November 4, 2014 Last Updated 10:12 am

Reference: TNM’s own glossary of digital publishing terms

Terms like “replica” and “interactive” are used frequently to describe a digital magazine or newspaper, but those terms are understood differently by many in the publishing industry

Ever have a conversation with someone who does not own a tablet and explain to them what one can expect from a digital magazine, newspaper or book? It can get a little weird when starting to use terms like replica or native. But it is not that easy when speaking with publishing professionals, either.

Recently, I participated in an industry roundtable (a rare occurrence for me) where the moderator used the term interactive to describe digital magazines built using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. Naturally, I was a jerk. and corrected her, preferring the term native. “Any digital magazine can be interactive,” I said, “even a replica.”

Vanish-cover-iPadDigital publishing right now is in an odd state where even the terms used by publishing professionals are not uniform. Those in print know what an A4 or perfect bound magazine means. But digital terms are used in a far looser way.

This issue came up again this morning when I received an email from the editor of VANISH Magazine, Paul Romhany. The magazine was launched in early 2012 and is available online for free as a Flash flipbook (complete with the hokey page turn sound), or as a PDF download. Despite being digital-only, the magazine is designed as if it were a print magazine – something that is common. The advantage of this is that one can sell advertising that appears in print magazines, and VANISH does, as well. The disadvantage is simply that the digital publication is designed for one platform, print, but will never appear that way – in other words, the design specs do not match those encountered by the reader.

Now the magazine has new apps for the Apple Newsstand and Google Play. The apps were built using PressPad and I think the platform let’s their customers know, once they have published their app, that TNM likes to look at new digital magazines. I appreciate them doing this, though I must admit that I rarely look at PDF-based digital editions.

Because PressPad is a revenue share platform, readers using the new apps will have to pay $1.99 if they want to download and read the issues, but at least they are available in this way.

The first issue of VANISH inside the Newsstand features a little promo tease stating “Fully Interactive Magazine” – this got my attention. Is this really an interactive magazine? What does it mean to be interactive, let alone fully interactive?

Well, to cut to the chase, the publisher is not misleading their readers, VANISH is definitely what I would call interactive – and if you are into magic, well worth checking out.


Talking New Media has been writing about digital magazines, newspapers and books since the start of 2010, and I sometimes make the mistake of throwing out terms that apply here, but may not apply everywhere. With readership of TNM growing so much over the past year, it might be a good time to create a glossary of terms used here.

Here goes:

Interactive: Anything can be interactive, so long as it requires an action from the reader. I suppose even print is interactive as the publisher is not sitting next to you turning the pages for you, you have to do it. But here I would say that interactive publications contains some sort of addition to the print edition that works in a digital environment. That can be simply some hot links, embedded or linked video, almost anything. An interactive magazine does not have to be native – in fact, few are. Most are PDF based digital magazines with enhancements.

Vanish-editor-iPadThe problem with using the term interactive instead of native is that the publisher gets confused by the difference between a PDF-based digital solution with enhancements and a native digital solution, and may think that they are the same. Then they wonder why the magazines from Condé Nast or another publisher look so different when seen in the Newsstand or on a digital platform such as Zinio.

Native: This term is used frequently by those producing digital publications, but less so by publishers more comfortable with print. The term can also be applied in two ways, making things even more confusing. For instance, those digital publishing platforms that are not PDF-based are generally considered to give the publisher a native digital edition (with PDFs considered not native). But one can also design a digital edition for the digital device – smartphone or tablet – and then create their edition using a PDF. Many of the digital magazines from PressPad and MagCast (and other solutions) are published by self-publishers who design their pages to fit the specs of the iPad. These are, in can be said, native to the iPad.

The key, I feel, is whether the digital edition was designed for the device it is to be read on. If so, I consider it a native digital edition. Obviously, anyone taking a print edition and reformatting the editorial pages for digital is creating a native digital edition. But those PDF magazines, designed specifically for the iPad, often look so different from what the big publishers produce, why? The reason to two-fold: first, talented art directors work for the commercial publishers and they, not surprisingly, produce better layouts; second, working with Adobe DPS, Mag+, Aquafadas, App Studio and other digital publishing platforms allow these designers to create pages that allow for scrolling within stories, animation, galleries, etc.

Replica: No term is as confusing to some publishers than this one. For most, a replica is an exact copy of the print magazine – and when talking about the design of the magazine, this is true. But the term replica means two different things depending upon whether you are talking about design or audit regulations.

In design, a replica is taking the same pages from print and converting them to digital – without changing the layouts. A replica, though, can also be an interactive edition if the production person then adds interactive elements such as links, video, audio, etc. Many digital newsstands call these enhanced editions – a replica with a added interactive elements.

But the AAM and other audit bureaus have their own definition of a replica edition, and far too many publishers assume that the audit bureaus require a PDF replica of their print edition in order to qualify. The AAM has often been criticized for requiring replica editions in order to have the digital editions included in a publication’s total circulation, but this is very unfair as the AAM’s guidelines are very flexible, and very clear (see here).

To qualify as a replica, the publication must include the same editorial content, graphics and advertising as the print edition. But even these requirements have exceptions: modular ads, for instance, need not be included; some artwork can be substituted if there are copyright restrictions; additional content can be added.

In this way, the term replica – as it applies to design and audits – are not the same.

Nonreplica: A nonreplica edition, then, is simply a digital edition that does not qualify as a replica edition by an audit bureau. GQ magazine, for instance, records all their digital circulation as replica editions (yet produce a native digital edition); while The New York Times latest publisher’s statement only shows a tiny portion of their digital circulation as replica, but over 1 million in nonreplica (much of its from their website, but also from their tablet and smartphone apps).

Hybrid: I may be the only one who uses the term hybrid edition to describe a digital publication. I consider a magazine that takes all the advertising from the print edition and reproduces them without changes, then reformats the editorial content, to be a hybrid edition. Most large consumer magazines are hybrids, as only a few magazines replace their print advertising creative with new digital ad creative.

Enhanced: Taking a PDF-based digital edition and adding interactivity. Many digital newsstands, such as NOOK and PressReader, add text versions of stories to the PDF replica. Other digital newsstands referred to an enhanced edition as one where links and multimedia have been added.


I have no idea if these has been helpful to anyone. But it will be for me: in the future, when someone wants to talk about terms I will be able to link back to this post.

But I have I gotten something wrong here, in your view?

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