December 13, 2013 Last Updated 9:01 am

Branded magazines: experience with native tablet design gives some publishers big edge

One of those things that keeps many magazine publishers up at night is the rise of branded content – not just native advertising, but those new publications created by brands that can be paid for from a brand’s marketing budget and, hence, not be ruled by their P&Ls. Content marketing is nothing new because custom publishing is nothing new. But digital has changed things dramatically for many publishers.

A decade or two ago, the well-balanced magazine publisher would produce their monthly magazine, sell lists, produce newsletters, maybe do an event or two, and would dabble in custom publishing. Often the custom publishing project would be a supplement or insert. Occasionally, the inventive publishing might even produce their advertiser’s custom magazine.

The publisher was at an advantage because they had the production staff, the relationships with the printer and postal service. For some publishers, the rise of new digital platforms has changed little.

Bonnier’s Popular Photography team, for instance, has recently launched a branded magazine for Sony Camera called Imaging Edge. Bonnier, the publisher that created the Mag+ digital publishing platform, was among the first to launch their own tablet editions shortly after the launch of the original iPad in 2010. Because of this, the publisher was in a good position to suggest launching a tablet magazine to its advertiser.

gallic-ruotolo-tnm-sm“Sony has been coming up with incredible technological advances within the photo industry, and they wanted to get the message out there,” said Anthony Ruotolo, Associate Publisher, Sales. “So at various meetings that Mike and I had with Sony over the past year we came up with this. We can take content, the messaging you (Sony) would like to put out there and get it to an audience of photo enthusiasts. People who are hardcore, people who are not getting up during a commercial if you are advertising on TV, these are people who are looking for this content.”

“They were producing their own custom publication and that was originally created for their retailers,” said Mike Gallic, Associate Publisher, Marketing. “It had about 1,800 circulation. Very thick stock, beautiful. But they were not happy with a) the distribution or b) the content. So who better to produce a custom publication for them than the publishers of Popular Photography and American Photo.”

(Read the entire interview with Anthony Ruotolo and Mike Gallic in the digital magazine Tablet Publishing – Winter 2013.)

For the Popular Photography team, the goal was to improve on, and replace, an advertiser’s existing print customer magazine. For the team at CustomMade Media Australia, who were already producing a print magazine for its customer Camera House, the goal was to transform the magazine for tablets. Their magazine, Better Pictures (original TNM post here) could have been converted from print via PDF. But again, like the Bonnier team, their experience with digital editions allowed them to create a more interactive publication, one that would allow for direct sales of merchandise.

BetterPictures-cover-lgCustomMade Media may not have their own platform to call on, but they had already been producing digital editions using the Oomph platform and so the result was more attractive to their client.

The point, of course, is that both publishers were in a great position to launch these new digital editions. More importantly, they had the skill sets already in place.

This was point TNM tried to make back in 2010 – that it was vitally important for print publishers to begin to experiment with the new digital publishing platforms. Unfortunately, many publishers viewed, and may still view, digital as something outside their company’s required set of capabilities. Many have outsourced their digital edition production to third party vendors, assuming that their customer will not see this as an issue.

This attitude often is a reflection of the way some media companies have dealt with the web. For a lot of companies, it is still the case that a redesign of their websites means bringing in the outside consultants and web design firms – they have never incorporating web publishing into their core set of skills and capabilities.

Companies like Bonnier and CustomMade Media may look like the Cadillacs (BMW?) of digital publishing to some small publishing firms, but they are not doing anything that other firms could not replicate. They are simply serving the publishing needs of their existing customers and making sure that when their customers ask them about anything to do with publishing – print or digital – they can provide them with an answer.

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