How to Monitor your Digital Publishing Strategy

The iPad, like most publishing digital platforms, offers publishers many metrics that can be managed for business optimization

On Sunday afternoon, I found myself leaning back in my favorite easy chair reading on my iPad. As a publishing consultant, this activity has both a professional and leisure time component for me. I won’t bore you with the leisure time part here, but I will share some business observations that might help you improve your use of the iPad publishing platform including iBooks and Newsstand.

Download rate

Many more people will download your book or magazine app than will buy it. Keeping track of the number of downloads by app is fundamental to tracking the health of your iPad publishing business. There are, of course, many factors that drive the number of monthly downloads for each of your apps. Some, like cover design and email promotion, are in your direct control. Others, like third-party reviews and customer ratings, are factors you can merely influence. Making sense of all the factors starts with tracking them and the number of downloads which result.

Activation rate

With activation rates for magazine apps running as low as five percent, there is much room for improvement. While sources of traffic are a major factor, you’re in-app storefront, preview issue and pricing strategy will all have a major impact on the activation rate (the percentage of downloads who become purchasers). For most magazine apps, the new customer activation rate has two dimensions: single copy purchases and subscription purchases. I suspect we will see a resurgence of the magalog as a preview issue over time. Most current preview issues are just that: a handful of selected articles without any attempt to convince potential buyers how the magazine will improve their life.

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Upsell rate and yield

A few decades ago when I was general manager for Houston Home & Garden Magazine, we included a 16-page catalog of the books we published, which could be ordered by phone, by mail, or in person at our Houston bookstore. It was a significant source of revenue and profit for our business. The current issue of Everyday Food includes a full-page ad for an app called Raising the Bar, which sells for $2.99. I happily purchased this app by clicking on the App Store icon while reading my iPad edition of Everyday Food. Savvy direct marketers will soon be including dozens of pages promoting their books, magazines, videos, and apps in every issue of their digital magazine. Tracking the conversion rate of issues downloaded to products sold could easily result in revenue per issue that rival the cover price. Everyday Food, for example, sells for a mere $11.99 per year. It’s not hard to imagine readers spending another dollar buying related Martha Stewart products.

Everything old is new again

For those of us who have been consumer marketers for a while, all the above should sound very much like draw, sale, and conversion to second purchase. That said, many of us have also suffered with systems that don’t provide the metrics we need to manage our business properly. When you’re choosing an app publishing platform for your magazines and books, make sure it provides the metrics you need to make the most out of the amazing opportunities that digital publishing will present us all.

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