June 18, 2014 Last Updated 7:24 am

Wednesday column: What iOS 8 means for content publishers

Each Wednesday, TNM invites digital publishing leaders to discuss industry topics, or explain and demonstrate the latest solutions involving digital media. This week’s column is from Mike Haney, the Chief Creative Officer at Mag+.

After the uproar about changes to Newsstand in iOS7—including the terribly redesigned icon—many thought iOS8, announced earlier this month at Apple’s annual developer’s conference and available this fall, would bring some redemption: more visibility, new features. Instead, Newsstand looks to be untouched by iOS8. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing new for publishers.

Here are five changes coming in iOS8 that could be really great for publishers:

  • Better iTunes discoverability: Ask any publisher (or perhaps even app maker) their biggest complaint about iOS apps? Discoverability in iTunes. I often liken it to trying to use the web before Google—it’s a big mess. Although iOS8 falls short of the total UX overhaul many were hoping for, Apple threw us a few bones. Toucharcade has a nice overview of all the changes, but here are the highlights:
    • App Video Trailers in iTunes page. While we don’t know all the limitations yet, having the ability to put a promotional video for your app directly on your iTunes will at least give you another tool for selling your app to users. Look for a whole new art form around app trailers to emerge.
    • Scrolling Results. iOS7 forced you to swipe horizontally through your search results. iOS8 brings vertical scrolling, which means you can see more than one result at a time. This should greatly help those that are not the number one result.
    • Related Searches. When you search, you’ll see other terms related to what you searched. This should relieve the burden on getting your keywords absolutely perfect.
    • Editor’s Choice Badges. If you’ve ever been blessed enough to be anointed an Editor’s Choice in iTunes, your app will not get a badge for life, so the honor should continue to boost your downloads even after you come off the front page.

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  • App Bundles: It’s a consumer marketer’s dream: The ability to package up to 10 apps into one purchase at a discounted price with a single click. Imagine AMI packaging Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness together, for instance. Even better, if a user buys one app in a bundle, they’ll get a “Complete My Bundle” option to purchase the others at the discounted price.
  • App Extensions: In the past, iOS apps have largely existed as standalone elements—the best you could do was open one from another with a URL schema. Extensions now let apps use functions from other apps. For instance, let’s say Company X creates a better video player for its app than Apple’s default player. Users who have your app installed can now choose to use Company X’s video player to play videos inside any app. For publishers, this means simply that you’ll get better tools, from video players to content renderers to who knows what to support your content apps.
  • Notification Center: Part of that new extensibility is that app makers can now create widgets for Notification Center (that view on your lock screen). Widgets can have functions and live data instead of just being static view-only. That means ESPN magazine could also offer a notification center function that provided live scoring; Cooking Light could offer a recipe timer. Here’s a much deeper look at extensions.
  • Continuity: Finally, Continuity basically lets you pick up tasks on your phone or tablet that you started on your computer or vice versa. For content app publishers, the most obvious use is picking up where you left off reading an issue, something you can do in iBooks and Kindle today. While theoretically possible before, Continuity will make it much easier for app developers to support this, which will make content apps more valuable to users.

Mike Haney is Chief Creative Officer at Mag+

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