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How and Why to Evolve from a Solo Magazine to Multiplatform

In publishing, there’s no room for growth with a solo magazine that stands alone.

One of our favorite stories is that of The American Ceramic Society. The organization turned to the Mequoda Method in 2005 to address the stagnant growth of its two print publications, Ceramics Monthly and Pottery Making Illustrated, whose audience is both ceramics professionals and dedicated amateurs.

The group dove headfirst into the Mequoda Method, though initially skeptical. Here’s a small sample of the statistics they’ve compiled since 2005:

  • From revenues of $2 million to $3.5 million and still growing
  • From 0% Internet visibility to 26%
  • From 20 products to more than 100

And when they launched their tablet editions of Ceramics Monthly and Pottery Making Illustrated, they gained 1,200 subscribers in just four months.

Why? There’s no such thing as publishing a magazine.

Solo magazines are an endangered species.

Consumers are telling us loud and clear what they want—are you listening? How much would you pay for that information? Download a copy of our 2018 Mequoda Magazine Consumer Study for FREE instead, to find out how you can improve your digital magazine rapport with subscribers.

The fact is, if you want to transition your business from the traditional print model to 21st-century publishing – and the profits it promises – you may have to publish up to five different magazine editions of every title in your portfolio, with three of the five being table stakes.

Mequoda has learned from decades of experience that having multiple platform editions is crucial to successful digital publishing. And many traditional print publishers have learned, to their sorrow, that digital publishing is crucial to their very survival in the modern age.

If that sounds alarming, we can assure you it’s completely achievable – more on that below. But first, let’s consider all five of those editions that we’ve identified as the very heart of our Gold Members’ publishing empires.

1. Print Edition

This goes without much explanation – it’s the traditional magazine business model. You can flip the paper pages with your fingers and breathe in that freshly printed ink smell as you read it. Although non-print magazines have grown in popularity, when we ask people why they prefer one platform over the other, those who choose print say it’s because they like holding a magazine in their hands, and many even mention the smell.

More than that, however, print has a purely practical benefit: There are still plenty of brick-and-mortar newsstands out there in the world, including bookstores, grocery stores and specialty stores, and you can’t afford to be absent from them. Besides, what better place is there to get the attention of your traditional print subscribers and brag about your fancy new magazine app?

2, 3 & 4. Digital App / Tablet Edition

This is the magazine edition that you read on your iPad, Kindle or other tablet-like device that was built natively for the device. It can still be held in your hands, but it can’t be paged through in a traditional sense. The “digital” in digital magazine also refers to the type of content offered. For example, ads may link to web pages (a great advantage to advertisers), and articles may include videos.

What’s more, there’s no such thing as a digital magazine app. Depending on your market, we could be recommending you publish across three different tablet platforms:

  • Apple
  • Amazon
  • Google

Apple is, for all practical purposes, responsible for the growth of digital magazine publishing itself since it brought the first tablet to market with the iPad. Now, they’ve phased out Apple Newsstand in favor of Apple News.

As for Amazon and its Kindle, it’s worth remembering that unlike iPad owners, who often buy the device for playing games or surfing the web, most Kindle owners buy their device specifically for reading. What’s more, Amazon customers are unusually loyal. For instance, Amazon Prime members have a 92% renewal rate and spend $1,500 per year.

Finally, while Google may be third on most publishers’ priority lists, Android devices are popular (don’t we all know several people who buy them and shun Apple like the plague?), and Mequoda is a believer in taking opportunities available to get a magazine in front of readers, whatever their electronic prejudices.

Above all, consider this: Apple, Amazon, and Google are three of the most widely-recognized brand names on the planet. Who would ignore any of that exposure for their product?

5. Web Edition

Even if you’ve already considered publishing not one but three tablet editions, you most likely have never given any thought to the most recent and most versatile edition: the web magazine edition. Web editions offer the best of both print and tablet / digital app editions: They’re linear, and can be read front to back, but they’re also connected to the web so that you can include video or advertiser links.

What’s more, it offers instant access to your digitized archive, or library, something that many readers find appealing – and which publishers can use to bundle with other products to make profitable contrast pricing possible.

Finally, the web edition is device neutral, so your subscribers can read it on their PC, laptop, phone or tablet, wherever and whenever they want. It’s responsive, searchable, and the only edition in which you can directly promote specific articles from social media, search engines and email.

But isn’t it prohibitively expensive and just plain hard to publish all of these editions?

As mentioned above, all of this sounds daunting to most traditional publishers. Visions of hiring binges and equipment outlay come immediately to mind, not to mention enormous costs in time and energy.

Newsstand remit rates vary, but Apple’s is 70% (non-negotiable), Amazon is 65% (negotiable), Google is 60% (negotiable) and Zinio is 85% if you sell through your own site, but 35% if you use their marketplace.

Design and publication costs

Of course, there are other costs involved, including design and publication. In terms of design, you may need:

  • A new hire –  If you decide to hire a new designer specifically for your digital issues.
  • Magazine software – If your existing designers are ready and willing (more on that below).
  • A partner – You may choose to outsource everything to a company (like Mequoda) that does it all for you, usually for a per-page rate.

Software costs

One thing most publishers will need, if they intend to publish on the big platforms, is digital magazine publishing software. When perusing digital publishing software rates, you may come across these fees:

  • Initial software fee – the charge to use their software
  • Startup fees – typically from companies who help you set up / design your digital magazine
  • Per download fee – the flat rate or percent you pay per sale
  • Per published magazine – the flat rate or percent you pay every time a new issue comes out
  • Monthly fees – a flat rate you pay monthly to use the software / service
  • Hosting fees – the cost to host your files

The answer is that it’s not prohibitively expensive to publish all of these editions. Printing and shipping print issues is prohibitively expensive and will become increasingly so. Creating one digital edition and delivering it digitally is, at the end of the day, much more profitable. It’s converting print subscribers to digital subscribers that should be your objective.

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