January 7, 2014 Last Updated 3:28 pm

B2B: New tablet editions from trade associations choose to go interactive, experiment with access models

The B2B magazine industry still lags far behind consumer when it comes to developing and launching digital editions. The reasons for this are numerous: the issue of qualified readership, reduced production staffing levels, lack of investment in digital from many companies that are owned by PE firms, etc.

ProRoof-TOC-lgBut B2B is a diverse segment, it includes not only those trade publications are produced by independent publishers, but also trade association titles, branded magazines and brochures. As with consumer, some of the first experiments with tablet editions are coming from brands and associations who do not manage their publications strictly by their P&Ls – for them, the marketing aspects of trade publications often trump their costs.

Two new digital editions from associations have been launched into the Apple Newsstand this New Year that show a growing trend towards producing interactive editions rather than simply a replica.

Professional Roofing is the official magazine of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), an Illinois based trade association. Ambika Puniani Bailey is the communications director for the association and the editor of the magazine.

The new app uses the Adobe DPS to create a hybrid edition – that is, a mix of reformatted editorial pages with ad pages that are mostly, though not exclusively, replicas of their print counterparts.

The app and the first issue inside are free of charge to download and access – a choice many B2B publishers have adopted. The reason is that the free access encourages downloads and promotes the brand. The downside for many B2B publishers is that it does little to qualify the readership. But this is something that simply may not be a priority for a trade association as they see their member magazines as a primary communications tool, and a way to promote the association to prospective members and to get their views out to the public.

Teacher-iPad-libraryThe alternative approach would be to close down their digital editions by making members log into their accounts, or to charge non-members for access (or both). This is the approach that The Manitoba Teachers’ Society with their new Newsstand app The Manitoba Teacher Magazine.

The new app opens to the library where members can log in, or non-members can subscribe or buy individual issues. For a B2B magazine, this is a tough choice to make, but one that might make sense for many groups.

For instance, the magazine Civil Engineering, produced by the ASCE, has always been a paid circulation magazine – though free when one becomes a member of the association. The association launched a replica edition stand-alone app in early 2012 through their relationship with Texterity (now GTxcel).

Like many replicas, the CE app delivers a hard to read digital edition that doesn’t really invite members to open it up month in and month out. But to make matters worse, the app does not give non-members an option to buy individual issues, as is the case with the print magazine. (The app also currently opens to a promotion for the annual conference which took place three months ago in Charlotte.)

The new app from The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, on the other hand, looks quite attractive with its native layouts. But its paid issue policy will certainly be an obstacle to many non-members accessing the issues – and maybe that is OK and deliberate.

  • Dominic Deeson 4 years ago

    The case for B2B and association magazines to go the tablet/app route is much more complex than for consumer titles which are purely concerned with ‘numbers’. As someone whose opinion is that app based publications are not going to last that long and within a few years will be obsolete, a trade or association publisher is not going to make the substantial investment required because they won’t get a sufficient return.