Keeping it simple: an interview with Michal Klima, the publisher of Dotyk, the Czech Republic’s sole tablet-only magazine
Dotyk is built using a locally developed publishing platform, Triobo, which supports both iOS and Android – and the publisher says Android has now overtaken iOS
The publisher of the Czech Republic’s sole tablet-only magazine believes the best approach for today’s digital publishers is to keep it simple, but still add in the interactivity and multimedia that sets tablet magazines apart from their print counterparts.
Michal Klima, an industry veteran who moved into publishing after the fall of communism in 1990, says the biggest challenge for Dotyk magazine, which he started with journalist Eva Hanakova, is educating potential readers of the benefits of reading on tablets.
“My background is in printed media,” he explains. “I was involved publishing the Czech Republic’s first independent daily newspaper Lidove noviny, which started during the revolution. After 6-7 years of being CEO of that, I changed publishing houses and became managing director of the Economia publishing house for ten years. Two years ago I decided to start an independent venture – Tablet Media – with Eva.”
“The idea was to start a magazine that was not part of a big publishing house and, with developments in technology. we decided to publish just on tablets. We’re not focussed on being the first with news. As a tablet publisher, we can’t compete with the web. However, we want to focus more on providing background and context. It’s all about publishing high quality, independent journalism.”
Topics in depth
Klima believes that in moving to digital many publishers tend to drift away from long form articles, in favour of shorter, punchier pieces.
“That’s not our philosophy,” he says. “We are giving readers long form articles that look at topics in depth, but in an attractive, interactive way. We’re changing the form but are not giving up on quality content. That’s what quality journalism is all about. The reaction of readers up to now has been positive.”
Why tablet only? “Three reasons. First it is much cheaper to start than print. Second we think it’s the future anyway, so why start publishing in a media that is declining and that you’ll have to stop anyway? Third, we think tablets provide a technology that can present information in a very similar way as print magazines. The experience is very close to that of a printed magazine but at the same time you can offer a lot more in terms of interactivity.”
One of the liberating aspects of publishing on tablet only, argues Klima, is that the content is created for the platform, rather than being recycled from print.
“The magazine is very different from a PDF replica because we’re building the magazine for tablets, not for any other media. We can afford to build it from the ground up and set up articles in a way which is more native to the tablet than if you’re making a copy of the printed version.”
The business model for Dotyk is, in Klima’s words, “to get as big a readership as possible and then appeal to advertisers”. The response from advertisers is, he says, a work in progress. “We’ve got only positive responses from potential advertisers. Advertisers like the magazine and think it’s interesting. Agencies have also responded well. On the other hand, the advertising market is very competitive and it’s very much constructed to serve existing forms, so it will take some time before the magazine begins to make money.”In terms of how the magazine is created, Klima says the workflow is not unlike a traditional print magazine.
“We keep it simple,” he says. “We have a small, five person editorial team and we have our production team who work on Macs to create the layout. We think effective digital magazines need to have very different layouts to websites.”
“We’ve a totally opposite approach to publications like Newsweek, who base everything they do on a web layout and where every article has the same layout. We adopt more creative layouts and then combine that with multimedia functionality, although multimedia is time consuming to create. Most readers like the interactivity and are amazed by it, although there are still some who prefer a more static layout.”
Dotyk is built using a locally developed publishing platform, Triobo, which supports both iOS and Android. “We create one layout which is then delivered to each platform. For us, one of the important things is the content we develop for tablets can also be viewed on smartphones. We don’t create special editions of the magazine for smartphones – it’s the same version which is rendered for the different screen sizes.”
Most of Dotyk’s readers use a tablet and it’s promoted primarily as a tablet magazine. “You can read the magazine on an smartphone but it’s uncomfortable,” says Klima. “The screen is too small for the info-graphics. We do have some readers who read Dotyk just on smartphones, however.”
“Generally we’re focussed on layout and you can’t do that on the smartphone very well at the moment,” he adds. “Pages tends to look like the mobile version of a website so, for example, you have one column and there is not much you can do with that from a design point of view. We hope the number of tablets will grow and will want to focus on that screen size.”
When it comes to platforms, Android has now overtaken iOS. “Until the end of the year the majority of our readers were iOS readers. Since the beginning of the year we have slightly more readers on Android than iOS. The mix changed over Christmas, when many people bought Android tablets as presents. We’ve also launched on the Kindle Fire but that represents very small numbers because it is not officially available in the Czech Republic.”
What are the biggest challenges for Dotyk? “Challenges are unique to every market,” answers Klima. “In our market readers see the change of media ownership in the Czech Republic and are changing their attitude to the media because of that. The Czech Republic doesn’t have the stability of having well established, stable publishing companies that you might have in the UK, Germany or US. We launched our new title into this market. The biggest challenge is teach potential readers that tablets are the future and a better way of consuming magazines.”
In launching Dotyk, the attitude of readers towards back issues has been one of the biggest surprises. “We starting thinking in the structure of weekly print publishing, so once the new issue is out the old issue disappears. In tablet publishing it’s different. Readers go to the app and have the complete archive. People don’t necessarily go just to the last issue, there’ll also read back issues. In fact the usage of back issues is increasing, which is interesting. It’s good, but at the same time it means our total readership is split over many issues, when, from a business perspective, we want everyone to read the latest issue. It is perhaps the biggest difference from print.”
Finally, any advice for new digital magazine publishers? “Don’t give up on quality. I’ve been in the publishing business for 25 years and I would say that publishers are losing their self-confidence. Be strong, stay focussed and believe in your professional instincts. Draw on all your professional experience.”
Paul Blake is the editor and publisher of App Publisher magazine, a tablet-only magazine available in the Apple Newsstand. This interview, along with a companion interview with the editor of Dotyk, Eva Hanakova, can be found in the latest issue.