“Inevitable” is the way Anil Malhotra, senior VP of marketing at Bango Inc., views mobile delivery of publications. So far, publishers use mobile delivery primarily for promotional purposes and to keep up with new technology. Posting the current issue of the magazine on a mobile portal and allowing free access is a way for users to sample the content. “Most people won’t read a whole magazine on a mobile device,” says Cimarron Buser, VP marketing and product planning at Texterity, Inc. “If they’re interested, they’ll subscribe to the print or digital edition.” Texterity has been offering mobile delivery to its mostly b-to-b clients since last fall—but solely on the iPhone and iPod Touch, the rationale being that the screens are big, with a nice display, and they can handle the complexity of a magazine.

Zinio has been testing mobile delivery of magazine content on iPhone and iPod Touch for its mostly consumer clients since mid-February. According to Zinio’s testing, consumers would like mobile delivery bundled with either a digital subscription or a single-issue purchase, or they would pay for mobile delivery on a stand-alone basis. “We haven’t heard that they won’t pay for it,” says CEO Rich Maggiotto, “so there’s money to be made.”

Compatibility and Costs

Delivering mobile magazine content—primarily text and graphics—is not particularly complex, but publishers must determine the devices and screen sizes that their readers prefer. Bango’s platform—which ranges from $200 to $300 for localized services and up to $1,500 for complex services with global reach—is set up to handle the differences among devices, “so the publisher can concentrate on the editorial content,” says Malhotra.

Print as Added Value

“Mobile delivery is category-specific, which is why we’re very interested in it,” says Tom Hartle, CEO of Hartle Media, which publishes Spin. “It’s certainly big in the music world.” At a concert recently, Hartle was able to take advantage of Spin’s access to the bands and, using technology supplied by Kyte (a mobile app developer), capture live images and sound from private parties and interviews and then stream that content directly to people’s cellphones.

“I can reach tens of thousands of people in a weekend for an investment of several hundred dollars,” says Hartle. New subscription sales haven’t been impacted by mobile but Spin is experiencing a greater return on renewals and higher Internet orders.

Hartle sees advertising revenue as a possibility. Actually, he envisions a scenario where print magazines become the added value. “That’s not to devalue print,” he explains, “but you’re dead if your revenue is based on just selling print magazines. You must sell your brand.”

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