How Millennials Would Like Your Digital Replica Upgraded

If you have a basic digital replica magazine, you’re already old news to millennials

Generation Y, the millennials, were born in a hugely broad span of time for a “generation,” which is between 1977 and 2001.

Depending on the pundits you read, those years may be slightly closer together. What defines a millennial is their access to technology for most of their lives. At Mequoda we consider Digital Natives those who were born with technology present for their whole lives, as men and women who had personal computers for as long as they can remember.

This, again, is a much smaller span of time than the huge 1977 – 2001 generation, but the general princliple of a millennial is that they’re not new to technology, they all have email addresses, know how to use the Internet, and technology has been present for more than half their lives.


Magazines aren’t going extinct

Although the doom and gloom headlines might have spelled the end of magazines five years ago, they’re putting their feet in their mouths now. The expectation was that the generations pre-millennials who were used to reading print, would never adopt digital platforms.

And as it turns out, that’s just not true. In fact, we’ve run tablet and magazine studies, with video interviews for the past three years, with thousands of magazine readers, and in one study, the most avid digital magazine reader was a sixty-something year-old man. Last year’s magazine market study made it abundantly clear that people are reading digital magazines, just as long as it has top notch usability.

For older readers, usability and readability are key to digital magazine editions. We’ve already talked about why digital replicas aren’t ideal for older readers; they desire the ability to scroll their text, enlarge it, and do not want to pinch and zoom.

So digital replica editions are not ideal for the older generations, and they most certainly aren’t for younger generations, but for completely different reasons.

According to eMarketer, 45% of smartphone- and tablet-using 13- to 18-year-olds in the US spend 4 hours or more using the mobile internet each weekday, with 28% logging on for over 5 hours on average. Additionally, eMarketer reports nearly half of 19- to 22-year-olds spent at least 4 hours with the mobile internet every weekday.

If you’ve been to a restaurant lately and have watched kids glare like zombies into their phones for entire meals, even when dining with groups of friends, then this number doesn’t surprise you. In fact, it might only surprise you that this number isn’t higher.

Smart data agency Annalect reported in September 2014, 55% of millennials said the number one thing brands should focus on is creating mobile-friendly websites and apps. Because millennials get apps, and they’re going to get your newsstand magazine app.

But if it’s not customizable, if it doesn’t do what millennials think it should do, they’ll wonder why you bothered making an app at all.

study from IT company Compuware, Mobile Apps: What Consumers Really Need and WantA Global Study of Consumers’ Expectations and Experiences of Mobile Applications, made a critical finding: 84 percent of mobile device users say app store ratings are important in their decisions to download and install a mobile app.

Based on complaints we’ve been tracking throughout the newsstands, below is what we’ve determined that millennials (and maybe everyone) want from your digital magazine, if you’re still working with a basic digital replica.

What millennials want from your digital magazine

First of all, we highly recommend creating a web edition of your magazine that walks, talks and acts like an app, but is actually built in responsively-designed HTML. This will be especially good for you if you are sponsor driven or selling native ads, and here’s why.

But we can’t ignore the 10-20% of digital editions you’ll sell through the digital newsstands. They have a built in audience, and although it’s not a great place to be discovered because their marketplace is so cobbled together, users expect to find you there when they search for you.

If you are building a tablet edition of your magazine, these are the features millennials will expect:

Include video in your digital magazine

Millennials watch the most mobile video out of everybody. They simply expect it. A study by Rhythm NewMedia in 2014, as reported by eMarketer, revealed the following trends:

  • Nearly nine in 10 (89.6%) millennials watched smartphone video, and 76.8% viewed tablet video; those percentages were higher than for any other demographic group in the study.
  • Millennials watched more short-form content, entertainment news and user-generated content on smartphones than average.
  • Around four in five (77%) millennials viewed mobile video ads in exchange for free premium content; that figure was higher than for any other age group.

Does this sound like a group who might expect video in your magazine? After all they’re the same generation who chose YouTube over television in a recent study. In fact, they spend 11.3 hours watching online video per week, and 62% said it’s because it makes them feel good, but also because it feels “more real” than television.

If you already have a YouTube channel, it’s time to begin integrating those videos into your digital magazine app.

Include clickable ads

Millennials are online spending 17.8 hours a day with different types of media (and yes, clicking on ads). Check out this stat from Business Insider:

Five years ago it was still OK to print your URL next to your ad, or a QR even, but if you have a digital magazine on a tablet now, it’s pretty much a requirement that it’s tappable. In other words, if there’s an ad for a perfume, your millennials will expect that they can tap and be led to some kind of landing page for the product. Encourage your advertisers to create these landing pages if they aren’t already.

And besides, what’s more trackable, a printed URL on a page, or an active hyperlink?

Include free content too

The universal complaint in consumers’ app store reviews: The app is free, but there’s nothing there! Creating apps that are nothing but sales vehicles for your subscriptions drives your audience crazy – and these folks will never be back to your app. Worse, they’ll tell their friends, family, Facebook and everyone else who downloads the app all about it.

That’s why including free content – preferably every day, to encourage continual engagement with your brand – is one of Mequoda’s app best practices. Some of the digital revolution leaders such as New York do exactly that: New York features free daily news content in its app, accessible by swiping up a “window shade” that rolls up over the magazine content.

Other publishers such as Bonnier and Bloomberg create separate apps to deliver daily content related to their digital magazines.

New York has their free The Cut on the Runway app, where readers can enjoy up-to-the-minute fashion news photos, and videos.

Consumer Reports delivers free issues. This is the most common style of content-rich apps, and you can choose to offer either a free back issue, or a special issue you’ve put together for this purpose.

The best part is there isn’t a single date in this free issue, not even in the car reviews. The reader has no idea which model year is being reviewed, and that goes for the tablet reviews, the washer and dryer reviews, and everything else in the free issue.

As a marketer, I 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?

Ability to bookmark, copy, paste, and share

Millennials will expect your digital magazine to act like the content on your website. They want to save parts for later and share it on social networks (if it’s also alive on your website.)

Forbes has a particularly fun feature within the app which is the clipping tool. You simply use two fingers to tap on an image or article, and you get a frame that you can move to fit around anything you want to keep or share. Besides the fact that it’s fun and useful, in taking sharing of content to another level, Forbes has increased the likelihood of readers helping their content to go viral, and to promote new subscriptions.

Are you a millennial? What else do you look for in a digital magazine? Magazine publishers are eager and listening!



Leave a Reply