Prepping for the Plunge Into Multiple Devices
Hearst shares lessons from being on all current devices.
Last month Hearst claimed more than 300,000 paid circ on tablets and e-readers across all its magazine brands (and those it acquired earlier this year from Hachette). Hearst also claims it’s the only magazine publisher to have its titles for sale on every device currently in the market.
Creating digital editions for different devices requires dedicated infrastructure. Hearst announced it would convert all of its magazine websites to HTML5 through the fourth quarter and into 2012, starting with GoodHousekeeping.com. The newly revamped site is now compatible with the majority of all commonly used devices.
"We sell all of our titles through the Zinio and Nook stores and soon on the Kindle Fire as well," says Chris Wilkes, vice president, digital editions and audience development with Hearst Magazines Digital Media. "We sell nearly half our titles in the Apple Newsstand today and will have our complete roster there by February 2012 at the latest and I will welcome Amazon’s sales in November."
Zinio, Nook and Amazon all share a similar unified approach, says Wilkes. " Their storefronts are unified and their reading experience is unified. This makes it somewhat simpler for a publisher like Hearst to work with because we can focus 100 percent on our content," he adds. "It can also be simpler for a consumer. With Apple, there’s a unified storefront but the reading experiences are completely independent by magazine. There’s an additional investment by publishers to create and maintain those experiences and on the positive side, there are certain marketing flexibilities and experience customizations we can execute to make our digital magazines as enjoyable for our consumers as possible."
Developing content for multiple devices "takes place as far upstream as possible," according to Jerry Beilinson, deputy editor of Hearst’s Popular Mechanics. "One of the things we try to do is not look at our content in terms of reusing or reworking but using it in multiple ways," he adds. "With the earthquake in Japan last year, we had 20 articles online and in print we ran a ‘best of the Web.’ With the tablet, we have all those assets to work with. We put links to Web content in the app. Since we program the iPad app ourselves, we have the capability to say ‘we want to do this."
With illustrations, Popular Mechanics often has assignments that encompass print and tablet formats. "We will assign the art as a 3D illustration that can be created as a 3D object in the app that can be looked at from all sides but also use one frame of that for our print illustration," says Beilinson. "It’s important to not come into this process saying, ‘OK, we’ve done print, we’ve done web, now we have to do this other project and repurpose it, we want to look at it at the beginning."
The iPad app, which Hearst codes in-house, is Popular Mechanics‘ most high value app, says Beilinson. "That’s a monthly edition of magazine. We also do one for Android that’s optimized for a seven-inch screen. That doesn’t have all the capabilities of the iPad app but is similarly designed specially for that device."
All Hearst magazines are on Zinio and the Nook, offering "multiple versions depending on the technology you are using," says Beilinson. "In addition to the story-specific enhancements, the iPad app has a news feed–not quite an RSS feed–but a news feed from the website. In addition, we are developing a number of standalone apps. We’ll have a couple out in the next month or two, and a number launching in 2012. One of the benefits of doing a monthly app is being able to develop things that help us to develop standalone apps later on."