Instant Magazine: Making good on a digital publishing promise

Keeping promises caused a bit of a nightmare for Daan Reijnders back in 2012. He was working in the Netherlands and had promised a large bank that he could create a member-client magazine that could operate across digital platforms by the following April.

Daan Reijnders ()

Above: Daan Reijnders

With the arrival of the iPad a couple of years earlier already being a big game-changer in the world of digital publishing, he was also confronted with the staggering growth of mobile as a means of consuming content. After knocking on the doors of all the usual service providers he came to the realisation that the only viable solution was to step up to the plate himself. With the assistance of Galama, who he dubs ‘the technical mastermind behind the innovation’, they delivered the tool with their own software one month ahead of deadline. It was not only the birth of an innovative digital publishing platform but also the start of their new business.

Reijnders explains that 80 per cent of the success of Instant Magazine as a digital publishing tool is that it is not only ideal for digital magazine publishing but also works well for newsletters, annual reports, white papers, brochures, staff magazines, catalogues and e-books. “It works for all kinds of digital content that is too specific for a website and needs to latch onto the values of digital storytelling.”

While the tool can work for many various products, it remains anchored in the basics of magazine publishing: being highly visual with linear navigation. This is completely different from websites where the user can decide how they want to navigate. “By allowing users to swipe through content in a linear structure you can still retain elements of surprise as opposed to a website where you navigate to areas where you can predict what your will find as a result of your navigational choices.”

Reijnders references a motor manufacturer website as a case in point. Should you choose to click on vehicle models, you know you will come to specifications and prices. A digital magazine can surprise you with unexpected organic content.

The success of the tool has led to rapid growth. At first only five people were involved in the development phase. But they soon realised they needed more people, not only to continue developing the software but also to market, sell the product and supply support services. Their body of staff grew to ten and then to more than 20 and consequently yielded more clients. “We went from one client back in March 2013 to 535 two years later.  

The success of the tool did not come without teething problems. “It always seems simple when you develop something that is so responsive. In real life it is difficult and intense,” says Reijnders. “Not only do you have to make sure that it looks good and works well on all the different devices but also that it looks good and responds well to various platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.”

Despite working manic hours to develop the tool, they soon also realised that their development was unlikely to ever reach a final destination. “The more clients you serve, the more requests you get. Even though we have a very broad applicable tool for many kind of cases, there are specific publishers with specific demands.” 

Reijnders references the way digital publishing has developed from flippable PDF’s to responsive content fit for various devices to what is now personalised digital magazines. Instant Magazine can, for example, now publish a runner’s magazine that – in responding to a specific email address or login – is a personalised publication targeted at a single user with emphasis on that user’s race times, specific participation, personal ‘finish’ photos and relevant content.

In the same way they are developing magazines for motor manufacturers and component suppliers that would publish content related to the model and components specific to the car purchased by the receiver of the magazine. They also plan to publish personalised magazines based on information received from other platforms, such as LinkedIn where a magazine is produced specifically targeted at a reader’s industry, interests and historical online behaviour. 

They are also continuing to develop ways to make it easier for clients to use these tools because speed of use and simplicity of execution becomes more and more important as the market grows. With so much going on in the digital publishing space, it is unlikely that they will ever get to a point where they can sit back, relax and say their development work is now over. But that’s the challenge and excitement of working in this space.

Instant Magazine is a member of FIPP.

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