Replica versus bespoke editions debated at FIPP Digital Newsstand Forum

Paul Hudson, director, FutureFolio, UK, told attendees at FIPP’s Digital Newsstand Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, yesterday (14 May) that the decision on whether to offer readers a digital magazine replica or bespoke edition can differ depending on brand, country and even device.
“Replica is the default position,” said Hudson, “and adding more pages and interactivity can sometimes cause information overload. When you start focussing on ‘glitz’, your magazine can become an entertainment toy, and can sometimes annoy readers to have to work to find content. You certainly shouldn’t be having to tell them how to read the magazine.”
According to Hudson, “readers quite like PDFs. We’ve asked them! If your content is awesome, this is simply another, convenient way for readers to consume. Small tweaks can be made, but broadly, it’s the same thing you had all along – the brand that your readers know and trust.”
Hudson spoke of a third option, which takes elements of both a print replica and enhanced edition – what he calls the ‘faux bespoke’. “Find out what your number one device is in terms of revenue generation, and optimise your magazine for it. Make it look awesome on the device you most care about. Optimise for digital, don’t redesign for it.”
He continued: “Whatever you decide to do, make a choice now and get going. You’ll learn stuff! If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. After three months, you’ll have analytics telling you what your readers like/don’t like. There will be no-more more guess work, and you’ll have actual facts to back up your theories.” 
Hudson said that while 90 per cent of Future’s digital magazines are PDF replicas, it needs to be cheaper to make bespoke editions. In the future, Hudson said that responsive website layout will be very important for publishers, as will automatic local layout (using InDesign script and reformatting pages). “Everyone is working on making page layout more automated,” he added.
In conclusion, Hudson encouraged publishers to limit the risk involved when creating a digital magazine. “When you’re making a decision,” he said, “keep a low risk. As soon as you start doing something, you’ll start learning and will be able to make better decisions.”

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