July 14, 2014 Last Updated 1:57 pm

The apps from the publishing industry organizations: are they leading or lagging behind?

New app from the California Newspaper Publishers Association uses ReadyEdition from Sacramento-based Apptology to build its Apple Newsstand app

The California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) recently launched their first Apple Newsstand app for their association publication. The occasion seemed like a good time to see what other publisher associations were doing in the way of apps.

CNPA-iPad-frontIt has been a bit of a recurring theme for TNM to complain about the digital publishing efforts of many of the trade journals that cover the newspaper and magazine industries. With the exception of the B2Bs covering advertising (AdAge and AdWeek) most of the other trade journals have lagged far behind their readers when it comes to digital – either releasing replica editions, or else avoiding the App Store altogether.

I’ve been rather torn about this fact, shouldn’t associations and trade journals lead, rather than follow their industries? Well, that idea only goes so far. I was once the publisher of a construction magazine (actually, several of them) and one wouldn’t expect my magazine to lead in the development of paving technology, right? But publishing seems different, at least to me. That is why TNM launched an iPhone app back in 2010, it felt like the right thing to do, after all, we writing about apps all the time. Last year TNM published a digital magazine app, which few TNM readers bothered to buy, so the concept has holes in it, apparently.

The National Newspaper Association (NAA) was certainly late to launching its own app. The app, called simply National Newspaper Association, would have been OK if launched back in 2010 as it is one of those DIY built apps that is driven by RSS feeds and the like. At the time the DIY solution used was called ‘Mobile by Conduit’ but that company has since changed its name to Como. I think there are probably far more attractive apps using the platform than the NAA app – or at least I hope so.

NAA-iPad-splashThe new app from the CNPA, an organization I was once involved with back in the Neolithic era, is called CNPA and appears under the name of the vendor who put it out, Apptology. Their solution, called ReadyEdition, produces a PDF-based replica edition. The app delivers standard replica edition fare, but is at leases more modern looking and is function, delivering the association’s publication free of charge to readers.

Searching through the App Store one is struck by how few of the trade associations with ties to publishing can be found there with apps. (A search for AAP comes up with numerous apps and eBooks for the American Academy of Pediatrics, but none for the book publishing organization.)

Is this important? I think so. One of the purposes of both trade journals and associations is to represent the interests of their members and it is hard to do so without a good understanding of problems they face. Without first hand experience dealing with app stores and digital newsstands, it is hard to understand the issues digital publishers face. This is one reason I learned Photoshop and Quark, so I could understand what my desktop publishing staff was dealing with when producing our trade journal at McGraw-Hill in San Francisco. I suppose I am weird that way, thinking a publisher or journalist should understand their trade.

Just as importantly, the app stores are now where the new digital-only publishers are launching their new publications. To appeal to this audience, to attract them and convince them to be members, one must be able to communicate directly to them. To broaden and improve communications is one of the reasons associations took to the web, and why using the new digital platforms of mobile and tablets to communicate will become more important as time goes by.

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