star, where the reader can tap an
image and get career advice
from an expert, based on an
observation the actor makes in
the article about advancing his
own career.
2. Include updated daily
You dont want your reader
thinking about your brand once
a month. You want them to
yearn for you every day, so that
their loyalty keeps growing and
your relationship thrives. New
York magazine keeps em
coming back for more with a
plethora of daily news, features
and analysis.
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And if you dont have a huge news staff like New York, you should be publishing
daily tips, or the days blog posts that you feature on your website.
3. Include free content.
Its practically unanimous among users: A free magazine app thats nothing more
than a sales outlet for the magazine is useless. Although tablet users have learned
that content doesnt have to be free and are willing to spend well to get it, they
also have dozens of non-magazine apps on their devices that offer something for
Solution? Give them a free issue or a sample issue to entice them to buy. SELF,
for instance, offers what is essentially a good old-fashioned magalog, with sell
copy mixed in with the sample content.
Digital magazines should
1. Be free of functional
That means the app opens
immediately, doesnt crash, and
doesnt hang up when loading a
magazine. Is this a no-brainer?
Of course. But read the reviews
on pretty much any magazine
app in the Apple store, and
youll be amazed at how badly
publishers are doing in the tech
And the very scientific
McPheters & Co. backs this up
with research from its iMonitor
product, which tracks U.S. and
international mobile
publications on more than 100
discrete variables. Its research
even breaks down the type of
malfunction that readers experience: Authentication of print subscribers is the
most frequent, at 22% of all malfunctions tracked. Display issues come in second
at 10%.
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What to do? Mag+ and Woodwing executives told McPheters that the
responsibility for malfunctions can reside with the publisher, the development
platform, or even the device. Authentication problems can also fall on the
fulfillment house or even on the publishers subscription server. But you know
who your reader is going to blame? The publisher.
No matter what the issue is, the experts say its your job to test, test and re-test
your app before its published. Nothing will kill you faster than disgruntled
2. Offer interactive advertising
The possibilities for this
are endless, which is a
good thing because
consumers say they
want to be able, among
other things, to make a
purchase directly from
ads. (Fifty-nine percent
in the MPA study
mentioned above.)
In fact, they just plain
old want to play with
the ads. According to a
recent survey by Starch
Digital, a full 50% of
respondents who saw
interactive ads listed in
the survey actually
responded by
interacting with them.
Car advertising
currently seems to be
taking best advantage
of interactive features
for now no doubt
because selling a big,
expensive product that
has a ton of information
attached to it has never
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been easy in a simple print ad.
3. Have stationary images next to scrollable text.
Revolutionary: An image stays put while the reader scrolls through text. This is all
very nice for content producers, but its even more exciting for ad salespeople.
Imagine telling your advertisers that their ad will be visible the entire time a reader
is engaging with an article! Theres no such thing as a turned page if youre
willing to pay for this kind of design capability.
4. Offer in-app purchase of special issues
Most publishers develop special issues throughout the year, using either existing
content or, if they have a large editorial staff, fresh material. Surprisingly, many of
these publishers sell these issues in a web store, or at Amazon but not in their
own magazine app.
Why leave money on the table? Consumers might not wander into your store when
theyre visiting your website, but if theyre in your app, scrolling through available
issues, they cant help
but notice those
special issues.
For inspiration, check
out the apps of such
varied publications as
Maxim, Bloomberg
Markets and MAD
5. Offer the reader a
function for saving
Consumers are
accustomed to being
able to pin and like
Internet content they
love, so in addition to
the usual social media
sharing options, give
them an enhanced
experience with your
magazine by
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including a save function of some kind. Forbes has a fun tool that saves a
clipped article, and The Atlantic includes a folder where users can stash free
content they want to revisit later.
6. Be easy to find.
As publishers in the digital age, were all aware of the importance of SEO on the
Internet. But what about the newsstand where your magazine is sold? When it
comes to the biggest one where all magazines should be available, Mag+ points
out that its just as important to position your magazine in the Apple store as it is
to drive traffic to your website.
For example, I searched the term healthy cooking in the Apple newsstand. The
#1 result is a cookbook from Time Inc. called Cooking Light Recipes. It isnt until
result #12, well off the first screen, that a magazine actually called Healthy
Cooking turns up. Someone has failed to select the right keywords.
Mag+ has some excellent tips for choosing the keywords to make your app stand
out in a typical user search, and also for choosing the right category for your
magazine especially as Apple will only allow you to change your category when
you submit an app update.
Doing the best you can
Obviously not every publisher can afford to do everything on this list with digital
magazines. But it will certainly pay off to do as much as you can, and to plan
ahead for adding new features as your profits roll in.

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Selling Your Digital Magazine

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How to Sell Digital Magazines

Dont rely on the Field of Dreams Marketing Method

Not so long ago, the idea of a digital magazine that you could read on a portable
computer was almost too futuristic to imagine. Yet now that Steve Jobs has us all
thinking outside the box or at least outside the desktop computer we have even
newer challenges.

Namely: How to sell these newfangled digital magazines now that weve got em.
We know all our readers have, or are planning, digital magazine products (right?
right?), so its time to consider some innovative or even updated traditional
marketing techniques. Because contrary to conventional Hollywood wisdom,
simply building an app doesnt mean that subscribers will come to it.

The renewal trigger

Nina LaFrance, SVP for Consumer Marketing and Business Development at
Forbes Media, outlined a creative strategy at the Independent Magazine Media
Conference. When dead-tree Forbes subscribers have 13 issues or less remaining
on their subscription, they get a renewal offer that includes an upgrade to include
the digital subscription, normally $29.99 when purchased separately, for just $9.99
Subscribers paying more than base rate actually get a complimentary digital
Of course, among those who are offered the paid upgrade, Forbes isnt immune
from consumers lingering perception that digital products, having no print or
delivery costs, should be free.
We do get complaints from some subscribers, LaFrance says, but we think its
a valuable product, and we worked really hard to put it together and if you read
this blog regularly, you know we basically agree about the value of the product
so Forbes is standing its ground.
Tracking iPad-generated users

If youre making even the smallest effort at online audience development, youre
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getting a sizable number of unique visitors to your website. Identify those visitors
who arrive on an iPad and deliver a floater with a digital subscription offer they
cant refuse.
Partner options

You probably already know you should be on the Apple and Amazon newsstands
(more on that later!). Other options you may also have already considered include
Zinio, Google and Barnes & Noble. But there are a couple of newcomers to the
newsstand arena that are worth considering.
Zinio, best known as a traditional newsstand, has just launched a Netflix-style
program called Z-Pass, in which the consumer pays $5 per month for any three
magazines. Consumers can swap titles up to three times per month, and buy
additional titles starting at $1.50 per month.
Another entry in this Netflix model is Next Issue Media (NIM), a joint venture of
Cond Nast, Hearst, Time Inc., Meredith and News Corp. With NIM, readers pay
$9.99 per month or $14.99 per month, depending on the number of magazines they
want to access.
Both of these options are too new to judge, and early reviews focus solely on the
reader experience, not the publishers. But we wanted to mention them so
publishers can do their due diligence.
Enhanced partner options

For those of you who arent already on a partner newsstand site, keep this in mind
for the future. When you apply to a partner, such as Apple, theyll want to see a
comprehensive marketing plan that outlines all of your other efforts to support
your new digital magazine.
Newsstands naturally like the idea that youre going to drive traffic to their site, so
be prepared to wow them! If the newsstand thinks youve got something special,
you could end up as, say, an Apple App of the Week, or an Amazon Featured
Magazine. LaFrance notes that Forbes App of the Week appearance generated
huge interest, and others have reported similar results.
Even better, you can actually ask to be featured. A source in the industry tells me
that while none of these newsstand platforms will say so out loud, theyre all
willing to listen to a request from you. So dont be shy. Youve worked hard to
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develop your awesome app, and you deserve some recognition!
Note: Even if youre already on the newsstands, they all have theme spotlights for
apps already in their catalog, so you could wind up in, say, Amazons Best
Summer Ever promotion. Again: Dont wait to be noticed. Ask!
Keep the cut

Having said the above about partners, heres a fun secret to consider. You can sell
your digital subscriptions on your own website, taking the money and data directly,
and then send the buyer to Apple to download the app without paying Apple a
dime, or giving away the buyer data that should be yours. Apple allows this, as
long as your website isnt solely a retail site, because its real business isnt selling
magazine subscriptions its selling iPads.

Leverage your back issues

Theres gold in them thar archives! Christian Dorbandt, VP for Consumer
Marketing at Scientific American, reports that anthologies of articles by past
contributors such as Albert Einstein and other Nobel Laureates are powerful
premiums. And the Biblical Archaeology Society is making plenty of hay by
combining a digital subscription with access to their archives, with the result that
more than half of their sales are for the priciest subscription, the digital edition
plus archive access.
Lesson: Get your back issues digitized and use them as an incentive to buy a
digital subscription!

Low-tech paper

Forbes LaFrance says they tried a direct mail campaign to print subscribers to
promote their new app. We probably wont do that again, she adds wryly. A
full-fledged direct mail campaign is expensive, so the ROI may be a bomb if your
subscriber base is older and/or of the opinion that digital magazines should be free
add-ons to their print subscriptions.
But other publishers, such as Scientific American, are finding some success by
including promotional inserts in paper bills and renewal notices that they have to
mail anyway. Either way, its something to consider.
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Sample issue

As weve mentioned before, some publishers give away sample issues in their app
to entice customers to buy something. Self offers an actual archive issue;
Consumer Reports offers what looks like an old issue, but could be an issue
compiled specifically for the purpose. A recent case study noted that for Popular
Science, when they tested a specifically-designed sample issue against a free trial,
the sample issue, showing off the best of the digital edition, easily bested the free
trial offer. (Dont hesitate to run your own similar test, though. Free trials are
classic marketing techniques for a reason!)

