Digital Magazine Publishing

The Power of 3 in Selling Magazines

When we are in the process of business planning for a client, one big question we need to answer is what platforms they will publish their magazine on, going forward. Often they are selling magazines that are printed and wondering if an app or web edition is the logical next step.

Why only sell print editions of your magazine at one price, when you can be selling magazines as a bundle at a higher profit margin?

When we are in the process of business planning for a client, one big question we need to answer is what platforms they will publish their magazine on, going forward. Often they are selling magazines that are printed and wondering if an app or web edition is the logical next step.

The first step in selling magazines in the editions that people want is to find out if your audience responds more to a print edition, an app edition, or a web edition. If you don’t have anyone to compare yourself to, or some inside data from a competitor, you may simply need to survey your readers. Many publishers find that their audience is diverse in how they prefer to consume content. That’s why, for most publishers we work with, it makes sense to have a print edition, an app edition, and a web edition. Because when users enjoy multiple platforms, they’re more likely to respond to subscription offers that include access to all three. And that means more revenue for you.

But there are very good reasons for publishing each edition.


Why produce a print edition?

Many subscribers prefer the physicality of print. It’s a tactile experience, and they like a glossy cover, a thick paper, and the smell of ink while they flip through. They enjoy seeing the magazine on their coffee table, or on a bookshelf. In a digital world where so much is consumed online, people still collect physical art, and for many subscribers, the printed magazines received in the mail are like art pieces they like to display. That’s why it’s also so important, when you have a printed product, to invest in the cover art, and to design something that people can emotionally connect to. That’s something that won’t go away, because tablets and web editions can’t connect in the same way.

Why produce a web edition?

These days, the web is limitless when it comes to access. When someone subscribes to a web edition, they are gaining access to an archive of knowledge at their fingertips, and it’s easily researched using modern technology like a search box. Web editions are built in HTML and can be viewed on any desktop or mobile device with an ease of readability that subscribers are used to online. A web edition can be read from front to back like a magazine, or it can be flipped and swiped, shared, tagged and indexed. And now that internet connectivity is so prevalent, you can be grocery shopping and look up a recipe in a cooking magazine that you saw in an issue from a few months ago. You can’t do that with a print edition, and it’s simply not as user friendly with a tablet edition. When selling a web edition, complete with a library of archived issues displayed in HTML and searchable, all you need to convince the buyer of, is that they will use it enough to make it worth the convenience.

Why produce an app edition? 

Producing an app edition puts you in worldwide marketplaces for free, like Apple, Google, and Amazon app stores and newsstands. Additionally, an app doesn’t require the internet to view an issue, although I doubt you’ll find many people bringing their tablet to the grocery store to look up that recipe they only just remembered. Mobile phones can suffice in a bind though.

However, an app edition, when done correctly, offers the publisher a chance to create a massively usable story page. When you have a tablet as your platform to build on, you know the screen size, and you have the capability to use photos, videos, scrolling text and more. You can build an app magazine that is as aesthetically pleasing as print, but richer and deeper because of all the media elements you can play with.

Unfortunately, while consumers have built habits with consuming content in print and on the web, it hasn’t caught on as strongly with app editions. Any number of publishers have told me that they find it irritating that the least-used edition is the app, because it’s arguably the best product of the three. In terms of telling a story, an app-based story can be, when properly executed, the best experience. But what you’ll find in life, is that the best experience is often valued by the smallest group of consumers.

You could argue that the worst experience is the web edition because it’s not as good looking as its print and app counterparts, but web editions are accessed the most. When it comes to consuming informational content, the experience isn’t always the driving factor, convenience is.

What do consumers want?

Unfortunately, most consumers are used to poor replica editions of the magazines they love. That’s because there aren’t enough publishers putting out good app editions that use the capability of the tablet interface, which has caused interest in app editions to wane.

And AAM isn’t on our side here. They want all editions to be the same, they want all three to walk, talk, and act like print. But why limit all three to the lowest common denominator of the group? If you take a platform with the least capability, like print, and replicate it digitally, that’s where you end up with the poorest product of all. A digital replica; a PDF upload of your magazine that is not tactical or interactive, is hard to read, and not collectible. But yet 95% of the industry is busy churning them out. What most publishers don’t know is that this may the first impression someone gets of your product.

It’s for this reason that we tell our clients if you can’t afford a native reflow edition of your magazine, with all the bells and whistles and scrollable text, don’t produce an app edition.

But if you’re investing in your magazine and want to reach the most audience, we recommend producing all three. First, you may want to survey your readers to find out what they’d prefer, but if you find the results are fairly even, as they often are, all three will please everyone and also give you a great opportunity to sell a higher priced bundled package at higher profit margins.

If you’re interested in learning how to develop profitable digital magazines, please schedule a time with me to talk. There are no strings attached, of course, and we think you’ll enjoy envisioning the possibilities for your business during our conversation.

By Don Nicholas

Founder & Executive Publisher

Don Nicholas serves as Executive Publisher for Food Gardening Network and GreenPrints. He is responsible for all creative, technical, and financial aspects of these multiplatform brands. As senior member of the editorial team, he provides structural guidance, sets standards, and coordinates activities with the technology and business teams. Don is an active gardener whose favorite crops include tomatoes, basil, blueberries, and corn. He and his wife Gail live and work in southern Massachusetts surrounded by forests, family farms, cranberry bogs, and nearby beaches. Don is also the Founder of Mequoda Systems, LLC, which operates and supports numerous online communities including I Like Crochet, I Like Knitting, and We Like Sewing.

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