September 19, 2014 Last Updated 12:35 pm

First look: new Apple Newsstand apps from B2B publishers (and, in one case, a self-publisher)

U.S. B2B publishing executives need to seriously rethink their approach to the Newsstand as far too many recently released apps are substandard compared to their consumer magazine counterparts

The B2B magazine business was my home from the time I launched my first title when at McGraw-Hill in San Francisco in the early ’90s. B2B is still near and dear to my heart, and what has happened to the industry is heartbreaking.

But 4 plus years into the tablet publishing era it is time to rethink what U.S. publishers are doing with their digital editions – if they are doing anything at all.

TechOPS-iPadDuring my time in B2B, after web publishing developed, I used to be called on vendors monthly attempting to sell me on Flash flip books. The sales pitch was always the same, it came down to “cheap and easy.” After talking about all the benefits of flip books – they will drive new ad sales, new readers will find them – the final pitch was always that they were easy to produce, simply send us your PDF.

I doubt the sales pitches have changed much judging from the digital editions being launched now by B2B media companies. More and more B2B titles are being launched into the Apple Newsstand from publishers outside the U.S., but of those from U.S. publishers almost all are replica editions, many appearing under the name of the vendor used to produce the replica.

One exception is a new digital-only title called Technology In OPS Takes Technology Into the Operational Environment for First Responders and Security – a title only a B2B magazine publisher could love (hey, I once published Industrial Paint & Powder, not exactly up there with GQ, but we had loyal readers, and the book was profitable when I published it).

The digital-only magazine was launched by Darrell O’Donnell, a gentleman from Ottawa. The app uses the MagCast platform to create its digital magazines. The platform has evolved a bit over the years. Previously the digital magazines were almost exactly like PDF replicas except that they were designed for the iPad and so the fonts were better suited for tablet reading.

Now the platform allows for a little more creativity such as building pages to be scrolled, and so a creative designer is likely to be able to make something that approaches the look of a TypeEngine or 29th Street Publishing product.

HotelDesign-iPadCompared to the digital editions produced from some of the big, legacy B2B publishing companies, the new app from Mr. O’Donnell is light years ahead. One Newsstand app from Questex, the company that this announced that it had been bought by a private equity company, opened to a warning that the app was out-of-date and that the reader needed to “click” on a link to reach another app. The link takes the reader to the exact same app in side the App Store.

Other apps from a B2B publisher that recently changed names were better – in that they worked – but are simple replicas that neither charges for the magazines, or asked any information that might qualify the readership. No matter, the company has dropped all of its BPA audits, laid off most of their sales reps, and made their editors and art directors independent contractors. No surprise that it recently shuttered half their titles.

But right around the time you are ready to give up on the whole Professional & Trade category you find something interesting.

MTM-scrollMedical Tourism Magazine is published by the Medical Tourism Association.

“The Medical Tourism Magazine, known as the “voice” of the medical tourism industry, provides MTA members and key industry experts with the opportunity to share important developments, initiatives, themes, topics and trends that make the medical tourism industry the booming market it is today,” the magazine’s website explains.

“In both its print edition and online edition, Medical Tourism Magazine is the only magazine dedicated to bringing those involved or interested in the industry the most cutting edge information.”

Just last weekend its first Apple Newsstand was released for the magazine, a native digital edition that uses the Mag+ platform to produce a far superior digital edition to that of others being released.

The app works in both portrait and landscape, though it is really designed for portrait. The first issue inside pretty much does away with a cover and starts right in with the first article.

As I have written many times in the past, B2B publishers are in a bit of a bind. While the big magazines such as the advertising trade magazines generally charge readers to subscribe, and can therefore use the same model as consumer titles, many B2B magazines are free of charge to qualified readers. The problem with digital editions is it is generally assumed that one can not prohibit a reader from accessing an issue if it is free to others.

But I contacted the Apple App Store team and their response leaves me to believe that either they have no idea what they would approve, or want to be open to allowing publishers to experiment in this area. If a publishers still is auditing their qualified circulation magazines they might want to test Apple on this issue and work with their digital publishing vendors on coming up with something.

The worst that Apple can do is reject the app, right?

Comments are closed.