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How to Make Money With Free Digital Magazines

The magazine industry feels its on the edge of a renaissance. Digital magazines
are the hot topic of industry events, digital magazine software platforms abound,
and massive retail partners including Apple, Amazon, and Zinio are seducing
magazine publishers with their siren songs.
I simply dont understand the opportunity, one veteran magazine publisher told
me at a recent industry conference. My magazines are sponsor-driven. My issue
archive includes hundreds of back issues. I have all these vendors and partners
offering to digitize my back issue archive and make it available online. But I dont
have a clue how I make any money if I do it. Near as I can figure, my digital
magazine archive is worthless.
Now, I do understand my colleagues dilemma. Historically, she has sold
advertising pages into an issue, published that issue, and sent invoices to her
sponsors. The issue is now dead to her. Because her magazine has always been
free to readers, she sees no market for back issue sales through retail partners that
would generate meaningful revenues.
I do hesitate to prescribe free business advice to someone I have just met. In my
experience, free consulting advice is often the same bad fit as a free pair of shoes.
With that caveat, Ill share with you now the list of revenue-generating ideas I
shared with my colleague after knowing her for less than five minutes:
Four ways to monetize a free digital magazine archive

Brand building: Magazine issues are simply more impressive than HTML
content. Because readers associate magazines with high quality, curated content,
they will think better of your brand if they understand that the content on your
website originated in a magazine format. The cost of putting a few years worth of
back issues on your website is minimal, and the boost it will give your brand is
more than enough reason to digitize at least a part of your back issue archive.
Traffic generation: Virtually all of the leading digital magazine software
platforms generate pages with unique URLs that can be indexed by the search
engines. With your digital magazine archives online and findable, your editors can
create blog posts that reference and link to back issue content in a valuable way.
More findable content almost always equals more website traffic. And even
though you may not be making extra money on back issue page views, most
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digital magazine archive generated arrivals will also produce cross readership of
your current HTML content.
Lead generation: Even if you choose to make your back issue archives
completely free, creating digital magazines can provide a reason for new users to
visit your website and register for your e-mail newsletters and free downloads. A
visit to a digital magazine back issue is also a great opportunity to let users
subscribe to notifications about future releases of new digital magazine editions.
Retail visibility: While it might not be worth creating digital magazines for the
sole purpose of distributing them freely through Apple, Amazon, and Zinio, once
you have created them it probably makes sense to add retail distribution of current
and back issues to your audience development mix. You may choose to make your
digital magazines available for free on these platforms, or to charge a nominal
amount. Either way, you open up a new way for new customers to discover your

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Magazine Pricing

Were not the first, and we wont be the last, to comment on magazine pricing
strategies in the online age. Its a topic of burning importance to publishers, after
all, now that the new digital versions of their products are in growing demand by a
tablet-addicted public, and advertising revenues are falling.
Interestingly, an article in PCWorld published just weeks before the iPads debut
in 2010 speculated that publishers would continue their traditional pricing models
of $10 to $20 per year and I hope thats the model iPad magazines go with,
added the writer. Of course you would. Youve been getting thick, glossy, content-
rich magazines for pennies since the beginning of time. Why would you want to
pay more?
One of our biggest pet peeves is the decades-long policy that magazine publishers
pursued mostly to ensure that they had as many readers as they had promised to
their advertisers of pricing their publications dirt cheap. $9.99 was indeed a
common price for 12 full issues of a consumer magazine.
As we often note, that policy trained generations of consumers to believe that
magazines are cheap, throwaway products. Mind you, this seems to have been
restricted to the U.S. When we taught our Digital Publishing Course in London to
global publishers recently, the eyebrows in the room rose collectively to the
ceiling when Don mentioned the prices of some well-known American magazines.
They were astonished that any industry would shoot itself in the foot in that way.
Dons angst over this issue made him practically float out of his chair with
happiness at the recent MPA Swipe 2.0 conference when Hearst Executive Vice
President John Loughlin declared war on cheap magazine pricing now that digital
versions are so popular.
What does Loughlin think is a fair price? 19.99 is the start of fair value, he said,
adding that nearly 900,000 Hearst subscribers have already agreed with him.
Loughlin isnt shy about his position: He also sounded this theme when talking to
the Wall Street Journal in January. I hope that this is the demise of $6 and $7 and
$8 and $9 print subscriptions, he said at the time.

Digital magazine publishing as camouflage

As the WSJ noted, Hearst is joined in this campaign by publishers such as Bonnier,
owner of Popular Science and Field & Stream, and by Cond Nast, publisher of
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Vogue and The New Yorker. In fact, The New Yorker has not only raised its prices,
it did so in a somewhat surreptitious way by simply attaching a $20 higher price to
the magazine, print or digital, when it launched its digital edition in 2011.
Nowhere did The New Yorker actually announce a price increase, thus completely
camouflaging that extra $20 behind the dazzling debut of its app.
The Economist has also joined in this sleight-of-hand. While we love the universal
pricing that the venerable publication adopted from the beginning for its digital
and print editions one price for digital, print and archive access theyve
recently not only abandoned universal pricing, they took the opportunity that move
provided to bump the price from $129 to $160 for the bundle, while leaving the
$129 price in place for digital-only or print-only.
What makes digital magazine publishing worth more?

This year would appear to be all about higher digital prices being accepted by the
consumer, and at the same time driving higher print prices. But are digital
magazines really worth more than the old print magazines? At Mequoda, we really
do believe that higher prices for digital subscriptions are about more than just
correcting decades of underpricing.
Digital magazines, as Hearsts Loughlin points out, offer extra value, including
instant delivery, enhanced and extra content, and interactivity, not to mention
being easily archivable and searchable without taking up space.
And for younger consumers, it also appears to be important that digital magazines
are green.
Then theres the data starting to trickle in showing that tablet owners hit two of
marketings most desirable demographics: Theyre young, and theyre affluent.
Its not often you can get both of those demographics in one product. This two-fer
means that the target audience for digital subscriptions is more willing to spend
money because they have more to spend and on top of that, they havent been
trained to think that print magazines are birdcage liners.
How often do you get a win-win situation like that? And oh by the way Cond
Nasts tablet subscribers are renewing their subscriptions at a higher rate than
print-only subscribers and theyre also paying higher prices for their renewal
subscriptions. By my count, were now up to a win-win-win.
So we have a massive advantage for digital magazine publishing in terms of price.
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But that doesnt mean everyone is on the bandwagon with Hearst and Cond Nast.
Time Inc., for instance, told the Wall Street Journal that because they never
discounted their subscriptions in the first place, theyre not raising prices now.
Walking the walk

Fair enough. Weve seen from Time Inc. that they understand online publishing
pretty well. Among the countrys top magazines in circulation, TIME and People
are two of the only three publications (the third being National Geographic) to
boast an OMI above 1 that is, they have far more unique visitors to their free
website than they have paid circulation.
The OMI is one of Mequodas key metrics for measuring the success of an online
publication, specifically, its audience development strategy. If your OMI (Online
Media Index) is higher than 1, it means that you have more website visitors than
magazine subscribers. Thats a good thing, because if you cant generate at least
an equal amount of free traffic to your website as you have paid subscribers,
youre doing something wrong.
Just for fun, we decided to see how these top publishers are pricing their
subscriptions, as an exercise in digital publishing savvy. I also checked out a list of
Dons Nimble Niche Leaders who all have solid OMI numbers.
Heres what I found:
Magazine pricing policies are as varied as snowflakes. Even within one publishing
company, theres no standard.

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Print prices:
All the Nimble Niche publications but one, with OMIs over 1, are charging
at least $15. National Geographic is the low at $15, and most are at $19.97-
The Nimble Niche exception is Eating Well, which charges only $9.99 for
print ($5 on Amazon!).
Hearst may talk the talk, but they dont walk the walk. They still give away
print, under $8 for their two represented magazines. They also defy the
other pattern: Magazines on our list found on Amazon are all less there than
on their websites, except for Womans Day.
Meredith is the biggest sinner. $5 on Amazon, or $15 at the website, for
Better Homes & Gardens and even less for other publications? Boggles
the mind.

Digital prices:
Prices are impossible to characterize. But note the jaw-dropping $4.99
charged by Autoweek!
Some publishers with outstanding OMIs havent gotten around to bundling
(and thus have no opportunity for disguised price increases yet).
Some folks have apps, others have digital editions available only from the
website and Videomaker says its available in iTunes, not in the Apple
Newsstand but we couldnt find it there.

Pricing is sure to continue as a mystery for many publishers in this completely
new era. At Mequoda, were still voting for strategies of universal pricing for all
editions and raising prices in print. And as these things evolve, well follow
developments and come up with some best practices.

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Pricing a Digital Magazine: Universal Digital Access

One of the most critical decisions you have to make when launching a digital
magazine is pricing. The simplest subscription website pricing strategy is
Universal Access, and heres why you should consider adopting this model.
No subscriber left behind

If I had to handicap the various formats on which we are currently publishing
magazines and magazine content, the World Wide Web looks to be the best
contender for long-term stability and success.
The iPad and iPhone would be numbers two and three in my digital magazine
winners circle. Im also pretty sure print is not an edition The Economist or any
other magazine will be serving up in 20 years (with the possible exception of
hardbound collectors editions). Thus, its important for publishers to build direct
relationships that are simple and straightforward with their customers on every
conceivable platform that may come and go over the next couple of decades.
Universal Digital Access, as a policy, creates an environment where subscribers
can safely sample different platforms without fear of being left behind. From the
publishers point of view, a subscriber is a horrible thing to waste, and anyone who
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subscribes to our content on any platform, in any edition, should be given the big
bear hug of love that includes premium access to our subscription website.
Note: If you dont have a premium subscription website, build one, now.
Permission to communicate

When a customer buys a print edition, an iPad edition, an iPhone edition, a Kindle
edition, a Nook edition, a Zinio edition, or any other non-website edition, the
publisher should make it priority one to get that customer registered for
unrestricted website access.
Theres an old direct marketing adage that marketers should never ask for
information they dont need, and get the information they need by giving the
customer what they want. A robust next-generation subscription website with
HTML archives, issue archives, audio content, video content, and an engaged and
interactive user community provide the digital or print customer with plenty of
reasons to claim their right to unrestricted website access.
The claim, of course, grants the publisher permission to communicate via the
website, e-mail newsletters, and perhaps Twitter and Facebook. Permission to
communicate is the lifeblood of a multi platform niche media publisher.
Building customer relationships

While were incredibly excited about the rapid adoption of tablet computers and
digital magazines, we still believe the World Wide Web is the nexus for niche
media customer relationships. A well-designed niche media website will include a
next-generation magazine subscription website, plus an open portal for building
and maintaining affinity relationships, and an online store for marketing books,
videos, software, and the myriad of special interest merchandise that a niche media
publisher can recommend to its constituents.
Keep more money

The Economist can promote to subscribers to buy their subscription on their
website, which allows them to keep subscriber information and all of the revenue
from the sale. Buying directly on the website gives users credentials that activates
on iPad or Android with no additional money being spent as well.

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The short and the long of it

While charging customers separately for the same content or similar content on
multiple platforms in multiple editions may provide the opportunity for some
short-term profit taking, it is not in the customers or publishers long-term best
interests. It looks as if many publishers may take a decade or more to discover
their long-term best interest.

