August 14, 2014 Last Updated 1:50 pm

Publishers face some tough choices when deciding to move from one digital publishing platform to another

As Bonnier’s Saveur moves to Adobe DPS, the publisher launches a stand-alone archive app for older issues produced using the previous digital publishing platform

The world food magazine Saveur has always been one of the digital editions I have been most disappointed with – the reason is that I have, in the past, been a print subscriber and buyer of single issues (the closing of my local Borders ended that buying habit).

Saveur-cover-new'But the Newsstand app released has been a replica edition that I found, to be honest, unreadable. Maybe I just hate pinch-to-zoom. But I think the real reason is that the print edition is so attractive and well-designed. In other words, if something is designed properly for print, the chances that it will work well on tablets is pretty small: graphics are reduced in size, fonts are tiny, 2-page spreads are now on separate tab pages, and pages are sometimes mis-sized, with black bars on top and bottom.

Why Bonnier, or Saveur’s editors chose to produce a replica was always a mystery to me, especially since the digital publishing platform they had in-house, Mag+, produces such nice interactive editions.

Reader reviews of the old app have always been mixed at best – but most complaints were less about the fact that it was a replica (though there were a few of those) than about Bonnier’s policy of forcing readers to buy the digital edition even if they were print subscribers.

Nonetheless, the circulation numbers for the digital edition have been pretty good. In the latest AAM report, Saveur is reporting 40,119 digital circulation (a combination not only of its Apple Newsstand circulation, but also other digital newsstands), solid growth versus the 16K is reported a year ago.

So now that Bonnier is moving its U.S. magazine titles over to the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, it is not altogether surprising that the publisher would decide to keep the digital edition a replica. The challenge the publisher faced, though, was what to do with its app? Launch a completely new app, or update the old one and figure out what to do with the archives?

Saveur-archives-lgSSaveur chose to update its app. Last month the app, simply called Saveur, was updated to version 5.0.2, the update stating that what was new was a new storefront look, an updated library and help page, along with bug fixes.

Well, that was a bit dishonest, because once users updated their apps they discovered that now all their old issues were missing. To access the old issues the reader needs to download a new app called Saveur Magazine Archive. Actually, the new app is really the old app with a new name and icon (which is why it says it is version 4.2 – prior to the new app being launched, the old one was version 4.1).

This solution for older issues, launching an archive app, is the same solution used by a few other consumer titles such as Esquire. When Hearst changed platforms in late 2012 it launched a separate app called “Esquire Archives: Oct 2010 – Oct 2012” to house two years worth of digital editions. That app is no longer in the App Store, most likely because the publisher did not want to update the app any longer. (The new app’s store only lists issues back to November 2012, the first issue of the new app.)

Saveur’s app for its archive issues is seen in the App Store as a stand-alone app, but the place it is most needed is right inside the new app where it is very visibly promoted to readers.

Readers definitely don’t like change, especially when they are inconvenienced, and all but one of the reader reviews for the updated app are negative, each complaining of the two app strategy. (The one positive review is highly suspect, in my opinion.)

Saveur-iPad-spreadBut what is the publisher to do? The two app strategy is probably the way to go in most cases. But when producing a replica edition, with little to no enhancements like a few embedded videos or hot links, is it necessary? Couldn’t a year of back issues been converted prior to the update?

The answer is generally “no” as the biggest reason to produce a replica is ease and convenience of production. The result is that Saveur readers are given a choice: download the archive app and redownload old issues, or forget about the old issues and move on.

When the next batch of publisher’s statements come out it will be interesting to see if the two app strategy has any impact on the magazine’s numbers. It might, but it might also be minor if Apple Newsstand sales are only a small portion of the magazine’s total digital editions sold.

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