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Must-Have Reader Features

From search widgets to embedded videos, readers want more from digital editions.



By Chandra Johnson-Greene
08/27/2009

As digital magazine technology continues to evolve, so does reader expectation. Features that might not have been considered essential to subscribers a year or two ago are considered a “must-have” now, and publishers should be prepared to comply. Overall, “must-have” features in digital editions can range from the very simple, such as smooth navigation, to the more complex, such as embedded videos and podcasts. Does your digital magazine’s user interface have some of these desired features?

Navigation

Although navigation is considered a very basic feature, most publishers and vendors agree that it’s one of the most important. “Good navigation sounds really basic, but it’s really hard to achieve especially with the devices that we have today,” said Wendy Zingher, SVP, software engineering, Texterity.

When it comes to digital magazines, readers want large pages, but at the same time, they don’t want to wait for them to load. So until digital magazine vendors can find the technology will improve navigation, publishers will have to ensure that their digital editions offer these other features to compensate.

Search

There are a few choices for digital magazine publishers when it comes to offering search functions, but most will agree that some form of search is essential.

Greg Fine, executive editor, Forum Magazine, chose his vendor because he wanted his title to be fully Google-integrated. “We chose to be open so that people that aren’t subscribed to our magazine are able to find us,” he said. “It was a part of our strategy.”

For publishers that opt for subscription-based digital editions, most user interfaces offer a search bar or widget that allows readers to conduct a word search within an issue or across all issues.


Archives

One of the advantages that digital editions have over print is the publisher’s ability to provide readers with an easily accessible archive. “It’s really nice to be able to go back and find articles you read over a year ago,” Zingher said.


Social Networking Options


The ability for readers to share, email and bookmark content from a digital edition via Facebook, Twitter, Digg and Delicious is a feature that readers have also come to expect, according to Fine. “For us, it wasn’t the primary reason for choosing our vendor, but it’s something that we like and can appreciate,” he said. “The ability to share and spread content is very important to our readers.”

Videos, Podcasts, Rich Media Ads and Hot Links

Providing live links in articles and ads in digital editions is nothing new, but a few publishers are looking to take the concept of “digital” to the next level.

When Edgell Communications decided to replace four of Consumer Goods Technology’s print issues with digital editions, the company wanted to leverage the medium the best way they could. “I really challenged my creative team to create a digital edition that wasn’t flat and would offer readers a presentation that was more digital in its nature,” said Robert Keenan, Edgell’s VP, media integration.

One of the ways that the team achieved that goal was to turn CGI’s Editor’s Note from a text article to a video. The team has also experimented with adding video clips to the middle of stories and as a way of giving readers a re-cap of some of the company’s events. “We say to ourselves, ‘Let’s look at what we’re covering, digitize it and make it better,’” Keenan said. “And whether it’s with video, podcasts, Webinars or Flash, it’s all centered around bringing life to the content.”

 

By Chandra Johnson-Greene
08/27/2009







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