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The Future of Digital Advertising

The only subject in the industry media invoking more hand-wringing than the
future of digital publishing is the future of digital advertising.
But if you look really, really hard, you can find the occasional glimmer of hope.
For example, a recent article from eMarketer proclaims, Significantly more
unique brands in the US are placing ads across digital formats.
Adds eMarketer, Now as readers take up digital magazine editions, publishers are
getting advertisers to follow them online. The Publishers Information Bureau
(PIB), along with Kantar Media, looked at 58 magazine titles in the US and found
that between Q1 2012 and Q1 2013 the number of ad units available on just the
iPad increased nearly 24% Factoring in iPhones, other tablets and PCs, digital
is clearly providing a significant number of new magazine ad opportunities.
Good news at last! And just in time, too: The one thing everyone agrees on is that
print advertising revenues are falling faster than Superman confronted by
And it makes sense that digital media would have appeal to advertisers. After all,
interactive media keeps readers engaged more deeply and longer in the pages of
the publication, and offers the possibility of an instant, interactive connection
between the reader and the advertisers. In addition, advertisers can specifically
target their audience, include videos and other digital experiences, expand their
reach globally, and track impressions and clicks, all features that arent available
in print advertising.
So, whats the bad news?

If you research the subject in any depth, youll find a lot of people bemoaning the
fact that digital advertising isnt taking up the slack left by print ads as fast as
some hoped: Trading print dollars for digital dimes, as the saying goes. In fact, a
newer version even refers to trading digital dimes for mobile pennies.
Mary Meeker, partner at venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers,
and celebrity analyst to the publishing industry, calculates that the effective cost
per thousand impressions on the desktop web is about $3.50 but only $.75 on
mobile devices.
(Newspapers have it even worse: According to Poynter, newspapers get only $1 in
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new digital ad revenue for every $25 in print ad revenue lost. Ouch.)
Theres a plethora of reasons for this disparity:
With smaller screens, users dont spend as much time consuming content
on their tablets and phones as they do on desktops and laptops.
Advertisers dont know how to use new technologies properly and are
trying clumsily to transfer what they know about print to digital. (More on
that later.)
Mobile ads are complicated and hard to sell.
Mobile ads metrics are hard to measure and are different depending on the
platform and device.

But study after study proves that consumers really are reading content on mobile
devices, and spending quality time there, too.
And as for the other objections, there is plenty that publishers can and should do to
forge a profitable path through the digital maze.
1. MPA digital advertising metrics initiative

MPA is dedicated to bringing order to the chaos that is measurability. Ethan Grey,
the organizations SVP of Digital Strategy and Initiatives, noted at the recent
MPA-IMAG annual conference that depending on what platform a digital edition
is built, data sets from the same ad can vary widely, though both are equally
Digital editions are like having every international plug in front of youtheyre
all different, Grey said. Every electrical outlet works exactly as designed, and all
deliver power, but theyre incompatible.
In other words, The exact same ad will deliver completely different data sets.
Theyre not apples to apples.
What to do about it? At the conference, Grey announced MPAs plan: Along with
providers such as Zinio, Google, Adobe, CDS Global, Nook, Palm Coast Data and
Time Customer Service Inc., MPA will develop new software that automatically
tracks five metrics that the organization first developed last year, so the playing
field is leveled, everyone is crunching apples only, and magazine publishers can
finally command print advertising dollars or better for the new and improved
content environment they deliver in their digital editions.
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(Mind you, Grey says some MPA member publishers report that they are indeed
selling digital advertising at higher rates than print. There are even publishers who
report that straight from print ads are performing as well on tablets as they do in
print, contrary to the widespread notion I mentioned above that using print ads in
digital media is part of the problem.)
In October, MPA will publish the data from some 20 publishers who first
volunteered last year to report on these metrics. The data will also be verified by
the Media Research Council, giving it credibility in the same way that print data
earns it from auditing agencies such as AAM.
As of now, Adobe DPS v. 28 has already built in monitoring of these metrics, and
the MPA is open to working with other partners as well. Metrics will be delivered
through Adobe Site Catalyst version 14+ or Google Analytics, though the MPA
welcomes additional partners.
If you can report on these universal metrics to your advertisers, you have a much
more appealing product to sell, and you can set ad rates accordingly. MPA is
actively recruiting additional magazine publishers to be part of the program, and
hopes to increase its numbers as the pilot program proceeds.
MPAs metrics are:
Total Consumer Paid Digital Issues: An unauthenticated/bundled issue,
which has been paid for by an end user. Sponsored, corporate or free
editions will not be counted.
Total Number of Digital Edition Readers Per Issue: The total number of
unique readers who have opened a full edition on a device for the first
Total Number of Sessions Per Issue: The total number of aggregate
sessions for all versions of the specified digital edition across all digital
Average Amount of Time Spent Per Reader Per Issue: The aggregate
total time spent across all measured digital issues divided by the total
number of unique readers.
Average Number of Sessions per Reader Per Issue: An
audience/engagement metric, derived from the aggregate total number
of sessions across all measured digital issues divided by the total number of
unique readers.

2. AAMs Consolidated Media Report and Rapid Report tool

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Additionally, the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly ABC) is making its own
strides in delivering usable metrics to ad buyers. It recently announced its new
Consolidated Media Report, which, it says, is the one place where content
providers can combine all brand platforms. And its one place where buyers can
go to get a credible picture of those brands.
And earlier this year, AAM responded to media buyers need for timely data by
requiring that American magazines with circulation of 250,000 or more report per-
issue data via AAMs Rapid Report online tool. Beginning with July 2013 issues,
approximately 240 magazines will provide issue-by-issue data covering print and
digital subscriptions and newsstand unit figures. Until now, participation in the
reporting tool had been optional. It will remain an option for publications with
circulation under 250,000.
Again, the more publishers work toward establishing their credibility, the more
ads they can sell and the more they can charge for them.
3. Responsive advertising
Selling both online ads and now mobile ads can be a
challenge if youre not the possessor of a large sales staff.
But a new trend in responsive advertising allows you to
sell one ad that can be used on both your website and on
various mobile devices. Twitter, for example, reports that in
doing this, it sometimes generates more revenue from mobile device ads than from
desktop ones.
In the same article, Digiday.com also reports that Say Media is applying the same,
cross-device approach to display advertising. The company has rolled out
adaptive display ads, which use responsive-design technology to adapt their
shape and content to the size of the screen.
This is about preparing for a world in which more than 50 percent of traffic is
coming from non-desktop devices, said Say CEO Matt Sanchez. Instead of
having separate conversations about desktop and mobile ads, Says salespeople
can focus on selling its advertisers simple, cross-platform programs.
For those who are interested in pursuing responsive advertising, companies such
as Google, ResponsiveAds and Undertone have launched products that enable
advertisers to place responsive ads across a range of different publisher sites.

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4. Native advertising

Another way to overcome some of digital advertisings challenges is to take full
advantage of the technology that digital media offers. Its still pricey and
complicated, but the payoff is equally high. Thats why native advertising is so
hot right now: It delivers soft-sell advertising thats integrated into the content
experience, such as aligned sponsored video ads within your content, or
endorsements of your content by a related advertiser.
Emarketer offers an excellent overview of the concept here. Common examples of
native ads include Facebook Sponsored Stories, Twitter Promoted Tweets,
branded videos and other ads that appear in the content streams of media sites such
as Forbes.com and BuzzFeed.
Native advertising is, in short, similar to the advertorials of old. Needless to say,
some content producers worry about blurring the lines between editorial and
advertising, but the web is full of good examples of native advertising, and its
worth considering when you want to wow your advertisers with what your digital
magazine can deliver to them.
5. Work with your advertisers

Above all, notes MPAs Grey, publishers need to be more proactive in developing
advertising opportunities. Weve seen a huge push to have publishers and
advertisers working together, rather than ads just showing up, he says. That
includes doing your due diligence with the above ideas, getting your metrics in
order, and then presenting it all to potential advertisers as one persuasive package.
Grey also encourages publishers to identify exactly whats working for them, take
the time to thoroughly understand why it works, and replicate it. You should also
be constantly on the lookout for the amazing ads that pop up in digital magazines
similar to your own and studying them in depth. The advertising Im seeing as I
review digital magazines regularly is incredible, and often tempts even an old
marketing hand like me.
6. Take heart!

Its too easy to look at all the numbers, trends and forecasts and be discouraged.
As Grey notes, understanding and monetizing mobile publishing is the hardest
thing Ill ever do.
After all, nothing is static in digital magazines. Grey points out that a new
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development blasts into view every day; partners are numerous and diverse:
expectations from users change constantly; and digital data from the Internet,
social media, and a huge variety of digital magazines is often lumped together
despite being vastly different, leading to numbers that the pundits can spin several
different ways.
Most importantly, we hope publishers will take advantage of the excitement that
mobile publishing creates, rather than growing discouraged from the confusion. A
marketing executive I once knew had previously worked at Wal-Mart a success
story if ever there was one where, she told me, the word problem was never to
be spoken. Instead, marketing executives were ordered only to speak of these
things by using another, completely different word: Opportunity.

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Decoy Pricing

How would you like to increase your subscription revenues by almost 60%?
It can be done, and its not magic. All you need are a paid subscription website, a
couple of other great products to sell and one secret: Decoy pricing.
More and more publishers are discovering this secret. And its not a new concept.
You might know of it as the contrast effect. A simple description of it from
Contrast effect is the change in perception when different stimuli are put
side to side to interact with one another. For example, a weight is
perceived as lighter than normal when compared with a heavier weight.
But what does that have to do with pricing? Im glad you asked.
The Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) has discovered how the contrast effect
drives buyers to choose their most expensive product. Heres how BAS prices
three different products, the digital version of their legacy magazine, Biblical
Archaeology Review; an online archive of BAR and other discontinued magazines
the society no longer publishes; and a bundled offer for both:
Digital magazine: $19.95
Digital archive: $29.95
Both products bundled: $34.95

Now, $34.95 contrasted with $19.95 seems pricey, doesnt it? But if youre like
most buyers, youll also spot the $29.95 price compared to the $34.95 price and
now $34.95 doesnt seem so high. Hey, its just $5 more and you can get
whats behind Door #1 and Door #2 for that extra $5! Might as well go for it!
How many people go for it? According to BAS Web Editor Noah Wiener, for
orders that come via the website where these offers are made, roughly 55% are for
the highest-priced bundled offer. About 25% opt for the next highest price, the
library only. The lowest price, for the digital magazine alone, trails at just under
Are you starting to feel the love for the contrast effect?

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The bottom line on decoy pricing

Lets look at some actual decoy pricing math. The key, as you may have noticed,
is first, having a subscription website where you can make these offers together,
and second, in the careful pricing of your most valuable product.

