The digital newsstand battle: Apple, Google & Amazon make it harder for new and independent publishers to get noticed in their digital newsstands
Any print publisher who sells single copies knows that their is both an art and a science to getting the attention of readers on physical newsstands. Covers are analysed for their ability to grab the reader and make them buy, while newsstand positioning will either encourage or kill single copy sales.
For many fledgling digital publishers, the lure of digital magazines is that they can avoid newsstand distributors, and the battle against established titles by going digital.
But the reality is not matching the promise, as Apple, Google and Amazon are each working hard to promote established magazine and newspaper brands at the expense of newer titles.
The playing field inside Apple’s Newsstand once was fairly even. Yes, Apple promoted big brands at the top of page of their iTunes or iPhone/iPad Newsstands, but in the “All Newsstand Apps” area, magazines and newspapers the default sort option was by release date.
Publishers of brand new app editions knew that the time immediately after release was the most important time for reader downloads. If they could grab the attention of readers, and Apple, they might then appear in the top apps charts or get promoted in “What’s Hot”, or the “News and Noteworthy” areas.
But Apple now uses “Recent Bestsellers” as the default sorting algorithm and it will certainly effect future publishers.
Today, in the section where new apps were most frequently seen, The New York Times, People Magazine, Health & Fitness and The Daily are at the top of the page – all come from big name publishers.
Only be manually resorting the search results can one find a magazine such as Modern Entrepreneur, a start-up that has launched its digital magazine exclusively through the Apple Newsstand.
Modern Entrepreneur Magazine looks to be using AppifyWP2 as its app creation tool, a solution, as the name suggests, works with WordPress.
Apple isn’t the only one hard on new publishers and easy on the big boys. Both Google Play and Amazon make it nearly impossible for new apps from small and independent publishers to be found inside their digital newsstands.
Google has a section called New Arrivals that does not actually display new digital publications at all. How they sort their “new arrivals” is anybody’s guess. At least Apple gives the reader the option to sort by release date.
One can understand why the tech and retail giants are doing this: making it easier for the big name publishers to sell more copies of People or Cosmo means more sales overall for the newsstand owners. Apple, Google and Amazon have quickly learned something newsstand distributors have known for years, for every copy of Modern Entrepreneur that is sold, many more copies of Time or Vogue will find their ways onto iPads or Kindles.
Sadly, Apple may be inadvertently killing the very publishing revolution they helped spawn with the release of the iPad in 2010.