As the April 4 launch of Moving Media+ draws nearer, Bonnier Publishing is perfecting the tablet experience for industry personnel and audiences through comprehensive research that will maximize readership – and reader enjoyment – of digital tablet magazines.
Moving Media+ is an independent software company that was created as a spin off of Mag+ to give both large magazine publishers and smaller creative agencies the ability to publish digital content with Mag+. It was originally available to only Bonnier, but will now be licensed to those interested in Mag+ through Moving Media+.
Earlier this month Bonnier and advertising agency CP+B Group, revealed a study of 15 focus groups in three different American cities that produced results the companies were sure to mull over as the industry-wide launch of the Mag+ software, through Moving Media+, becomes available.
There were eight principle findings of the study, offering insight into the mind of the modern information consumer.
One result that stuck out among the rest was "A New Decision Hierarchy." According to the study this new structure, "points toward a new competitive set for digital magazines. Publishers must consider that they are now not only competing for consumer attention with other media, but with the full ecosystem of apps and native tablet functionalities."
It is no longer just rival publications that will lure away readers – when individuals log on to their tablet they have the opportunity to view your publication or listen to music, play a game or watch a movie, which begs the question of how publishers will address this issue.
Vice president of group publishing for Bonnier, Gregg Hano, said the number-one way to have people tap on your app as their iPad glows awake is by being discoverable.
"Getting people to [an app] is going to require some marketing. There’s going to have to be some traditional marketing to new consumers, only it’s not going to be done in direct mail in the way we’ve been doing in print. It’s going to be done on things like our Web site, popsci.com, and other sites where people that are interested in this content might be," Hano said.
Hano added that the group would look to promotions of the application in tablet retail environments like those for Android or Apple.
"I think we have to use some of our tried and true methods of consumer marketing to bring people into the brand. We’ve got to get them to sample the brand and engage completely with it and subscribe to the brand to become part of the community," he said. "I think right now it’s all about smart testing, it’s about understanding where our consumers are and giving them the opportunity to discover the content and test it and try it."
When looking toward the industry wide launch of Mag+, U.S. Director Mike Haney recognizes the importance of drawing individuals in to the tablet, and keeping them there.
"Part of it is creating a really simple and intuitive navigation, so making sure that users don’t have to learn a whole new set of buttons in order to just consume the content," Haney said. "One thing we think is really important, and really one of the great advantages of publishing content on these tablet devices, is the ability to create that sort of beautiful immersive experience that people are accustomed to in print, it’s one of the things we know people sort of love about print magazines – it’s a lean back immersive experience."
The research findings also show that at times readers cannot decipher between advertisements and editorial content, most specifically when they are viewing reviews.
"In a tablet environment, each page stands alone and there’s less context to help the reader orient herself. This presents an important design challenge for publishers: there should be clear visual distinctions between ads and edit, and both need to add value to the user experience," the study said.
Hano said the group was happy to learn of the confusion some users experience and that the overall strategy when producing a tablet magazine will address that.
"We intend to work hard to make sure that it’s clear which content is our ad or edit, but we think it’s absolutely tremendous that people are equally interested in looking at both," he said. Hano said that another study Bonnier has reviewed found that individuals that pick up special interest magazines read them not only for the editorial content but to view the advertisements as well.
"If you think about it there’s nothing better than somebody who’s curious when they pick up your brand," he said. "They’re open minded, they’re interested in learning about new ideas [and] when they read the ads the same way they read the editorial, with that interest in learning something new, it makes for a great prospect and a perfect way to sell the new product."
Though Haney did not speak to the study directly he did echo some of the comments made by Hano.
"It’s very early days in this space, on the tablet, and publishing in this space. I think everyone is continuing to learn how users are interacting with this and what are the best ways to do this, but we’ve tried to create a system in which it really takes advantage of the way people tend to read digitally so text goes in a free flowing column, up and down, and pages that go left to right," Haney said of design options.
The study also revealed 32.9 percent of tablet users also purchase magazines at real world newsstands.
While the number of those tablet readers who also read paper publications may appear low, Bonnier is viewing the statistic in a positive light.
"Paper is really the very first mobile reading device, [like] magazines. We think that it makes total sense that people want both the print and the digital magazines: you’re not going to necessarily bring it to the gym and have it fall off the machine or be sweating all over it. Certainly people are going to use it at home and on the aircraft but it’s just another way for advertisers to engage with readers," Hano said.