October 4, 2013 Last Updated 11:25 am

Trade publishing and the Newsstand: ever more titles enter the tablet publishing platform

Over 400 magazine titles are now under the Professional & Trade category, but this does not represent all the B2B titles in the Apple App Store or the Newsstand 

One of the features that came with the release of iOS 5 in October of 2011 (when the iPhone 4S was released) was the Apple Newsstand app. Initially thought by most magazine publishers to solve the big issue of discoverability, most have found that the problem was harder to solve than just with a new folder.

But the launch of the Newsstand did, at first, drive downloads. The New York Times, for instance, recorded 189,000 new user downloads the week of the Newsstand launch, seven times the number of the week before.

AppleNewstand-apps-lg“The Newsstand is exposing our magazines in a more meaningful way than before when we were contained within the lifestyle and news categories of the App Store,” Chris Wilkes, vice president of the Hearst App Lab, told Audience Development magazine back in 2011. “We are pleased with the response so far as we are experiencing significant lifts in app downloads and in app purchases of single copies and subscriptions. Combined with the growing device footprint, it means an acceleration of the pace of adoption of digital editions. The increase in visibility for our magazines is the best feature.”

Over time Apple has added a few new categories to the Newsstand including one for Professional & Trade. One might think that this is where you will find B2B publishers placing their tablet editions, but like with everything that exists with digital publishing – and apps, in particular – the situation is far more complicated than that.

First, there is the issue of paid versus free. Far, far more Newsstand apps are free than paid as the idea behind the way the Newsstand is that the reader can download the publisher’s app for free, then have access to both single issues and subscriptions at any time. By being in the Newsstand, and getting a reader to download your app, the publisher knows that they are within easy reach of the reader. (This is why discoverability is so important, you first must be found by the reader, then downloaded – otherwise, you aren’t even in the game.)

But that doesn’t prevent some publishers from launching their Newsstand apps as paid, charging the reader for the app and maybe the very first issue, then allowing the reader to buy single editions and subscriptions from within the app. But paid apps are still extremely rare in the Newsstand. There are, in fact, only nine of them in the Professional & Trade category. And if you think this is unique to the category used by most B2B publishers, then you will be proved wrong as there are only 19 under News, the biggest category of the Newsstand.

As of this morning, however, there are 465 free apps to be found in the Professional & Trade category of the Newsstand (iPad store only). When you sort the list by release date the oldest app that comes up is the Exact Editions app for Publishers Weekly. That app was launched before the Newsstand was created, then on October 11, 2011 moved into the Newsstand by the developer.

To give you some perspective, the ABM said earlier this year that there are “6,044 business magazines currently published in the United States.” The Newsstand, though, represents magazines (and newspapers) published around the world, so 465 is a pretty small percentage of participation from B2B publishers.

But, as I said, things are more complicated than that. A publisher can choose to release an app for their magazine and not place it in the Professional & Trade category. The Newsstand also has categories like News and Business, as well as more specialized categories that might attract the trade publisher to use if their industry is in that category.

On top of that, a developer can also choose a category outside the Newsstand for their app. Incisive Media’s Insurance Risk Magazine, for instance, is under Professional & Trade inside the Newsstand, and News outside the Newsstand.

InsuranceRisk-ipad-lgThe good news then, is that publishers who place their apps inside the Newsstand can attract readers who are searching the Newsstand, but also readers searching for apps within the general news category. Their app will stand out because rather than the normal square icon with rounded corners, their app icon will the cover of their latest issue.

But not all magazine apps are Newsstand app. In fact, when the Newsstand app was originally launched, many publishers decided that it would be wise to stay out. They saw the fact that their apps would say visible on a readers iPad or iPhone as preferable to it being inside a folder. There are also those magazine apps that are single issue apps – apps that contain a single special issue, for instance.

So coming up with a good number for the grand total of all B2B magazines that are creating tablet editions is difficult (and let’s not even get started on what exists in the Android platform or within Amazon.com).

But even though the category is growing there is clearly more titles being published. So why aren’t there more B2B magazines represented inside the Newsstand? One reason is the shrinking production capabilities of trade publishers. More and more titles share their art director with another title, some even have outsourced all of production. Then there is the issue of qualified versus paid circulation. Apple has yet to come up with a qualification system for trade publishers, though several publishers, especially in Europe, have come up with work arounds.

But the production issue may be the single biggest contributor to the smaller number of titles when compared to consumer magazines. B2B tablet editions are overwhelmingly replica editions, many coming from vendors that splash their own names on the apps.

Food Manufacturing Journal, published by the Swiss trade publisher Ringier Trade Media, has just this week launched a brand new tablet edition (a replica) which appears under the Magzter developer account. That apps sits right next to another app for Food Manufacturing Journal that appears under the PixelMags developer account. Because no two apps can share the exact same app name, the new apps is officially called Food Manufacturing Journal – Middle East & Africa Magazine, while the older app is called Food Manufacturing Journal – Middle East & Africa.

If all this seems a bit messy, and more than a bit confusing, imagine the situation if over 6,000 US trade magazines existed inside the Newsstand? It is why publishers and their trade associations need to push Apple to improve the organization and search capabilities of the Newsstand and the App Store, in general.

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