Simplifying (and clarifying) the purchasing process—regardless of newsstand–and finding new ways to effectively market among the crush of new apps being launched is critical for publishers to succeed, according to speakers at MPA’s Digital E-Reading conference today.
In a session called “Choosing the Right App Model for Your Band,” NYMag.com, Macworld, Consumer Reports and The Knot shared lessons from early attempts at creating paid apps.
The typical approach across the industry right now is offering a paid iPad app for the magazine while developing free ancillary apps for that brand across multiple devices.
Primary apps for Macworld include AppGems, which plucks appropriate magazine and Web content that work in a smartphone format. Macwold initially charged $2 for the app, which features content in small forms for phone access, which allowed the freedom needed to experiment with advertising.
Macworld Daily Reader is an iPad app that bridges the gap between Web site and monthly magazine. Editors curate XML feeds for daily updates. “This is more like the magazine, in that it gets away from the ‘firehose approach’ of the Web where we have 30 new stories each day and it uses the same typefaces and a similar layout as print,” said Jason Snell, editorial director of Mac Publishing. “The target is someone who wants more than the monthly magazine but not the firehose of the Web.”
Consumer Reports offers a smartphone app called Mobile Shopper that lets users scan products in-store and see other prices online and from stores in the vicinity. In keeping with CR’s reliance on paid content, they set a high price point of $9.99. However, “We’ve been hearing from users that this isn’t going to work for something that they hold in their hand,” said Jerry Steinbrink, vice president of publishing at Consumers Union. “Dropping to $4.99 has been moderately successful.”
However, the price change requires a specific marketing approach. “If we tell them in the App Store that Mobile Shopper is available for a couple days at half price, we get good response. If we just cut the price, there is no change in sales.”
Steinbrink said that most CR subscribers are in their mid-60s, and want an iPad experience that is similar to the magazine, which offers a free sample for download and an upsell for the regular issue. He added that CR plans to launch data-driven app products for the enthusiast market in the near future.
The Knot has been early to apps, launching its first in 2009. Its approach has centered on very community-oriented apps, allowing brides to talk among themselves. Similar apps such as PregnancyBuzz followed a similar approach, but require more management than typical apps, according to director of mobile and social media marketing Kate Ward. “It can be a difficult launch with the real-time aspect and we had to set up moderation for each app to make sure quality is up to standard,” she added.
Marketing Apps: The Apple Dilemma
Generating buzz around apps can be difficult with the flood of new apps being launched and the limitations Apple puts on publishers.
Snell said that the Macworld Daily Rader originally was pitched as a subscription product but was rejected when Apple changed its subscription policy without informing the publisher. “Now we’re having to back into subscription pricing,” he said.
However, offering an app for free does have some advantages in visibility and introducing people to the product. “Being free can be a good thing because it gets you on the app charts,” Snell said. “You can let 300,000 people try it, and then maybe they’ll buy it.”
Consumer Reports does e-mail blasts and advertises its apps in its publication, while NYMag.com does its own app-specific updates and notifications.
Snell said MacWorld is considering Apple’s push technology notification. When it comes to publishers just getting started with apps, Snell acknowledged his bias but said that the iPhone is a good launching pad. “The iPhone is good for getting your feet wet. You’re talking about one development firm, one screen-to-aspect ratio.”