Most publishers assume that they should price their most valuable product
Magazine: $20
Subscription website: $30
Combo of both: $45
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After all, $45 is still less than the combined price for both products purchased
separately. Consumers will respond to that, right?
Not according to our research, they wont. We find that 70% of buyers will pick
the cheapest offer, while 10% will opt for the second-highest priced product, and
only 20% will pick that $45 price it looks like a lot of money compared to the
price just below it. People just dont want to make that $15 leap from $30 to $45.
Now, lets adjust that highest price to take advantage of the contrast effect:
Magazine: $20
Subscription website: $30
Combo of both: $35

Our research says the numbers of buyers shift dramatically: Now, 70% will pick
the highest price! The middle price still attracts only 10% of orders, and the lowest
price is the choice for 20% of buyers. And not only that: Youre also going to get
more orders to boot an additional bonus.
That makes for a dramatic increase in revenue. As you can see, making this non-
intuitive pricing decision drives more customers to buy, and a much higher
percentage of them to buy the most expensive product. Bottom line: The combo
package generates $14,950 more for this generic publisher. Thats almost 60%
more in revenue, all without changing anything other than your prices.
For an extreme version of this strategy, see Bloomberg BusinessWeek who leaves
no room for deliberation. The whole shebang for only $5 more, and a $5 gift card
to seal the deal.

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Real-world case studies of decoy pricing

Heres another example of decoy pricing from The Economist, which, after
practically inventing the universal access price, has now been exploiting this little
secret for some time.
1. Website only: $99
2. Print magazine: $127
3. Digital magazine: $127
The website-only offer is not a public offer, but becomes available when someone
has exhausted their 6 free views on blog content normally behind the paywall. The
user receives this offer through a pop-up for a starter subscription that gives
them access to premium blog posts.
These are fairly standard prices for a weighty product like The Economist. But
theres more. You can also choose to get both versions of the magazine for far less
than double the individual price, which would be $254.
4. Print + digital magazines: $160
Again, the strategy of bundling two products for much less than their actual
combined prices isnt particularly unusual. The highest-priced product, however,
is where The Economist is trying to score big:
5. Print magazine, digital magazine + website, audio and special reports:
Compared to $127 for one or the other magazine edition, $160 seems like a better
buy. Wed bet The Economist sells a lot of bundle #4. And getting all three
products is a lot of money, but an easier decision to make the buyer doesnt have
to actually choose between them. So the $300 price point probably gets its fair
share of bites, too, although we would suggest that testing a lower price, like $199,
might prove more profitable.
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The Economist has been employing the contrast effect for some time. Before it
launched its digital edition in 2011, it offered these subscription options:
Website: $59
Print magazine: $125
Website + print magazine: $125

Dan Ariely, a Duke University professor of psychology and behavioral economics,
took note. He posited in a blog post that this was about not just contrast, but
context. A potential subscriber might not know whether the website was worth
$59, but it was pretty easy to see that the $125 offer for both website and a print
magazine that also cost $125 was a bargain. In other words, it was a no-brainer in
that context.
(Note: as with everything, we favor testing whenever possible. That said,
The Economist may have left money on the table with the pricing above
and a combined price of $135 or even $130 may have done better.)
Ariely took this notion a step further. He began surveying students about which
option they preferred. Eighty-four percent opted for the combination offer, and to
no ones surprise, no one wanted to pay $125 just for the print magazine. The
website-only choice got 16% of students to bite.
But when he dropped the unpopular $125 offer for the magazine alone, the
combination subscription became the least popular option instead of the most
popular, with only 32% of respondents choosing it. The website option then
became most popular, with 68% of respondents making that choice.
Arielys experiment confirms the contrast effect theory in pricing: An obviously
inferior offer affected the decision-making process and made the combination
offer seem more appealing than it did without its ugly stepsister in the mix.
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Influencing potential buyers decision-making is one benefit of decoy pricing.
Another is that you can disguise price increases by making them still seem
reasonable in contrast to your pricier combination offers. And since many
publishers are still stuck with those legacy rock-bottom, rate-base-driven prices of
$8 or $10, this is excellent news.
Take another look at the model above. You know your customers would rebel if
you raised your legacy $8 or $10 price to $20. But remember how the $35 bundle
in our model appealed to buyers? Seventy percent of them chose that offer. At the
same time, 20% went for the magazine-only price, because it was still the cheapest
option of the three, even if it is a whopping $20.
Decoy pricing also means youre deflecting attention away from those price
increases. As we noted in an April 2013 post, The New Yorker launched its tablet
edition in 2011, setting the price for either digital or print at $59.99. Without any
announcement of a price increase, The New Yorker had just raised its former print
price by $20.
It also offered print and digital editions together for $69.99 just $10 more than
the price for either edition alone. We dont have The New Yorkers specific sales
results, either, but we do know that a steady decline in circulation halted at that
time, despite the $20 price increase for its print edition. The $69.99 price
successfully deflected its customers attention from the price increase for print.
Whether youre a Duke economics professor or a niche publisher, decoy pricing is
a secret thats readily understood. Its all about human psychology. And people
with products to sell should be ready, willing and able to entice other people to
spend the most money on those products as possible.
Comparing Remit Rates from App Stores

Just a few short years ago, magazine publishers were thrilled down to their toes to
keep 18-40% of sales from news agencies.
When Don ran an online newsstand, 18% was the average new remit order for the
1,400 titles there. And some publishers earned absolutely nothing from sales from
the agencies they dealt with.
In 2013, the same publishers complain bitterly about earning 70% of sales from
Some people just dont know when theyve got it good.
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Three reasons why the Apple newsstand is the best offer youll
probably ever get:
Its incredibly generous. Compared to the bad old days, as I said, giving
Apple 30% of each sale is highway robbery. And youre the robber.

Youve just been granted access to more than 1 billion tablets sold
worldwide by the end of 2012. Thank you, Steve. (BONUS: On the iPad,
your magazine rides on the coattails of one of the most beloved brands in

Unlike, say, manufacturing, where a products maker is lucky to get a few
warranty cards that help it establish a relationship with buyers, Apple
delivers plenty of data to publishers for long-term marketing purposes.
(And what manufacturer on the planet gets to keep 70% of sales by a

When was the last time a brand-new marketing channel opened up that can
generate up to 20-30% of a publishers revenues in just the first 24 months of its
existence, as tablet publishing has? Answer: Never.
Add to that the timeliness of the iPads arrival when magazine publishers were
practically jumping out of windows after looking at their revenue forecasts and
Mequoda firmly believes that Apple has just saved the world as we know it.
Bottom line: Take advantage of Apples generosity. And quit complaining.

Whats the good word?

Of course youve noticed that we keep tossing around 30% and 70%. As
experienced magazine industry experts and publishers, the team at Mequoda
knows the difference, and wants to more clearly define what were talking about
A lot of folks in the industry consider Apple to be taking a 30% commission, and
that number is the focus of their ire. Yet, as Ive noted, Apple is actually sending
publishers 70% of every sale. No publisher pays any newsstand a 30%
commission. So we prefer to call it a 70% remit rate to describe the action that
occurs when Apple sends your cut to you.
Part of Apples PR problem is that theyve allowed the conversation to circle
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around to the 30% commission phrase possibly because its similar to the way
Apple worked with the music industry long before digital magazines were
invented. In any case, Mequoda is sticking to remit because its accurate. Maybe
Apple will get with the program one of these days, too, and stand up for itself.
In the meantime, we also know that there are more newsstand options out there
than just Apple, so lets put it all into perspective.
What you can expect from digital newsstands

As most of you know, the four players are Apple and iPads, Amazon and its
Kindle devices, Barnes & Noble with its Nook, Google, and Zinio.
Two of these newsstands will negotiate their remit rates. For these, Im reporting
on the best remit rates weve seen around the industry.

Remit rate: 70%
Negotiable: No
Device: iPad
Number of titles: 8,477

Notes: Apple allows publishers to sell subscriptions on their websites, even if
Apple is also selling those subscriptions, and takes no cut as long as the website
contains content, and isnt a rival commercial website.
Barnes & Noble:
Remit rate: 50%
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Negotiable: No
Device: Nook
Number of titles: 1,019

Notes: B&N justifies its relatively low remit rate by the fact that it does all
conversions to its platform.
Remit rate: 65%
Negotiable: Yes
Device: Kindle
Number of titles: 808

Remit rate: 60%
Negotiable: Yes
Device: Android smartphones & tablets, Google TV
Number of titles: Hundreds

Notes: No one but Google knows how many titles Google Play offers. A search
doesnt reveal the number of results, and their sales copy only calls it
hundreds. One review comparing Google with Amazon listed numbers for all
kinds of apps except Google magazine titles.
Remit rate: 85%
Negotiable: Yes
Device: All major ones
Number of titles: 5,500

Notes: Zinio, the oldest digital newsstand operation, handles all conversions to
digital format for publishers. It also has the most complicated arrangements, and
will even handle fulfillment for publishers who want to sell their digital magazines
off their own website. It has the best remit rate, but we cant call it the best
newsstand because its popularity and sales volume are so low compared to Apple.
Zinio has also recently launched its Netflix-style program, Z-Pass, which costs $5
per month for three magazines, which the user can swap out as desired. It hasnt
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been around long enough to have generated any meaningful data for interested
publishers, but were hoping for good news.
All of these newsstands have apps that allow readers to access the magazines on
devices other than the newsstands own device, and of course Zinio, not being a
device-centered agency, offers magazines in all formats, too.
And as you can see, the remit rates for all of them are still light years head of the
old print remit rates. This is possible because Apple, Amazon and Barnes & Noble
are more interested in selling iPads, Kindles and Nooks. Its in their interest to
entice publishers to their newsstand.
Bottom line? With these generous offers, and knowing that magazine readers are
increasingly interested in digital editions, a publisher has no excuse for not being
available digitally.

