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Zinio president: Publishers need to think beyond apps

Despite a slow start relative to other types of media like books and music, Kelly Conlin, president of Zinio, believes that there will be a lot of growth in the magazine industry over the coming years.

After years of working with more than 1,000 publishers from around the world, Conlin has boiled down the effective digitisation of magazines down to nine different concepts:

1. Mobile optimised experience

Here, Conlin emphasised the user experience. He said that 70 per cent of the market is looking to consume content on mobile, so magazines have to be relevant on that device.

Conlin said that of the top 2,000 publications online, 90 per cent of them are not optimised for mobile, therefore the products “are not being delivered as they need to be for growth.”

He contrasted an ineffective mobile app that asked the consumer to work with two hands in order to navigate its content, and effective one that allowed the user to move through the app with one hand, putting the brunt of the work onto the technology.

2. Increased discoverability

Conlin said that magazine apps gained an advantage in the iOS App Store when the Apple Newsstand was scrapped. The Apple search function has improved dramatically, with APIs being made available making content easier to index.

This is a game changer for magazines, because they have more content than most apps, and it will now be more easily accessed.

3. Cross-platform entitlement

Again, Conlin looked at the consumer first for this point. He brought up the examples of Netflix and Spotify to illustrate an easy-to-use interface across a variety of devices. He conceded that magazines are a little more complicated but stressed to importance of meeting the expectations of easy use across multiple platforms that people have for other media types.

4. Business model variety

Business models are changing faster than the industry itself, said Conlin. Publishers need to think beyond just apps and consider how their content can be enjoyed in a variety of containers. Libraries, airplanes and cruise ships are just a few of the environments that Conlin said would be important to consider going forward.

5. Relevant advertising

Conlin said that it is time to “liberate ads from the page.” He said that publishers need to take advantage of the idea of ads as content and realize that they just as engaging as editorial. He stressed the importance of moving away for static PDFs and towards a more interactive ad experience.

6. Uniform data analysis

The challenge that publishers have with their app appearing only on iOS is that there are several other points where you data should be collected, said Conlin. That creates a lot of work to break down and understand the information.

What’s needed is a uniform platform to digest this information. From there it is much easier to figure out what is trending, where the downloads are and to find any anomalies.

7. Continuous publishing

Conlin said that consumers should have a relational database of content served to them. It’s time to go from “months to moments.”

Cover to cover enjoyment will always be part of the magazine experience, said Conlin. But we need to consider the hundreds of time each day that consumers go to their phone.

Inside the app, you do not want to recreate the once a month experience. The platform needs to continuously push content that people need from within the app. Therefore, a magazine app is not a fixed point in time anymore, it has continuously updated content.

8. A strategy beyond iOS

Following the creation of the iPad, everyone rushed to create apps for that platform, said Conlin. But now, Windows and Android users make up a larger part of the smart phone market so magazines must work to correct the imbalance.

9. Managing platform requirements

Right now, although devices can be different, magazine presentation is often exactly the same. According to Conlin, it is important not to simply clone the IOS app for other devices. Companies want to create a distinct app for each device. Core content should be the same but user interactions on each device should be special. The goal is to publish once and distribute everywhere. 

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