Six factors shaping the future of digital editions

1. The rise of the Mobile Content Hub 

It’s fair to say that most digital editions of magazines are pretty much replicas of the print edition – little more than PDFs of the physical magazine using software like Adobe DPS (Digital Publishing suite). This may explain why sales of some digital editions have been a little disappointing (this and the fact they often haven’t been marketed to the general public very well). One trend we predict is the digital edition becoming more like a regularly updated content hub with a steady stream of articles pushed out to subscribers on a daily basis rather than a monthly periodical. “I think the biggest trend is the transition from a package that is a print analogous product to something that is a continuous stream of content from the publisher to the reader,” says Nick Bogaty, senior director, head of Digital Publishing at Adobe which recently launched its follow up to DPS called Adobe Publish.

2. Growth of mobile/phablet market

Related to the increasing importance of dynamic content, as outlined above, is the shift towards how we now choose to consume published content. When Apple launched the iPad in 2010, it’s fair to say that most publishers and designers in particular were focused on reproducing their beautiful magazine content for the innovative tablet. However, with the emergence of larger screened smartphones and also phablets (phone/tablet hybrids) with a 5inch screen or larger, much more content is now being read via mobile than tablet. According to Juniper Research 50m of these hybrid ‘phablets’ devices will ship in 2018, compared to 9.5m in 2013. 

3. Increased importance of HTML5

Rather than PDF editions which can’t be read very easily on different sized mobile devices without manually rescaling, there is an increasing trend towards incorporating HTML5 technology within digital editions. This offers responsive design for different devices – ie will resize the content for the size of screen – as well as increased interactive functionality, such as video (see below). For example MagLoft Magazines ( has developed drag and drop HTML5 magazine editors that creates responsive content that can be read on all devices. Says MagLoft Magazines CEO and Founder Nick Martin: “Generally I believe HTML is the future of digital magazines but PDF still plays a big part for now.” Adds Magzter’s Vijay Radhakrishnan: “There are now publishers who use HTML5 for between 30 and 40 per cent of their content.” 

4. Growth of video

One area that is expected to see growth within the next few years is video consumption. As with the web where video now accounts for over 50 per cent of internet traffic, the amount of digital video being consumed within digital magazines is also growing quickly. For example the Association of Magazine Media in the US recently revealed in its Magazine Media Audience Report that video consumption for magazines increased 58% from August 2014 to January 2015 compared to the prior-year period. But although readers respond to video within a digital magazine, it can add to the digital download time which might put some people off. 

5. Long form content 

At the same time as seeing a growth in video content, it’s likely we will see more publishers experimenting with longer form written content too. Although there’s a widely held belief that people don’t tend to read longer content online, the truth is some of the most successful digital editions like The Economist have been those with longer articles. At the same time, websites like have garnered a strong and loyal audience from publishing long form articles online. Says Zinio’s General Manager, Global Markets Raul Suarez: “People still want to read,” he says. “There was this thought that with more enhanced content such as audio and video the less people would need written content, but it is almost the contrary. He continues: “There is space for interactivity but it will never substitute reading.” For many publishers of digital editions, high quality, long form content is one way of differentiating themselves from freely available news content and may offer the opportunity to charge a small premium. 

6. Targeted advertising

Obviously with a magazine the glossy adverts you see are the same for all readers. However, with digital editions there is an opportunity for advertisers and publishers to do much, much more. This could be in terms of building in interactivity such as video and links to suitable commercial content, but equally it could be more bespoke, personalised advertising. Already many digital editions, like The Week, have separate ads from the printed edition and we expect to see more innovative personalised ads as well as e-commerce opportunities over the coming years with increased ties between the content being and the retailers, especially in certain sectors such as fashion. 

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