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Digital Magazine Auditing

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Auditing Your Digital Circ

Circulation reporting and auditing has been a meticulous science for more than a
century. Then digital magazine publishing came along to shake it up for the first
time in decades.
Some publishers, such as giant Cond Nast, comply with a complex set of rules to
report their digital circulation to the Alliance for Audited Media. Others large
companies, such as Forbes, dont report it. Some publishers publish their data in
their media kits. Most publishers dont share it anywhere.
In the first half of 2013, AAM reported that 3.3% of all (reported) circulation is
digital, with a total of 10.2 million subscribers to digital editions. But what
percentage is not reported? From what weve witnessed, a significant amount.
What should publishers and industry observers think of this kind of chaos?
Publishers who arent reporting their data to an auditing bureau should start, for
one thing. According to a recent AAM survey, 67% of publishers say that
advertiser demand for independent, third-party verification of mobile metrics is
Add that to the opinion from magazine advocacy group MPA: The advantage of
auditing is that a trusted, third-party source is validating data that shows that
consumers enjoy magazine media brands on other platforms in addition to print.
Publishers who arent reporting their mobile data are selling themselves short,
according to the MPA. Says Cristina Dinozo, VP-Communications Platforms and
Editor of the MPA Daily News Roundup, Magazine media are not getting credit
for all the ways that consumers seek out and interact with our brands, be it digital
editions, native apps, social media, video and other platforms. Reporting digital
circulation is a step in that direction.
In other words, if youre selling advertising, youre going to have to start reporting
your digital circulation sooner or later, and as long as you dont, youre probably
leaving revenue on the table.
Is there a downside to publishing your data? Well, yes. All the confusion means
that your performance could be misunderstood by the advertisers you want to
Says Dinoza, Due to non-standardization of newsstands, terms and metrics, as
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well as the way that issues are counted (such as replica and non-replica issues),
magazine media may not be getting full credit for all the circulation reported when
they publicize it. For example, it was just reported that Game Informer accounts
for one-third of all digital magazine circulation. Would that number still be true if
100% of all digital circulation was reported?
If anything, the industry is underreporting its reach. This can be a disadvantage,
at the present time, which is why the work the MPA is doing with DESI (Digital
Editions Standards Initiative) is so crucialgetting all publications on the same
digital page, metrically speaking.
As we noted in an earlier chapter, getting everyone on the same page means
greater credibility for publishers, and more trust from advertisers both of which
are necessary if publishers are going to start commanding the same kind of ad
rates that they were once accustomed to in print.
At the same time, AAM is pushing its own reporting tool to publishers with its
own set of data points. According to the AAM survey, 17% of AAMs members
are already using its relatively new Consolidated Media Report (CMR).
Another 18 percent plan to publish a CMR in the next 12 months and 64 percent
said these types of reports are becoming increasingly important.
The CMR is AAMs customizable report that allows publishers to show
advertisers their entire media footprint by reporting audited information on various
distribution platforms, including print, websites, social media, apps and more.
AAM also has a more basic interactive audit report that details only digital data.
Of course, in order to report your data, you need to possess the data. One of the
biggest headaches for publishers is the fact that the newsstands are reluctant to
share sales data with anyone, including publishers.
Said one respondent to AAMs survey: The publishing industry needs to work
more closely with the platform providers (Apple, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc.)
to get better reporting. We currently cant tell exactly how many digital copies of a
particular issue are being accessed by subscribers. We have to make assumptions
with the available data to guess at the right number.
And what data you do get, you have to manipulate manually to get it into a
meaningful format because the data from each newsstand isnt standardized. This,
of course, is a colossal pain. There is a tool available that helps with this task,
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called eEditions from CDS-Global, which provides consolidated metrics on sales
of magazines in the tablet market. Unfortunately, we dont have any first-hand
reports of it at this time.

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AAMs approach to auditing digital circulation

AAM (formerly ABC) is, of course, the go-to auditing bureau for magazines and
newspapers. It addresses the digital data issue with a set of rules about what is
counted as digital circulation.
In general, a digital paid circulation unit for reporting to AAM reports, which is
intended to be included in total circulation, includes only those issues which
Were sold to the consumers who gained access in a pull delivery method
or successfully received the download in a push delivery method

Are not also being counted as a print unit when part of a bundled offer

Are not back issue

Cost the consumer at least $.01 (except for verified circulation)

Include the same advertisers (not the advertising content itself) as an
existing print edition

Include at the minimum the same editorial content as the print edition

Different rules apply such as those for analyzed nonpaid bulk publications. Non-
replicas, which in AAM definition are those with different advertising and
editorial content from the print version, may be reported, but are not included in
total circulation and in AAMs rate base comparison data.
So far, AAM and MPA are taking digital circulation seriously. Everyone else
not so much.

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Case Studies

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Digital Publishing Turns Things Around at The Atlantic

On a day when journalists were rising to the occasion as they are rarely asked to
as the city of Boston hunkered down in lockdown and a manhunt was under way
we were proud to be associated with the magazine industry.
Some of the oldest, most venerable and presumably staid publications were doing
something their founders certainly could never have imagined, as they reported on
the news in real time, on a medium thats broadcast instantly into homes and tiny
handheld communication devices all over the world.
The Atlantic, a 156-year-old publication, was born from the minds of Bostons
intellectual elite hardly a publication youd expect to be leading the way in any
creation of the 21st century.
And sure enough, The Atlantic spent the early years of website and digital
publishing floundering.
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When it made a profit in 2010, it was the first time in decades. But this very
failure is what has driven the company to be one of the industrys digital leaders,
according to owner David Bradley in a 2010 interview. Bleeding red ink meant
that there was nothing to lose.
So The Atlantic didnt just jump into the digital age. It dove headfirst without a
safety net.
Throwing caution to the wind
Sure enough, by going digital first, The
Atlantic has turned itself around. It is now
one of the rare magazines with a positive
Online Media Index (OMI), and in fact has
improved that number since 2011. Its
current number, because it has far more
website unique visitors than paid
circulation, is 3.48. That number is up
from 3.23 in 2011.
And at the recent MPA Swipe 2.0 digital
media conference, president M. Scott Havens shared that their audience has
increased by 330% from 2009 to 2013, and its financials have improved by 76%.
Havens noted that the keys to the turnaround are the magazines world-class
editorial talent, staying true to the brands culture and DNA, and a forward-
thinking digital strategy.
So what, exactly, is The Atlantics digital strategy?
We started out with the iPhone app, which was just launched in February. And we
forged bravely ahead despite almost universally ugly reviews. Buggy and prone
to crashing were the kinder descriptions. Almost every reviewer complained
because the app wasnt available to them in the Apple Newsstand, but had to be
bought from iTunes.
We had just downloaded the app from the newsstand, so apparently The Atlantic
remedied that situation fairly recently. And we didnt experience any of the bugs
that earlier reviewers had noted.
Instead, we dug into its live coverage of the Boston manhunt, all available free
from its AtlanticWired brand, which was deep and varied. Having already spent
the morning perusing the coverage from dozens of other media outlets, we could
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make a fairly informed judgment and we were impressed. We did notice that
there was not a single link to related content, nor any enhancements such as those
delivered by Forbes. What you get in the iPhone app is exactly what the print
reader gets, except for swiping.
It was simple to navigate the free content, and easy to read. This is not an accident,
of course. In a recent Mashable article, Kimberly Lau, VP and General Manager of
The Atlantic Digital, said the company wanted to ensure that the experience was
different from the existing iPad app and better suited to the smaller screen. The
iPhone version therefore features pages created in HTML rather than PDFs, so that
users can adjust the font size on their phones. We did, and it was a piece of cake to
do so.
Other thoughtful touches include the ability to retract menu bars to fit more text on
the screen, and an innovative folder feature that lets the reader save free articles
in one place. And heres where we started to wonder a bit about The Atlantics
digital strategy: One of the best things about the iPhone app, the folder, is
mysteriously missing when reading premium magazine content via the iPhone
app, and is missing altogether from the older iPad app.
Its on the Internet. It must be free.

Off we went to the iPad, where we bought and
enjoyed the April issue even if we couldnt
save our favorite articles. Finally, we sat down
at the desk to check out the website. Imagine
our surprise when we realized that the
magazine, a premium product, is available
entirely free there! iPad and iPhone subscribers
pay for the convenience of digital portability,
but nothing else.
Mind you, the subscription price would hardly
break the bank. In December 2012, the single-
copy price was raised from $4.99 to $6.99. And
a one-year digital subscription of 10 issues costs
$21.99 when you buy it through the app. If you
buy at the website, youre offered print for
$24.50, with the digital editions included for that price. Were not quite clear why
some publishers, including mighty Time, offer different prices for different outlets.
And were not huge fans of a $21.99 price point even less enamored of it when
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the price of the magazine on desktop or laptop is $0.00. The Atlantics early foray
into digital publishing seems to have reaped them substantial advertising revenues
Mashable reported that digital ad revenues topped print in October 2011, up
86% year-over-year which may explain this bargain-basement decision, but the
price would also seem to be a remnant of the suicidal, rock-bottom pricing within
the entire industry during the print era.
As we recently wrote, some publishers are starting to raise their prices to
reasonable levels. The New Yorker made the leap from $19.99 in 1998 to $39.99
during the 00s, and again to $59.99 or $69.99, depending on the package, when it
launched its digital edition in 2011.
But The Atlantic is aware. Havens recently admitted to Forbes, Were shooting
ourselves in the foot a little by having the paid app in the iTunes store while
offering ourselves for free in Safari. So 2013 was the year when The Atlantic,
which has been giving away its content online since 2005, at least explores a
paywall, Havens notes.
Please do! Between the industrys brain-dead print pricing, and the early training
of Internet users in the 00s that all online content should be free, subscription
revenues will continue to falter unless everybody gets on board the New Yorkers
train. And, The Atlantics success notwithstanding, who knows when digital
advertising revenues for the rest of the industry will recover to pre-Internet levels?
One other caveat from The Atlantics digital edition: Theres no attempt to drive
traffic from their free content to the magazine. In fact, when we decided to
subscribe, we looked in vain for a link to a subscribe page. Later, when we were
experimenting and clicked on the issues link to buy another single copy, we
found a Subscribe banner at the top left of that page. Nothing but luck and
persistent poking around got us there.
Ah, but as we all know by now, digital publishing is all about experimentation and
evolution, and its almost refreshing to have something new to learn when we get
up in the morning.

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The Atlantic Weekly: An Experiment
or a Brilliant Strategy?

What do you when your website already publishes every word that appears in your
premium print and digital publications for free? Um, well, uh if youre The
Atlantic, you take the same content and put it another paid publication.
The reason? Apparently, just because.
And thats OK because there is an absolute need for publishers with the pockets to
do it to make these daring experiments here in the early days of mobile publishing.
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When The Atlantic launched its new weekly digital-only publication, The Atlantic
Weekly, Senior Editor Geoff Gagnon told Folio, Weve already got a really good
paid product that people can see for free, its called The Atlantic magazine.
Weve done so well and the reception has been so good on our magazine app, we
thought it was a no-brainer to continue to engage these readers on more apps.
We praised The Atlantics digital publication earlier, with a few caveats, one of
them being the presence of all premium content on the website and not even
hard to find, as youll see at other subscription websites, who assume the reader
will be willing to pay simply for the convenience of curation.
In their announcement of the new app they wrote:
We are asking readers to pay for this magazine. The reason is that we are
putting work into itby editors, designers, and developersand at least for
now were not including any advertising. This is, for us, another experiment
in putting to use any new means available to create and support the
journalism of ideas that distinguishes The Atlantic.
The Atlantic folks say theyre considering a paywall for the future.
Having boosted its declining circulation from 439,318 in 2008 to 488,332 by
December 2012, Atlantic Consumer Media president Justin Smith told Mashable
that while tablets and e-readers are cannibalizing print newsstand sales, both
magazine circulation and print ad revenues are up, largely due to the brand
impact that our digital strategy has had, he says. The dramatic growth in digital
audience has in turn driven demand for the magazine, because so many more
millions are now aware of it.
We believe this is an excellent experiment in expanding the brands digital
presence, especially considering the importance that The Atlantic has placed on
digital media diving headfirst into digital in order to rescue a brand that had been
failing steadily for years.
The Atlantic boldly announced in 2011 that it would henceforth be not a company
that happened to publish a digital edition, but a digital company that happened to
publish a print magazine. The publisher called this strategy digital first.
So now that the dust has settled from the ballyhooed launch of The Atlantic
Weekly, lets take a look at the details, and without the necessarily optimistic
commentary from the publisher that accompanied all the articles around the
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industry on the day of launch.
Same or different?

