October 8, 2014 Last Updated 9:00 am

Wednesday guest column: Did Apple abandon their Newsstand?

Why it is extremely important to create our own digital distribution channels, channels that belong to the publishers

Well, I do not know the only right answer for this question but the fact is that Apple has abandoned publishers. Indirectly — because it’s getting harder and harder for developers to play the Apple game­of­thrones. And directly — because App Store is quite not what it supposed to be for digital publishers.

With their acquisition of Prss, Apple gives a quite clear signal that they are looking for another solution that will fit publisher’s needs. Will it be a iPublishers Store, an equivalent of the iBooks Store, the popularity of which is questionable? We will see, so far mobile customers prefer independent apps.

The App Store is not a marketing machine but rather seems to be a wholesaler, or digital Xmart for mobile goods, with limited promotional abilities. It stays in contradiction with publishers’ imagination: “The App store is supposed to be a world wide audience that I am getting access to separately from my site’s own prowess and reach” (William) one of PressPad publishers said. So publishers who perceive App Store as their digital distribution channel may fall frustrated. In fact App Store is only the store or the shelve with apps.

Since we have tightened our revenue with our publishers’ we know it quite well — if they make money, we at PressPad do, too. This way we feel motivated to educate our publishers to build their own, independent digital distribution channels.

The sale starts out there

Thanks to this move, we work closer with publishers everyday teaching them digital/content marketing tactics. It’s very common with manufacturing industry where the OEM manufacturer develop their own suppliers. Toyota and Honda do it and it’s called Supplier Performance Management. In our case, it is kind of similar, but works in opposite direction. We position ourselves as a marketing savvy entity, always ready to help publishers in their marketing efforts, striving to design perfect solution to sell more digital editions, they’ll own. We call it Publisher Performance Management.

Almost a year ago, we created this hypothesis that “The sale starts outside App Store”. Our internal study showed that the Top 10 best performing publishers of ours had fantastic circle of websites and blogs, and they were easily google­able.

We wanted to test this hypothesis and check if publishers websites and blogs play huge role in building efficient distribution channels.


Left: Old widget; Right: New widget

We needed a wider test sample

PressPad apps occupy 3% of the Apple Newsstand and our apps are being installed 50,000 times per month. With growing base of nearly 700k users there were a huge potential to learn from their behavior.

In order to do this, we started pushing our publishers to use customized smart widgets on their websites, that were available to them through PressPad dashboard. The widget is designed this way to always show the latest issue’s cover and two badges linking to App Store and Google Play. For the testing purposes we also left a tiny link called “Powered by PressPad”, but I am going to explain it further in this article.


It’s been 9 month, and since that time hundreds of publishers worldwide have been using our widgets on their websites to generate new installations and sales.

  • Widgets have been displayed nearly 7 M times right on our publishers’ websites.
  • An average user is exploring 1.5 page per visit.
  • Spending over a minute on their website.
  • The average conversion rate into app installation is nearly 20%! That’s huge.


That’s a lot of quality traffic that can be utilized not only to drive installations but also to sell digital editions on the site. What’s more, users who installed magazine app through the widget are more likely to buy digital editions. Do you remember the tiny link that is visible on the widget saying “Powered by PressPad”? No one ever clicked on it! That strengthen our conclusion that people who go to the app via publishers’ websites are extremely focused on reaching their target which is the magazine app itself.

This organic installations come from engaged users that are purely interested in this particular magazine. This place them much deeper in standard AARRR sales funnel which results in better sales.


Web­stores a data driven decision

Thus, we made it to allow users to buy magazines through the widget and web­store, on the websites whenever they want. it is hard to sell bare PDFs on the websites that’s why the app is necessary because in fact this is a real digital commodity of the mobile era. And the value proposition of the magazine is build on the app foundation.

Some say that App Store is over crowded and others blame it’s like a Walmart of digital era. Despite it being true or not, building organic sales through App Store is less and less effective because app stores were not designed to market apps. Huge wholesale with thousands of alleys, shelves and other stuff that is easy to get lost among.

And if platform owners like Apple and Google would change the rules of the game, publishers will be seriously hurt, and so would we. That is why it is extremely important to create own digital distribution channels, channels that belong to the publishers.

With PressPad Web­Stores that allows publishers to sell their digital editions through their own websites we feel it’s a real progress on the journey to create independent, customized distribution channels that work.

Wojciech Szywalski is a Project & Content Marketing Manager at PressPad – a digital publishing and marketing platform for magazine publishers. He is also a co­editor of Digital Publishing Guide magazine. Passionate dad of two and LEGO hacker. You can follow him on Twitter @wojteksz and connect on LinkedIn.

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