October 6, 2014 Last Updated 2:35 pm

CEO of Mag+ on new growth opportunities and how publishers can use digital publishing for more than monthly magazines

A interview with Gregg Hano, former Group Publisher of Bonnier’s Technology Group, now CEO of a leading digital publishing platform

The digital publishing platform company Mag+, like many other platforms, is looking to expand its business beyond simply serving magazine publishers. Recently the company has made it clear that its publishing solutions can assist brands and corporate communications departments with their digital publishing efforts.

But the company is also going to great pains to point out that they are not about to ignore their current or potential publishing partners. Because of this, an interview with CEO Gregg Hano was arranged with TNM to discuss their new corporate communications efforts, their commitment to digital magazine publishers, as well as to discuss how publishers can be more success with their digital publishing efforts.

GreggatDesk-600Hano should be no stranger to TNM readers. Hano, before being named CEO of Mag+, was the Group Publisher of Bonnier’s Technology Group, which includes Popular Science and Popular Photography. From 2001 to 2006 Hano was the publisher of Popular Science when it was owned by Time Inc. before its sale, along with 17 other titles to Bonnier in 2007.

In 2009, Bonnier’s R&D, members of the Technology Group, along with the London design firm BERG, began working on the concepts that would eventually become the digital publishing platform Mag+. (For more information on the origins of Mag+, including interviews with Hano and former Popular Science executive editor Mike Haney, see our Talking Digital.)

Because of their early work, Popular Science was able to launch a native tablet edition at the time of the release of the original iPad in April 2010. In 2011, Bonnier spin-off Mag+ as a separate company, and in April 2012, Gregg Hano was announced as the new CEO. A year later the company could claim that more than 1,500 apps from more than 700 clients were available that used the digital publishing platform.

TNM:

Discuss your latest moves into corporate communications and how this might effect your company’s commitment to digital publishers.

Gregg Hano:
We believe strongly in publishing, in magazine publishing, in newspaper publishing, in tablets and smartphones. We haven’t walked away, in anyway, from our traditional base.

We still have great brands on the platform – from New York magazine to Shape over at American Media, to Outside magazine – publishing on a regular basis. We think the work they’re doing is great.

Shape-iPadI do believe, as far as content owners/publishers are concerned, how they get their content out, how they connect with consumers, what sort of frequency they are communicating, what kind of data they are sussing out from there customers so that they can deliver back to them more specific content in areas that the consumer is interested in, is really important. But they know their business models and what they want to spend on better than I do.

What we’ve chosen to do is continue to support our core publishing customers, but really work into other categories. Which is a pretty natural evolution, when you think about it.

The folks at a university, the guy in charge of alumni relations, is sending out a magazine to his alumni and couldn’t he or she build a great app? We have 30 different universities using the platform. Associations are doing the same thing, you know, sending out a magazine. But they can use Mag+, or other platforms, to communicate with your customers in even better ways. And I think corporations can do that, both with internal apps, human resource manuals for example, or external apps for customers, or internal apps for sales enablement.

We just need to grow our business quickly than the magazine world will allow us to grow.

TNM:

If corporations might use a digital publishing platform to produce digital versions of its communications and customer publications, couldn’t magazine publishers also do this – using a digital publishing platform to develop custom publishing projects for their advertising customers?

Hano:

I believe there’s a huge opportunity in that area. Corporations have so much content already in the can, so to speak. They know who they are marketing to – have images, text and local which depending on what country they’re in, culturally relevant images.

But what magazine publishers, curators of content, know how to do so well is make it beautiful, have it read right. And while corporations certainly have communications departments, there is nothing like having a professional editor, art director, and marketing team build a beautiful piece of content and distribute it.

I think there’s so many ways for publishers to get more deeply connected to their potential customers, your clients, and help them communicate internally and externally using tablets and smart phones.

We sort of trade on the fact that Mike Haney was the executive editor of a large magazine and I was the publisher of several large magazines, and how can we take that experience and help (publishers) use it. Some of our customers have taken us up on that opportunity. I should also say Matt Cokeley, who is our creative director, also came out of the Technology Group with me – he is a great creative guy, he has got amazing ideas, and he is a super user of InDesign and Mag+, of course.

The growth that we see an app development in the corporate space is phenomenal. We believe in the next 3 to 5 years that it is going to absolutely mushroom. The question is how will corporations do it on their own? Will they look to agencies who have a real opportunity to steal some of that business? Will they look to vendors who are willing to partner and participate like ourselves? Or will they look to their publishing partners who they have worked with for years and who know how to curate that content and make it interesting for an audience?

TNM:

As a former publisher, and now head of a digital publishing platform company, what do you think magazine publishers could do better to be more success with their digital editions and apps?

Hano:

I don’t think that there is enough mining of the information that brands can get from their customers.

What I mean by that, if a brand sends a magazine out every 30 days and they think that is going to satisfy their consumer base, I happen to think that they are mistaken.

I read recently that the average individual with a smart phone picks it up 150 times a day. If you are picking up that device that often, a bit of content coming into me every 30 days doesn’t feel right for the device that I am consuming it on. Now that doesn’t mean we do away with digital monthly issues.

If you take a (Magazine) brand, and you say “Hi consumer, how are you today? Are you interested in automotive technology, home technology, space, aviation…?”

“Yes, I love home technology, I’m interested in aviation, and I’m interested in automotive technology.”

Great. Now the publisher, the content owner, has some great data. And they can begin to ask them “would you like to see information from our brand on automotive technology?”

“Yes, I’d love to see that.”

Then you can begin to send out SIPs (special interest publications) that are maybe eight pages long, that talk about what is going on right now in Nevada with Elon Musk (founder of Tesla) building the new electric battery power plant, or talk about what’s on with Volvo and it’s new ownership by the company in China.

There is so much information that they can begin to drill down and begin to share with their consumers on a weekly basis, or on a more regular basis, that is pushed to their devices, so that when they pick it up, one of those 150 times a day, they see that little bit of content come through. And they begin to engage with the brand more regularly.

So, that’s one thing that I think is extremely important.

The other thing is I don’t believe they (publishers) are taking advantage of the wealth of content that they already have in their past content.

I’ve use this analogy once or twice before. You know I love Saveur (the Bonnier world food magazine) and Saveur has so much content around, let’s say, Italy.

So they could be asking me “are you interested in Italy? Are you interested in the foods of Italy? Are you interested in the ones of Italy? Are you interested in the wines of Tuscany? Are you interested in the reds of Tuscany? Are you interested in this vineyard or this region of Tuscany?”

Because if I’m interested I’m going to say “yes, I’m interested, please send me more.”

So, I think there are opportunities for brand owners to deliver content in formats that are optimized for whatever the device is, that come out on a regular basis, that supplement that monthly issue, and engage consumers often.

They will be willing to pay more, I believe, down the road. Now, maybe I can push my subscription price from $14.99 to $19.99 by adding all these extras.

Part Two: Reaching younger readers with digital editions,
and a discussion of the new screen sizes recently introduced by Apple. ➔

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