Both The Atlantic digital and The Atlantic Weekly are simple reflow editions, with
no bells or whistles. Both allow you to swipe horizontally to navigate between
articles, and scroll vertically to read each article.
Of more substance in the similarities is that The Atlantic Weeklys content includes
six articles taken from TheAtlantic.com (which, as I said, includes the magazines
premium content), TheAtlanticWire.com (the brands daily content) and
TheAtlanticCities.com, which covers urban issues.
The Atlantic tells us that The Atlantic Weekly articles are selected by editors for
their content, not by page views, and in fact they usually wont be the most
popular articles, on the theory that those articles have already been seen by most
Rather, says the publisher, No one who doesnt work for The Atlantic can keep
up with it all (many of us cant, either), and we suspect that even our most
constant readers miss some of our best pieces. Were aiming to provide readers
with a selection of stories and ideas on screens scrubbed of all distractions.
The only enhancement over the website and monthly publications is the inclusion
of an archive article in the weekly product. Were big fans of monetizing your
archive content, but were not sure this will cut it. Hopefully The Atlantic Weekly
will prove us wrong, but were wondering if $19.99 per year is a fair price to pay
for 48 archive articles.
Heck, over at the Biblical Archaeology Society, you can get 6,600 articles from 35
years of Biblical Archaeology Review plus articles from two magazines they no
longer even publish 20 years worth of Bible Review and eight years of
Archaeology Odyssey for $5.
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Whats not in The Atlantic Weekly

Aside from the inclusion of that single archive article, The Atlantic Weekly has
much in common with The Atlantic digital edition unfortunately, much of whats
in common are things that are lacking. Neither has a link to the website, and
neither allows you to save premium articles in handy folders, our favorite feature
of TheAtlanticWire, the daily free content you get with The Atlantic digital edition.
For that matter, subscribers to The Atlantic Weekly dont get TheAtlanticWire.
Here at Mequoda, we love apps that include fresh daily content, because its a
great way keep your subscribers engaged in your content, remembering how much
they love you, and, if you sell advertising, laying eyeballs on your ads.
The Atlantic Weekly says its goal is to be a lean-back medium, so perhaps they
figure daily news content doesnt fit. But TheAtlanticWire is one of our favorite
features of The Atlantic solely because of the high quality of the journalism, a
rare find in todays daily news media and we miss it in the weekly publication.
The Atlantic Weekly, unlike The Atlantic, is sold by itself at $19.99 for a year,
$2.99 per month as a monthly sub, or $1.99 as a single issue. There are no bundled
offers with the parent publication, either print or digital. In fact, its mentioned
nowhere on TheAtlantic.com, and isnt (yet?) available at Amazon, Barnes &
Noble or Zinio.
Presumably there will be more outlets carrying The Atlantic Weekly soon, unless
the publisher is hedging its bets and waiting to gauge consumer response.

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The long and short of it

Were always thrilled to see publishers taking risks and thinking outside the box,
and we can hope for success in the case of The Atlantic Weekly. Certainly they
have plenty of great marketing minds on board who must have given this new
product much thought and have insights into consumer behavior.
And even if the magazine fails and, as Mashable noted in its article about the
new kid on the block, the weekly space has gotten more competitive lately with
New York, Esquire, Time and Huffington Post all offering such products
experiments are good in these early days of mobile publishing. The more
experiments, the better, bring em on!

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Why Millennials Love the Mens Health Digital Magazine

With a digital circulation of 109,935 reported to the Association of Audited Media
as of June 2013 4.1% of its total circulation of 1.9 million, and a 4.4% increase
since December 2012 Mens Health is a leader in the digital space. It was one of
the earliest magazines to go digital, and its experience shows. This is one hot
digital magazine.
Digital magazine publishing for digital natives

Mens Health has a fairly young demographic, meaning their primary audience is
what we call digital natives people whove never known a media world without
computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. The Rodale publication appears to be
meeting that challenge well.
There are hundreds of reviews of the digital version, almost all of them from loyal
Mens Health readers, judging by their comments, and almost all of them glowing.
Trust me, this is not the norm. Every week we see scathing commentary from
regular magazine readers of various apps from around the magazine industry.
Digital magazine publishing isnt as easy as it looks.
Its easy to see why readers love digital Mens Health. Excellent use of the
technology shows up the minute you download the app. While theres no free
content in the app which is a shame you do get an awesome video preview of
the newest issue featuring the magazines editors extolling the highlights of the
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Interestingly, Mens Health also employs a digital layout were only just
beginning to see in the industry. Instead of horizontal, right-to-left swiping
throughout, Mens Health uses vertical reflow, in which the articles are rescaled to
fit comfortably in the one long screen-width page, instead of shrunken to fit the
same text on a tablet screen as on a print page To read the rest of each individual
article, you swipe up, and the article itself is laid out vertically.
In addition to the behind-the-scenes photo gallery from the main feature
mentioned above, the digital version also offers other fun things. The Christopher
Pine feature, for example, is supposed to be telling readers how they can achieve
their career goals in the same way as the actor. When Pine explains how he over
came certain challenges, on the same page youll find a small image in the corner
that you tap, and youre rewarded with related advice from a career expert.

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Price, promotion and partners: More than healthy

When it comes to other crucial components of this product, the magazine is in
pretty good shape. Mens Health is thankfully not giving away its content, at
$34.77 for print and $23.99 for the digital edition. Of course, at Mequoda we
believe the digital product should be priced the same or higher compared to the
print product if youre putting in the extra cost and effort to produce fun stuff like
videos and other extra content, but this is a debate within the industry thats
probably years from being settled.
And Rodales promotion of the digital product is fairly fit, showing up in the
digital newsstand, social media, email, the app itself, and the Mens Health
website although we had to Google Mens Health digital to find the page.
You wont find any digital subscription promos at the Mens Health website any
other way that we can determine, and we hate to see this product being left only to
those readers eager enough to read it digitally that theyre Googling for it.
Another fitness faux pas: The print subscription includes the digital version, but
you wouldnt know it. The print subscription offer page makes no mention of even
the existence of a digital product, and we only figured out that its included with
print by reading about it on an FAQ page which we only found via that Google
Still, Rodales very healthy digital product is being seen these days in all the right
places, including the Apple newsstand (including an iPhone-specific app thats
included with the iPad version), Zinio, Google Play, Windows and Amazon. The
Kindle version is a simple replica at this stage, though, so we look forward to
seeing it gain the fun bells and whistles that the iPad version boasts.
If youre not in the digital space already, you should be making your move soon.
We recommend that you buy an issue of Mens Health on your iPad pronto
strictly for research purposes, of course! and find out how you should be doing
your own publications digital edition.

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Black Belt Magazine:
9,600 Digital Subscriptions in 12 Months

Debate rages in magazine land about the future of the industry, and especially the
role that digital magazine publishing will play in that future. But at least at Active
Interest Media, theres little doubt about whats keeping Black Belt magazine in
fighting trim, and theres plenty of earned optimism about the digital future.
Black Belt sold 9,600 digital subscriptions since debuting its app in April 2012.
That volume puts it in the top third of AIMs 42 magazine products, all of which
have digital editions. Were excited about the consistent growth month over
month, says Andrew Clurman, AIM President &
Black Belts digital circulation accounts for about 5%
of its total and the largest total at AIM is about
10%, Clurman says which makes it a leader in
digital publishing, where the average is 1.7%.
Clurman isnt among those discounting digital
circulation, either. I think it will be significant in
the industry, he says, noting that the market is still
establishing itself, with consumer awareness of
digital content and device ownership still growing
Hes also optimistic about advertising in these fancy new digital magazines. While
some publishers fret that the industry is trading print advertising dollars for digital
dimes, Clurman firmly believes that the interactive reading experience, instant
connection between advertising and users, and longer reader engagement will all
turn into strong CPM rates for digital publishers in the long run.
Black Belt offers a real kick for readers

Black Belt, a Mequoda client, is helping define
digital magazine Best Practices. Weve seen
interesting innovations such as its advertiser index, a
feature we havent seen anywhere else (yet).
Clurman says all of AIMs digital editions offer the
index, and adds that advertisers expect it.
The Black Belt digital edition is accessed via a
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standard app that offers no free content, just the opportunity to buy issues or
subscriptions. Mequoda still believes in delivering some kind of free content in
your apps, because readers expect it, but in the meantime, Black Belt readers who
do buy in are getting a rewarding experience.
The magazine offers what well call a replica-sorta-plus: There are certainly bells
and whistles, but no videos, which the magazine excels at on its YouTube channel
and website. Raymond Horwitz, Director of Digital Media, notes that Black Belt,
which produces all the digital editions in-house, doesnt have the manpower at
present to offer anything fancier. However, he adds, the magazine might at some
point include links back to the websites archive of editorial and video content.
In the meantime, its still more than just a simple replica. One our my favorite
features is the seamless link back to the website thats available on every page.
When the user arrives at any page, the words BLACKBELTMAG.COM that
appear in the bottom margin of article pages are briefly highlighted, drawing
attention to themselves.

Tap that text, and youre delivered a half-screen view of the website at the
bottom when using your tablet vertically, at the right when using it horizontally.
You can make that view take over your entire screen, make it go away, or keep it
where it is and read the article by scrolling while simultaneously viewing any
website page you also want to check out.
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The title of every article will also highlight itself, and tapping it delivers a half-
screen of text only, with the option to enlarge the text always appreciated by us
(ahem) more mature readers.
Pricing, promotion and future plans

For all of this fun and informative content, readers are paying $24.99 for digital
only. The print edition is $24 per year, and theres no option for a bundle at the
moment. Were happy to see that Black Belt isnt giving away its content for $8 or
$9, like many other magazines.
The digital subscription is sold via the Apple and Amazon newsstands, Barnes &
Noble, Google Play and Zinio, all of which are promoted on a single page at the
website. Horowitz also notes that plans are in the works for an online store that
will sell Black Belt digital content directly, including back issues.
Black Belt is also vigorously marketing its digital subscriptions, most successfully
via popups or floaters that appear when a new user arrives at the website on a
mobile device, Clurman reports. There are also ads in the print magazine, email
blasts and banners on the website.
Perhaps the bottom line for Black Belt digital is the role its playing in Black Belt
circulation and revenues. Clurman says that both numbers for all of AIMs
publications have been flat over the past three years, as they have for most
publishers, even after digital editions were launched. But what helps him sleep at
night is that without the digital edition, those numbers would have dropped.
And with his optimism about digital going forward, Clurman is anticipating rising
numbers as the demand for mobile magazines increases, and as publishers like
AIM discover new, high-quality digital content products to sell.

