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5 Tips for Publishing on Apple Newsstand

It’s far from perfect, but if you’re serious about digital magazine publishing you should know how to publish on Apple Newsstand.

It’s no secret that Apple’s Newsstand is a frustrating experience for many users, which in turn means it’s frustrating for publishers as well. Conventional wisdom holds that because Apple allows buyers to get their magazines directly from the publisher, Newsstand simply isn’t a revenue generator that’s going to get Apple’s corporate attention.

Conventional wisdom is probably correct. At a 70% remit rate to the publisher, Apple’s accepting their 30% and saying “thank you, have a nice day.”

Certainly Apple has never suffered materially from customers’ or publishers’ displeasure with form over function. And let’s face it, Apple’s business is selling hardware, not magazines. And what a good business it is, with more than 225 millions iPads sold since their introduction in 2010, and more than 700 million iPhones since 2008. “On average we sold over 34,000 iPhones every hour, 24 hours a day, everyday of the quarter,” Tim Cook said back in January. In fact, 65% of iPhones are still in use, and 71% of iPads still are.

Which adds up to one sad fact: You should know how to publish on the Apple Newsstand.

Because don’t get me wrong, Apple Newsstand is still the best deal for publishers.

Having said all that, I’d like to offer some ideas on how to publish on the Apple Newsstand, to make this task at least a bit easier, especially for those digital publishers who don’t have the resources to publish in all the platforms at once.

DMMS

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Tips for publishing on the Apple Newsstand

Apple has helpfully created a vast array of documents to cover all the technical aspects of publishing to the newsstand. You can find it here. But most of this isn’t geared toward publishers and other decision-makers. What you need to know is entirely different.

How to publish on the Apple Newsstand, Tip 1: Choose your digital magazine publishing software wisely

Don’t think you must publish with Adobe’s industry-leading Digital Publishing Suite. Startup costs can be prohibitive and slow your entry into tablet magazine publishing. There are a number of good, affordable options  out there for smaller publishers with one to three titles, including our partner, Mag+.

How to publish on the Apple Newsstand, Tip 2: Accept the fact that the 70/30 revenue share is awesome.

Some publishers wring their hands over what they call Apple’s “remit rate” of “only” 70%. This is mystifying to us, given that not so very long ago in the print era, a remit rate from news agencies of 18-40% was typical. Paying Apple just 30% to live on their wildly popular tablets and leverage one of the most well known brands in the world is a bargain.

How to publish on the Apple Newsstand, Tip 3: Pay special attention to the name of your app

Mag+ advises publishers to use a common search term that you think your audience would use, because the name of your app carries more weight in the search function than keywords you set for the app. But while doing this, keep it short; only about 55 characters will be shown in the iPad in a top/featured list, with less showing in a search result. Those numbers are even less on an iPhone, at ~11 and ~22 respectively.

A title such as Total Film: the film magazine for movie reviews, news & features is just too long.

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How to publish on the Apple Newsstand, Tip 4: Write a short, compelling description

Users will see only the first part of your description without clicking “more.” And as we all know, every time you make a potential customer jump a hurdle, you risk losing him.  Rolling Stone tells readers exactly what they’ll find in the app right up front, then continues on for those who want to learn more.

rolling stone ipad edition

Coastal Living, however, used to believe that the most important thing it could tell you about itself was:

Experience Coastal Living magazine on the iPad or iPhone … plus get 1 month FREE with an annual subscription!

(And I just corrected the random capitalization that the actual description employs … )

However they’ve recently made updates to the description that puts it all out there for subscribers, which may be helpful for those who have never subscribed to a digital magazine before.

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How to publish on the Apple Newsstand, Tip 5: Keep the Apple Newsstand in mind when designing covers

Those tiny little thumbnail images of your print cover are far too small to be compelling. Consider designing a cover specifically for your digital edition that relies heavily on a single image and a short, bold title. Remember, you’re not losing all those wonderful teasers and other copy that you normally put on your cover – because no one can see them in the thumbnail, anyway.

Compare all of these bridal magazines, which are currently side-by-side in the Bridal category page of the newsstand. The brightest ones, like Asian Bride and Hitched, lose nothing in their thumbnail. Meanwhile, the most neutral covers, like the second opaque Modern Luxury Brides cover and the pastel DIY Wedding cover fade into the background.

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And this isn’t as small as these thumbnails get, either. In the “what’s hot” section of your niche category, this is how tiny your cover will look. Which ones stand out to you? Take note of the character limits again on titles and see who gets chopped off in this view.

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Keeping all these things in mind will help you make the best of the Apple Newsstand, no matter what wacky changes the company makes to it. Do you have any other ideas for making it easier? What are your thoughts on the problems that are surfacing?

This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated.

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2 thoughts on “5 Tips for Publishing on Apple Newsstand

  1. Dave Ball says:

    Perhaps the reason that Apple is not putting much effort into the Newsstand is that they are not making much money from it. Perhaps they only are showing the top 28 titles is because they know that is where the vast majority of their revenue comes from. Perhaps consumers are rejecting the concept of digital magazines on a scale that makes it worthwhile for Apple to put any more time or money into it, considering how much they are making on other categories of apps.

    That said, good suggestions for maximizing the likelihood for being found in search. The most challenging is naming the app something other than the name of the magazine. I suspect that will be a hard sell for many publishers (and editors).

  2. Ed Coburn says:

    Thank you Dave. think that’s right. (Of course what constitutes “not making much money” is relative. I suspect plenty of us would be happy to be making what Apple makes off Newstand, but that’s an aside.)

    Your suggestion that “consumers are rejecting the concept of digital magazines” isn’t supported by the data we have seen. Quite the contrary in fact. The lean-back, finite experience of reading a magazine is something that has never appealed to all consumers but that appeal doesn’t seem to be waning for the 20% who do read magazines. The tablet is such a demonstrably better platform for experiencing magazines that we expect virtually all magazines to be tablet rather than print within the next decade or so. Of course, the waters are muddied by the many legacy publishers who have been slow to move or who put out simple replica editions that didn’t function well or did not meet readers’ expectations. That is changing as those publishers get more sophisticated in their efforts.

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