November 8, 2013 Last Updated 1:54 pm

Publishers to app stores and digital newsstands: ‘take more of our money… and also less of it’

The lack of promotional opportunities for new apps leads to discoverability issues, some publishers insist

The major app stores and digital newsstands are becoming increasingly crowded, both with professionally designed, written and edited publications, but also with self-publishing efforts. More and more, publishers are seeking ways to get readers to find and download their magazines, newspapers and eBooks.

“Basically what we found, this really started in the beginning of 2012, a year and a half ago it was becoming very, very clear the only way you could succeed was if Apple promoted you,” Mark Edmiston, the founder of Nomad Editions told TNM earlier this year.

“With Apple, they will not let you have any direct contact with their customers. There is no way you can promote yourself to this new space, they won’t let you do it. You can’t buy an ad on the iTunes store,” Edmiston said.

YourAd-Newsstand-lgThis is a common complaint. Even well funded publishing start-ups must look outside the Newsstand for opportunities to spend their marketing dollars – and in the byzantine structure of App Store system, one never really knows how to get the attention of Apple’s attention to get let them know YOUR app is worth promoting. More often than not, the same apps are promoted week after week, month after month.

But at the same time, publishers complain about the fee structure that takes a large chunk of their sales away. The commission Apple, Google and Amazon receive for sales is often compounded by the digital publishing platform chosen with its download, storage or access fees.

Several large publishers have told me that they see the solution as a sort of compromise: Apple takes 20-25 percent of their sales, but Apple at the same time opens up promotional opportunities inside the App Store.

It’s a good idea, in theory. The problem is usually found in the details of such a scheme. Would there be display advertising? keyword search advertising, similar to AdWords? and, of course, what would it cost? would there be real-time bidding? etc.

For smaller publishers and self-publishers who would not advertise, the scheme seems like a winner. Larger publishers would benefit, as well. But could it be done right?

The natural digital newsstand to start this policy would be Google Play since Google is really an advertising company to begin with. But publishers and vendors continue to say that the majority of magazine and newspaper sales still come through the iOS platform.

“What we see is that there is still very much a stickiness to the iOS platform,” Alex Gruntsev, Chief Innovation Officer, NewspaperDirect, told TNM recently.

But most expect the Android platform, and especially Amazon.com, to begin to catch up.

“Amazon is moving the needle now,” zuuka Group’s Graham Farrar said. “Which is not a surprise to me, if there is one Amazon know how to do is run a store.”

The question is whether the introduction of advertising inside the various would open up a Pandora’s Box, making the situation worse, not better. In the end, who holds this view may depend on who you ask, and how much marketing dollars they are prepared to spend.

  • Nick Martin 4 years ago

    I’m certain Apple must be doing it for a very good reason and it would surprise me if they aren’t already designing various ways to get exposure for our magazines.