Bigital Nagazine Publishing
TRVL Magazine App Takes Publishing Industry on an
Adventurous Ride

Its not often that someone defies conventional wisdom so profoundly and still
makes a success of it.
But thats what TRVL magazine has achieved.
TRVL is the first magazine published only in a mobile version, having been
founded in 2010 by Dutch partners Jochem Wijnands and Michel Elings (who
supposedly compared their love of travel at a party and launched TRVL the next
In fact, its not only mobile-only, its iPad-only. And its not because theyre just
getting started or short of funds: Its because they planned it that way all along.
Its acclaimed in publishing for its uniqueness, ingenuity, content and quality
(3,200+ reviews in the iTunes store and a 4.8 star rating #1 in iTunes overall).
The photographs are gorgeous, the writing fair, the app outstanding.
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The only thing it doesnt seem to have is a big fat revenue stream.
The role of TRVL, it would seem, is as an outlet for a couple of very talented guys
a photographer and a software designer to create something awesome, and as a
showcase for their talents. Wijnands is one of the magazines most prolific
contributors, and a software product was recently released that has been created
by Elings more on that below.
The publishing company created by these gentlemen, Prss (apparently The
Netherlands suffers from a serious vowel shortage), has an advertising manager,
and they solicit advertisers in their terms of service, but there is no advertising in
recent issues. Elings tells me they have sold advertising in the past to major
players such as British Airways and Canon, and will do so again in the near future.
And subscriptions, at $.99 per month, are optional.
Prss does keep overhead low by relying largely on freelancers for its content,
instead of a large editorial staff.
However TRVL is making its money, its still a fun publication to talk about, so
lets take a look at the awesome magazine that is TRVL a publication that could
only exist here in the post-iPad world.
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Award-winning app

In December 2011, TRVL was voted Best Digital Travel Magazine in the Digital
Magazine Awards in London, and Best Magazine App in the 2011 BestEverApps
Awards held in California in January 2012.
In April 2013, TRVL announced that it had achieved 1 million app installs. Thats
a pretty big audience. Of course, because its free and doesnt seem to have any
advertising, its not obliged to report its circulation to anyone, so all data comes
only from Prss.
Still, thats a lot of downloads, especially considering that the TRVL magazine app
disdains all other platforms but iOS. Why is that, you ask? According to its
founders quoted recently in Apple Insider, they prefer to be superb on one
platform, rather than simply existing across all of them.
In fact, while they originally launched using a WoodWings plugin that exported
Adobe InDesign files to an iPad reader, they felt constrained even by that so they
promptly developed their own software program.
Amusingly because theyre quoted in Apple Insider they call it the software
Apple forgot to make. And after you get a look at the app that Prss has wrought,
youll be thrilled to know that the company is has released that software as a free
Web-based tool, named after the publishing company.
Elings says that the Prss tool makes many features of mobile publishing more
accessible to publishers, such as reducing the time to design for both horizontal
and vertical layout from three days to just one hour.
With its beta version in circulation, Elings says, Now we will scale as fast as
possible. In the meantime we want to learn as much as possible about how
publishers use the tool, he notes.
In short, this is one of the rare times we can rave about an app, and suggest that
any publisher will be able to replicate it, not just the major players. The only cost
for using the Prss tool is a fee of 5 euros per download from the Apple newsstand.
Meanwhile, since TRVL is clearly marching to its own drummer, the publishers
have also unbundled their content, to the extent that they now have published
132 magazines, each one dedicated to one single global locale. In practice, these
are actually individual issues, but it certainly sounds more impressive to call them
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One new magazine is published each week, focusing on Rome to Sydney to
Burundi, from Galapagos to Poland, Languedoc and Yunnan, Andalusia to
Lebanon to San Francisco and 122 more. Theres only one issue of each

When you download the free app, you get to the store for all these free
magazines. There are so many of them, its dizzying to scroll through. Shake your
iPad to reshuffle the store, or click on the World button to bring up a world map
with pins in each location they cover. Click on the pin to access that locations
magazine. Sweet!
All magazines live in the cloud, but its quick and painless to download any issue
for offline viewing. And TRVLs content is not about which hotels to stay at or
which restaurants to choose, but rather about the locations charm, culture and
people, so each magazine is fairly timeless. Thats the beauty of the digital
newsstand: If your content is evergreen, you can sell, or at least give away, endless
back issues.

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Its about the art

Everything about TRVL is artsy, from its name to the layout of the magazines.
Each issue flows horizontally in one long, long very long page. At any given
moment, you can see bits of the previous or next page lurking at the edge of your
screen. TRVL thus refuses to be constrained by the traditional concept of a
magazine page.

This is not just using the new digital technology to push the envelope; its
exploding the envelope in a way that no digital edition of an existing print
publication has managed to do yet.
For that matter, other digital-only magazines are still designing as if they were
simply a replica version of a print publication! Its hard to break out of the print
mindset, but if anyone can get the industry to embrace this kind of change, it will
be TRVL.
And, as Elings promise about the Prss tool indicates, you can indeed enjoy TRVL
in either portrait or landscape mode. On pages with both text and photo, the text
reflows around the photo if necessary. At the same time, captions never clutter up
the layout: If you want to see them, swipe photos upwards to bring up the caption
along with details such as the name of the photographer, type of camera used,
settings, film and more.
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You can even tap a World button while viewing a photo, and up pops a map
showing exactly where the photo was taken. Again, were awed by the way TRVL
has used iPad technology to invent something completely new that could never
have happened in print. Elings biggest goal, he says, is to make print feel stupid.

Other bells and whistles include the occasional link in the text that leads to a
related third-party news article or Wiki article. The usual social media sharing
features are included, and there are embedded videos throughout the magazine.
One feature we found quite unique is the instant ability to report mistakes back to
the publisher. At the end of every issue is a small screen, which, when tapped,
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brings up an email window with the ready-made subject line Correction. It sure
beats getting out pen and paper to write to the editor!
If you have access to an iPad, we cant urge you strongly enough to check out
TRVL as a peek into whats possible in digital magazine technology.

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MAD Magazine Offers a Haywire Digital Edition

The last time I read MAD magazine was as a
young teenager. The thing I loved the most,
besides Spy vs Spy, were the tiny cartoons that
showed up randomly throughout the magazine.
I literally loved the randomness and the need
to search each page from top to bottom, like an
I Spy book, then turning the magazine
whichever way was necessary and holding it
up to my face to make it readable.
MAD still has the tiny cartoons. But now all
you have to do is tap the little red circle with
the plus sign inside it to get a good look.
I think the world is a better place knowing that
sophisticated, interactive digital technology
can be used to enhance the MAD magazine reading experience.
According to the descriptions for each issue in the store, MAD launched its first
digital issue (non-interactive issue) on April 1, 2012 (get it?), with simple
replica editions. And based on the dates of publications, thereafter the company
uploaded its back issues as fast as it could, whenever it could. Interactive editions
appeared in March 2012, an issue thats now excerpted as a free preview in the
Of course, discovering the information above took me a good 20 minutes, because
the now-enormous store inventory starts with issue #114 (1967), rolls back
through time to issue #1 (1952), and then scatters
issues in no apparent order. I just kept scrolling until
I found the highest number, #522, nestled among
special issues and #s 109-111.
Talk about random. Good thing theres a search
function. But dont try to search by month of issue.
You have to type in Mad Magazine #129 to find
what you want.
Could it be possible that the publisher does this on
purpose in typical MAD style?
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Its a mad, mad, mad, mad world: Prices and circulation

When it launched in 1952, America was tired of the unending Korean Conflict and
of a homogeneous, conservative society that worked tirelessly to hide its troubles
behind a mask of perfection. It was perfect timing for a comic book that took
nothing seriously, laughed at all, and blasted that mask into smithereens.
If you know nothing about MAD, think of it as the Saturday Night Live of its era.
According to print subscription records compiled by accounting professor and
MAD enthusiast Mike Slaubaugh (MAD sells no advertising and does not report
circulation to AAM), those early days were good ones: 1962 circulation when
the publisher first started recording it including subscriptions and sold single
copies, was 1.2 million.
MAD hit its historic high point in 1974 at 2.1 million. But by then, society had
learned to mock itself, Watergate had destroyed that complacent 1950s trust in
government, and the need for a comic/magazine to spoof society was
As the New York Times noted in a 2009 article, Mad once defined American
satire; now it heckles from the margins as all of culture competes for trickster
status. What is left to overturn? Circulation dropped precipitously from that
heady 2.1 million until it hit 205,441 in 2002.
A brief, unexplained uptick took place between 2003 and 2005, and there was
another blip in 2007, but the all-time low came in 2008 at 150,829.
MAD struggled back to 188,825 in 2010, dropping to 153,228 in 2011. Then came
digital in early 2012: Circulation rebounded to 165,338 for that year, the biggest
single-year increase since the decline began in 1975. But, these numbers reflect
print data only; I havent been able to find any digital circulation data.
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As a bi-monthly (after being a monthly for decades, and a brief period in the late
00s as a quarterly), MAD prices an annual digital subscription for those six issues
at $9.99 (well, it does say MAD magazine CHEAP! in the Apple newsstand
search results).
As is common in digital pricing these days, MAD also sells a one-issue
subscription that charges the buyers credit card for every new issue, in this case,
$1.99, slightly higher than the $1.67 per issue that the annual subscription works
out to. A single issue, without a subscription, costs $4.99.
A print subscription is $19.99, and there is no combo offer.

