At MPA Swipe 2.0, App Model Begins to Grow Up
Mag experience on tablets beginning to look a little more lean-forward.
New York—MPA held its Swipe 2.0 conference here today, offering a variety of peeks into new tablet content models, showing how far some publishers have come from the early days of digital replicas. Whether waiting for the platform to mature before jumping in, or having been there since the beginning, publishers are progressing their tablet editions from digital facsimiles to formats that explore ways to tie multiple platforms together all while behaving as a self-perpetuating marketing vehicle.
MPA president and CEO Mary Berner once again took the opportunity in her opening address to defend and promote magazine media: "There’s never been a better time to be in the business of magazine media," she said. "And if you ignore the pundits and the potshots you’ll see why this statement is true."
Berner touted the magazine platform as one on a growth trajectory, especially taking into account the various media a brand is represented by. "It is no longer accurate or even appropriate to talk about ourselves as a magazine. It does not begin to measure our reach," she said.
From there, publishers took the stage to highlight elements of their mobile efforts that in aggregate begin to paint a picture of a tablet content model that has clearly progressed from its early form only several years ago.
The Atlantic president M. Scott Havens noted the benefits of a multiplatform brand approach, with revenues up 76 percent since 2009 and audience up more than 300 percent.
Jennifer Larue, vice president of product development at Martha Stewart, related the "economy of action" that’s become a rallying point for MSLO content. Brands, she said, are not necessarily the filter anymore for consumers—who are not necessarily arriving to a brand at the top of the funnel. They’re coming through the "side doors" of social, search and mobile. Nevertheless, her customers are looking for actionable content, no matter what form it takes.
Meredith Corp. executive vice president and chief digital officer Liz Schimel highlighted the company’s focus on data, which, she said, is king. Content is queen. "To be able to maintain that queen position for our content, we need that data to fuel our insights and business model."
Subsequent presentations began to focus on tablet apps and from Forbes to August Home Publishing and New York magazine, new initiatives are trending toward making apps a little bit more of a daily, lean-forward experience while building in new content options and marketing features to grow the platform even more.
August Home Publishing president and founder Don Peschke showcased the company’s latest app, which features a new "demizine" model (which stands for digital edition, multimedia, interactive magazine). Customers can purchase condensed, 15-20-page versions of the print magazine that are entirely interactive and offered every two weeks, rather than on the bimonthly schedule the print edition is on.
The apps also feature much more prevalent sharing capabilities, which recruit the reader as one of the strongest consumer marketing elements. Social and email sharing mechanisms allow the reader to clip and share content with friends. The content is coded to retain its interactivity post-share.
Forbes senior vice president of consumer marketing and business development Nina La France showed how the magazine’s app has gradually added more robust capabilities to link it to web content. While the app may not be able to efficiently display the full breadth of content available in a particular feature, its pages are packed with interactive links back to the site for more information. The latest app issue had 1,600 links to additional web-based content in its 210 pages.
Similarly, New York‘s new app has capitalized on the brand’s audience preferences for more daily content, causing the app to creep toward a more web-like, lean-forward experience.
Customer research showed 65 percent want daily content, which has been built into the app’s framework. As it’s launched, the top half of the opening page features daily content while the bottom half teases the weekly issue cover, which operates on a vertical slider allowing the reader to slide it up to full-page mode. The daily content, said Michael Silberman, New York’s general manager of digital media, lets more web content surface into the app experience.
Hearst Magazines executive vice president and general manager John Loughlin called for greater standardization and transparency in the production and measurement of app editions, noting the company now produces 120 separate editions a month to support issues across the various storefronts and devices. "That results in an inconsistent experience," he said.
Storefronts need to improve the timeliness and quality of their customer and sales data, he added. And publishers need to look outside of the storefronts to build more robust marketing strategies. "The storefronts have been successful for us, but to achieve more scale we need to bring to bear the marketing skills that support our print editions."
So far, said Loughlin, early data shows renewal rates at 10-15 points higher than traditionally sources subs.
And, not for the first time today, Loughlin noted the awkward transition between the free shell app, which Apple requires, to a paid app offer. "While Apple is our largest source of subscriptions, we do lose customers to that."
To mitigate the issue, Hearst is now offering a free preview function that’s laced with subscription offers.