June 4, 2014 Last Updated 7:44 am

Wednesday column: the things magazine publishers can learn from game developers (and porn)

Each Wednesday, Talking New Media invites digital publishing leaders to discuss industry topics, or explain and demonstrate the latest solutions involving digital media. This week’s columnist is from Paul Nowak, CEO of PressPad.

Mobile is here to stay. All the data on the matter shows that online publishing, and mobile especially, is growing. We may debate how soon paper will vanish from the store shelves and whether it will at all, but one thing remains indisputable: in a few years’ time magazines will be published in electronic versions in the first place.

Having that at the back of your mind, it’s worth tearing yourself away from looking at your beautiful covers and rising sales charts for a moment and draw analogies to other markets, that operate online and are mobile much longer than newspapers.

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Digital Dragons, Kraków

In the city I live in (Cracow, Poland), one of the biggest game conferences in Europe takes place – Digital Dragons. Last week, strolling through the aisles of the expo, listening to talks and game makers pitching their ideas, I couldn’t resist a feeling that I’ve already heard that language. In our office, in a way we talk and think about the revenues from our magazines.

Were there also porn movies at Digital Dragons? Of course not. But a few years ago my friend by chance started working as a back-end developer in a company distributing porn content all around the world. Whether we liked it or not, from time to time we would come back to the debate on the topic and to this day I’m shocked how much you can learn from XXX makers.

Examples!

The things that newspaper and magazine publishers can learn from smartphone and tablet game publishers:

• Try before you buy – a very strong trend in video games and (luckily) also quite popular in mobile publishing. First, we present a demo to encourage users to buy the full version. Thanks to great payment integrity solutions offered by Apple and Google, newspaper publishers have great tools up their sleeves for converting testers into buyers .

The last time we looked through the data from thousands of issues published every month in our magazines, we noticed a clear correlation between having a demo (sample) and the monthly sales. Almost all of the best selling magazines have samples!

• The price of the issue – while analyzing the data on demo versions we have also reached another conclusion: cheaper magazines probably sell better. Some of our applications are downloaded tens of thousands of times but have lower sales numbers because their content is expensive. And the fact that the same magazine in a paper version costs the same or a little more is not an explanation.

For mobile users buying at a touch of a thumb works like buying an expansion pack for a video game – the price has to be low enough not to activate the “should I really spend $8 on that” mechanism. However hard to swallow it may be, the data doesn’t lie – lower prices bring about higher sales and… an increase in conversion rate (from opening an application to buying). Having a 2.5% conversion rate at a $0.99 price is better than 0.2% at $6.

Attracting mobile users to an application alone is quite a challenge. So why scare them away with the price?

• The third thing that’s definitely worth noticing is the referral system, that is the inbuilt mechanisms of the game that cause one client to introduce two more to the game. In games it is achieved for example by rewarding a gamer for inviting two of their Facebook friends. Why not try the same thing while offering a magazine? We’re constantly searching for new ways of increasing the sales of our magazines and referral is an extremely interesting solution. As soon as we have the results of a conclusive test, we won’t forget to share them.

What else can publishers learn from seemingly so distant a branch as porn? Well! Porn is one of the larger categories, where mobile has not yet conquered the minds of all it’s users.

The two following things are worth our attention:

• The porn industry has mastered conversion so much that it borders on absurd. During any tests, one of the most important factors that influences the results is the right sample. And there’s no shortage of porn users so the XXX websites can conduct lots of tests, even many at the same time.

In mobile publishing the numbers aren’t that great yet, but the at all times we should be aware that every element of the sales funnel should be optimized. In PressPad, we are in this comfortable position that publishing thousands of issues a month we have the volume that allows for conducting research. The good ideas we have based on its results are introduced for all our clients – it’s a win-win situation.

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Paul Nowak

• The other thing that mobile, especially App Store and Play Store, and porn are increasingly similar at is the microscopic surface the publishers have for advertising their content. While browsing the stores, users are lured by hundreds or even thousands of applications other than yours. I know it doesn’t sound like a particularly encouraging piece of advice, but I recommend sacrificing a few moments to analyze how porn sites are advertised and how the particular… hmm… search results are presented.

The point I want to make is that sales and advertising methods of non-mobile content should not be transferred onto mobile. That simply doesn’t work. But there’s also no problem with finding similar industries and benefiting from the experiences of the more experienced colleagues.

Paul Nowak, founder and CEO of the PressPad, a digital publishing and marketing platform for magazine publishers.

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