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Measuring MAD by Mequoda Best Practices

Sixty-one years after its birth, MAD is still the rebel in the room, spoofing
everything from Obamas NSA to Kim Kardashians delivery room experience.
And it doesnt always take Best Practices seriously, either. It delivers on some, but
not on others. Sometimes it delivers, but only randomly, and in this case, random
is not a good thing. But without further ado, heres how MAD stacks up to
Mequodas current Best Practices:

1. Magazine features readable design, either vertical reflow or responsive.
MAD utilizes vertical reflow.
2. Magazine is easy to navigate (users guide, scrubber bar and instructional
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icons). YES with caveat
MAD offers no users guide, but on every screenshot that includes a one-page
article, theres a red bar at the bottom instructing the reader to Tap once here for
navigation (a scrubber bar) or swipe here to turn page.
For some reason, conventional swiping elsewhere on the page is used only on long
pieces with vertical reflow. I kept forgetting about the red bar and trying to swipe
as I would in any other magazine, somewhere near the middle of the right side of
the screen.
MAD does offer helpful icons to remind you how to access those vertical reflows:
But instead of arrows pointing down, as in most other magazines, these arrows
point up to tell you how to swipe, not where the rest of the content is.

And without a users guide, I discovered several awesome high-tech features only
by accident.
3. Magazine uses either portrait or landscape mode, preferably portrait. NO
Both formats are used. However, when the reader sees a full spread that doesnt fit
into the screen in portrait mode, and naturally turns the device to landscape mode,
the spread shrinks to fit into the screen vertically but not horizontally.
Therefore your choice is either to view half of the spread at one time in portrait, or
to see most of it in landscape but squint to read the type, and swipe horizontally
to see the last few centimeters of content.
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This strikes me as the worst of both worlds.


1. Magazine uses available technology to enhance the reader experience. YES
with caveat
Every cover of the new interactive versions features a video. For the most recent
issue, the Black Spy and White Spy, from the ongoing Spy vs. Spy series, enter the
screen from opposite sides, as a sinister-looking President Obama, resplendent in a
trench coat, fedora, and evil grin, rises up behind them to put a hand on each ones
shoulder, laughing maniacally.
In case you couldnt guess, this is an illustration for a satirical piece on Obama and
the NSA.
Also, the reader can tap on any title in the table of contents to go directly to the
article. Many of the high-end digital publications Ive read lately can do
everything including wash the dishes for you, but they dont feature a tapable
Another high-tech touch: In some of the cartoon stories, the user can tap on a
speech bubble and see it magnify for easier reading. But only in some pieces,
and only on some pages of that piece. More randomness.
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And as I mentioned, MAD has always featured teeny little cartoons sprinkled
randomly throughout the magazine, and has taken advantage of the technology to
allow the reader to magnify them.
But once again only some of them. The rest are just as tiny as they always were.
But hey, at least the reader can view them in both portrait and landscape mode!
And theres one thing that truly takes paper and makes it digital. An absolutely
classic MAD feature is the Fold-In. In print, this involves literally folding a page
together in the middle to change one image and related text to something different.
Digital MAD allows you to swipe one side of the page into the center, creating the
same effect as youd get with real paper. Only easier: No need to worry about
getting your fold in exactly the right place and completely straight! (Yes, I speak
from experience.)
2. Magazine includes updated daily content. NO
3. Magazine app includes free content. YES
Theres a free preview thats an excerpt of the first interactive issue that I
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mentioned above, plus 10 pages from the book Totally MAD: 60 Years of Humor,
Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity.

1. Magazine app is free from glitches, crashes or other technical problems.
At least one reviewer and I experienced the white screen of annoyance, in which
it takes several moments for the pages to load. Pinch-and-zoom was troublesome,
too. In its brief history, digital MAD has been updated three times this year and
three times last year. It may take awhile for them to get the bugs out, including the
erratic pinch and zoom function, and applying the features throughout the content
instead of just here and there.
2. Magazine with advertising includes interactive advertising. NO
MAD has no advertising but its own spoofs (ad for a new Fox ADHD cartoon
show: From the mind of a five-year-old ), and ads for their own products. Id
love to see what they could do with interactive features in the spoof ads and
why on Earth theres no way to buy a subscription, special issue or book from their
product ads even if its just a link to the store is beyond me.
Oh, wait. You cant buy the books in the store, either. And the ads dont tell you
where to buy them. Amazon, I guess. Paging the marketing department
3. Magazine features images that remain stationary when text is scrolled. NO
4. Magazine offers in-app purchases of books and/or special reports. YES
But see above. Only a few special issues are available as yet. Books, prints and T-
shirts are advertised heavily, but are not available in the app.
5. Magazine has a tool for saving content. NO
Not even the usual social media icons
6. Magazine is easy to find in the Apple newsstand. YES
Searching for comedy gets you nowhere, but for satire, MAD is the fifth
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The creativity and wit that go into MADs content arent quite being served as they
deserve by this digital edition. Clearly the publisher, E. C. Publications, is making
an effort to revive a struggling brand, but we hope theyll keep updating to get it
The creative use of technology, in particular, is commendable, but its frustrating
for readers to use it in one article and not have it available in the next. Then again,
without a users guide, they may not even know about these features.

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Popular Science Turns its Digital Edition Around

Popular Science, founded in 1872 and now owned by mega-publisher Bonnier
Corp., is the fifth-oldest continuously published magazine in the United States.
But as old as it is, its focus on cutting-edge technology has served it well, allowing
it to stride into the digital age with authority.
Of course, like most magazines, PopSci suffered from the usual decline in overall
circulation in the past few years. After hitting a low in the first half of June 2011,
and with its digital app fully up and running, circulation recovered in 2012, only to
decline again from 1,350,685 this time last year to 1,309,176 as of June 30, 2013
still lower than circulation as of June 30, 2010.

Early versions of its app were, predictably, buggy and PopSci raised consumer
ire by selling single issues only at $4.99 a pop, while a print subscription was still
$12. But things have improved; though digital circulation has declined slightly
from a year ago, as of June 30 it has recovered from a low six months earlier.
A look at the state of the PopSci digital edition

Subscription offers are a mixed bag.
A print subscription is still (sigh) a measly $12. On the iPad, a combo subscription
costs $19.99, a digital-subscription only is $14.99, and if youre already a print
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subscriber, you can add the digital edition for $5.
This iPad combo offer on the website has the added advantage of
harvesting PopSci customer emails, credit cards and other marketing data that
Apple doesnt share, notes Subscription Site Insider. Unfortunately, the offer
hasnt been particularly popular, which Subscription Site Insider speculates is
because its not prominently featured on the site. I would concur: If you
subscribe to the print edition on the site, theres no mention whatsoever of digital
As for other newsstands, Amazon and Google offer no combos, just the digital-
only price. Zinio sells all versions, again without a combo offer. And Barnes &
Noble only sells single issues, now priced to sell at $1.99.
The low subscription prices are dismaying in an age when other publishers are
finding consumer now willing to pay more for their digital magazines, and some
have even managed to occasionally raise their print prices, too. Our bet is that the
early barrage of complaints from consumers in 2010 about what is now an average
single-issue digital price is what drove this bargain-basement decision. With the
quality problems worked out, we would encourage PopSci to test raising this price.
PopSci digital is a Mag+ off-the-shelf (OTS) product, which offers a limited
number of choices in design, as opposed to its Software Developer Kit, which
offers unlimited design choices. As well show you in a moment, though, the OTS
version is perfectly capable of meeting Mequodas Best Practices.
As for the website, unlike other large publishers, PopSci doesnt offer all of its
magazine content for free there. Instead, two-month-old magazine content is
available to non-subscribers in its own category, readily accessible from a tab in
the navigation bar.

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Measuring PopSci by Mequoda Best Practices


1. Magazine features readable design, either vertical reflow or responsive.
PopSci uses vertical reflow. According to Subscription Site Insider, another nice
feature is that PopSci offers two different iPad versions, one for high retina
display, and one for non-retina display, so that no user has to suffer the blurred
images and type that high-retina display can cause when viewed on a low-retina
2. Magazine is easy to navigate (instruction page, scrubber bar and
instructional icons) YES
PopSci features all three.
3. Magazine uses either portrait or landscape mode, preferably portrait. NO
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Mequoda believes that spending money on both modes is a waste of resources, and
PopSci does have both, including layouts that must be viewed in landscape mode.
Perhaps, Bonnier has resources it can afford to waste.

1. Magazine uses available technology to enhance the reader experience. YES
with caveat
Among the smart uses of digital technology utilized by PopSci are a dropdown
table of contents thats accessible from every page in the magazine, and videos to
illustrate how things such as robots work in motion, instead of still photos.
Caution: PopSci is also using technology in ways that are probably annoying to
more readers than just me. One is the use of videos to bring the cover alive, which,
while entertaining the first time, is aggravating in the extreme when youre forced
to watch them every time you open your issue.
Another is the use of video advertising on the cover. Again, this video cant be
stopped, and it leaps into action every time the reader accesses the magazine.
However, while a reader might find it annoying, PopSci tells us that the editorial
department has no issues with it, and this cutting-edge advertising is providing a
solid revenue stream.

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2. Magazine includes updated daily content. NO
A rare misstep for PopSci. Mequoda believes that updated daily content, such as
that used in New York magazine, keeps readers more engaged and loyal with your
brand than simply accessing content once a month. PopSci actually delivers daily
content in a different app, rather than in the magazine app.
3. Magazine app includes free content. YES
As weve noted in the past, readers often complain when a free app turns out to
be nothing more than a sales outlet for the magazine. PopSci includes at least one
piece of free content: a compilation of some of the best features of the past few

1. Magazine app is free from glitches, crashes or other technical problems.
The current version, 4.2.1 dated in July (Whats New: News and Alerts button no
longer crashes the app!), is too new to have many reviews, but the ones that are
there are positive. I didnt experience any problems.
2. Magazine includes interactive advertising. YES
And plenty of it. Tap anywhere in a Bose headphones ad and you get an order
form complete with price, which is notably absent in the ad itself. There have also
been 3-D rotational ads and lots of video, as Bonnier leads the way in interactive

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3. Magazine features images that remain stationary when text is scrolled. YES
PopSci doesnt utilize this function with advertising, and we hope to see publishers
doing so soon, but the function is used cleverly in editorial content. Not only does
text scroll, but new sidebars appear next to the stationary image.
4. Magazine offers in-app purchases of books and/or special reports. YES
5. Magazine has a tool for saving content NO
6. Magazine is easy to find in the Apple newsstand. NO
As weve noted, its just as important to set up your digital magazine for optimized
search in the newsstands as it is online. We searched the three separate phrases in
PopScis website page description, New Technology, Science News, the Future
Now, and had no luck whatsoever. And, to our surprise, its listed under the
newsstands Entertainment category, instead of Science!
That said, from what weve been reading lately, theres adequate room for
suspicion that the Apple newsstand is a quagmire and not necessarily set up at this
point to allow proper optimization. Still, thats even more reason for publishers to
do whatever they can and not be sloppy about it.
All told, Popular Science appears to be doing many things right, and now that
earlier problems with their digital magazine seem to be fixed, we can hope that
their circulation continues to rise.

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