February 17, 2015 Last Updated 2:16 pm

Time Inc. UK’s Golf Monthly launches new online digital magazine, What’s In the Bag

Equipment focused online magazine is a throwback to the days of the Flash flipbook, one counter to the mobile first strategy most current publishers have for their digital publications

Time Inc. UK has launched, or at least attempted to launch, a new online digital magazine called What’s In The Bag. Produced by the publishing team at Golf Monthly, the online magazine is an old-styled Flash flipbook, a throw back to the old way publishers used to think about creating new digital magazines. It is actually fairly quaint to think there are publishers still thinking about digital in this way.

WhatsBag-300The idea, which is pretty obvious, is to create a new publication that strips out all the non-equipment content and simply concentrates on the area of the magazine that drives revenue: golf equipment.

“Our readers are serious about their sport and there is an overwhelming interest in content around the latest equipment,” said Paul O’Hagan, editor of What’s In the Bag in the announcement for the new online magazine. “What’s In the Bag extends beyond the product pages of Golf Monthly to cater to those readers who want more of this content and to delve deeper into the science behind the products.”

“Research has flagged up how much Golf Monthly’s audience appreciates its product pages, so we are giving them more of what they want through a dedicated magazine,” Hamish Dawson, publishing director, said. “This is an exciting new venture for the brand.”

One wishes one share his enthusiasm for this kind of digital publishing effort. But every study I’ve ever seen on the subject of what readers prefer, including those from those who make desktop magazine solutions, shows that the desktop is the least favorite way to read a magazine (print, tablets, smartphones, then the desktop, is usually what the research shows).

The idea here is that with one Flash and HTML5 based solution, a magazine can reach readers on the desktop as well as via tablets and smartphones.

Whats-desktop-articleOn the desktop, the digital magazine looks like a typical flipbook, but the designers have pumped up the fonts for easier reading – this is good. But on the iPad, the flipbook gives the reader a warning that forces them to turn their iPad into portrait. In portrait, one gets single pages, as opposed to the two pages seen on the desktop, which wouldn’t be too bad if the reader could pinch-to-zoom to get to some of the smaller fonts. But the pages are not high resolution, and the small type that is legible on the desktop (assuming a large monitor) are impossible to read on my iPad.

It should be pointed out that Golf Monthly’s Apple Newsstand is a replica edition, though one “enhanced” with videos and galleries. It uses the Adobe DPS, so if they ever get serious about creating more easy to read digital edition they could do so without having to start from scratch.

This kind of digital publishing simply feels outdated. I remember fending off Flash flipbook salesmen back ten years ago and demanding to know who of their clients was actually making any money with these things. One vendor was brave enough to give me a reference, but a call revealed that they had just signed up and had not even published their first digital edition. Eventually, they started going around me and sold someone else at one of the companies I worked for. Such a waste of money.

In 2010, I interviewed Jeff Price, who had recently been named publisher of Sporting News. He inherited a just launched online magazine called Sporting News Today, and had decided, at least for the time being, to stay online and ignore the just released iPad.

“We’ve honestly put that (the iPad) on the shelf for now and we’ll come back to that and find a way to make sure that its available for those folks who’d want to engage with the magazine from a digital content perspective,” Price told TNM in May of 2010, only one month following the release of the original iPad.

Sporting News was working with Zinio on the online daily digital magazine, but less than five months later Zinio had launched a branded app for the publisher as more and more iPads were entering the market. They then began launching separate local editions, as well.

One year later, Sporting News gave up on apps that looked like flipbooks and launched a native tablet edition using the Mag+ digital publishing platform. A little over a year later, Price announced the end of the print publication, while retaining their digital edition apps and their website.

“Having spoken with many of our longtime subscribers, we recognize this is not a popular decision among our most loyal fans,” wrote Jeff Price and Garry D. Howard on the Sporting News website in December of 2012. “Unfortunately, neither our subscriber base nor the current advertising market for print would allow us to operate a profitable print business going forward.”

Today SN has a rather app that no longer uses Mag+, one built off the website and which users are unhappy with (with good reason, the app crashed for me when I opened it up today).

The point is that there are plenty of publishers who have gone down this road before Time Inc. UK launched their effort for Golf Monthly. They could have learned from all that experience.

  • Jim Nugent 3 years ago

    Before rushing to judgement on form, I think one needs to take into consideration the demographic profile of the intended user. There may be cool/slick/wow ways to do digital magazines, but will they appeal to the golfer demographic? Perhaps. I can assure you the readers of Global Golf Post love everything about our form, as well as our content. It may not wow technologists, but it has resulted in a thriving business. Good luck to our friends in the UK.

  • dave 3 years ago

    i could have posted this to the digital replica piece also out, or to any number of other posts from the past several months. there’s a massive disconnected between digital publishing solutions that consumers like, and those that consumers will engage with deeply (and potentially pay for). the smart financial decision for most, maybe all, publishers is to make a low cost replica; it costs too much in people time to enhance them relative to the value from digital only consumers. moreover, the original dream we all had when the ipad launched that advertisers would love this platform has died. advertisers aren’t paying, because not enought consumers are engaging. just to be clear, the ipad is a great option to secure a little incremental revenue from consumers and modest contribution to the bottom line if you produce very efficiently. even if it’s not profitable, it’s expected that you’ll have it by advertisers and consumers alike.

    for a loyal reader, i’d like to see you focus on where publishers could actually go to build much higher ARPU from subscribers, so you have a hope to replace some of the lost contribution value in print. if that’s replica for some, enhanced for others, and native, all great. i just want to know where we can make money in the future, and that’s not obvious to me.