February 19, 2015 Last Updated 9:34 am

Coffee category has plenty to offer digital readers, but none of the leading B2B magazines have yet to take the plunge

Over a dozen coffee consumer and trade magazines have been launched into the Apple Newsstand, including a couple starting their second or third year of publishing

A phone call from an old friend led to a discussion of magazines we had each published. My friend lamented the demise of a title he was particularly fond of, cussing out the owner for botching things when he had left.

I mentioned the demise of a trade magazine I once published of that was in the coffee category. The magazine was, as they say, once a cash cow – responsible for the majority of profits for its group, despite having only one sales person on the title, and having had the editor’s spot rotate far too frequently. We finally got the right editor in place, and despite a deteriorating economy, the magazine continued to perform well. But a couple years after leaving the company the magazine was oddly shuttered.

Nespresso-coverThe trade magazines that remain in the category – Fresh Cup, Barista, Roast, to name a few – continue on. A couple have placed Flash flipbooks on their websites and look to be doing about as well as they did before the fiscal crisis. None, however, have taken the leap into creating their own digital editions for the Apple Newsstand or Google Play.

To illustrate just how different the Apple Newsstand and Google Play are, and how different their search mechanisms are, just do a search for “coffee” in each. In the Apple Newsstand, a search pulls up hundreds of apps, many of them not even in the Newsstand. The first one that comes up when I do the search on my iPad is iBeer FREE. Don’t ask me why.

In Google Play’s newsstand the first app that comes up is… nothing.

This remains one of the biggest reason many publishers have grown disenchanted with the digital newsstands run by Apple and Google – discovery is such a huge problem, and so little is being done, that many have reached the conclusion that the effort is simply not worth it.

Of those digital magazines in the coffee category that have been launched into the Apple Newsstand, few are native digital editions. Probably the best of the native digital editions is from Nespresso.

The magazine comes in three different language versions, and is by far offers the most interactive and interesting digital features.

It has issues, however: the download is very slow; and the design, while attractive, looks meant to be read on a larger iPad, with fonts a bit too small for the iPad mini.

Coffeemags-covers

Two digital-only magazines, Coffee & Espresso Magazine and Coffee Lovers Magazine, are self-published titles that both use the MagCast platform.

MagCast is one of the two platforms generally chosen by self-publishers, the other being PressPad, and the resulting magazines are all similar in that they are designed for the iPad and therefore have properly sized fonts but because the solution involves uploading a PDF, there are few native digital features. That can be just fine if the designer is talented, less so for many amateur publishers.

Coffee and Espresso (which the covers shows as Coffee!) is published by a gentleman named Rowdy Ratts from Kansas. Searching for him online will reveal that there are actually two people by that name online, something I might not have guessed. Ratts has been producing his digital magazine since September of 2013 and appears to have not missed any issues – a rarity for many self-published titles.

Coffee Lovers Magazine is produced by Joseph Robertson and has been around even longer. The magazine also has an Android app, but as it is not part of the Google Play newsstand does not show up in a search (there is a direct link on the support website).

In all I downloaded 12 digital magazines in the coffee category. A number of them were replica editions like Crema Magazine from Australia which is using Magazinecloner. Others were not completely about coffee, such as Imbibe Magazine, which also offers up a replica edition.

Are the leading trade journals wrong to not launch their digital editions into either the Apple Newsstand or Google Play? Two years ago I would have said “yes” as many of their digital competitors were beating them to the punch and building readerships. But Apple’s failure to maintain the Newsstand has probably changed my mind. Launching a new digital edition into the Newsstand means that it will be one of over 10,000 titles there, and with the individual categories not maintained (see for yourself, if this is news to you), app discovery is almost impossible.

The leading magazines in the coffee category (trade magazines, that is) don’t maintain very lively websites and so don’t drive a lot of new readership, something that is essential to support a new app. Instead, they have excellent lists of potential readers gained through years of contacts in the business, and loyal attendance at trade shows and relationships with the trade associations.

Because of this, they probably continue to bide their time. But go into any café today and you will see most customers looking at their smartphones and tablets, rather than print magazines. When the café owners do the same then it will be time for these leading magazines to reconsider their digital publishing strategies.

Note: several of the titles I downloaded, including some mentioned above, might not really be considered trade magazines. In the drinks category, there is a not much distinction between consumer and trade, especially in digital magazines, because the subject tends to appeal to both audiences. A story on a type of coffee bean, or a roaster may be of interest to both readers.

  • Kerri Goodman 3 years ago

    As a coffee industry trade magazine publisher I can say it has been a conscious choice to keep CoffeeTalk off the apple platform as we are not focused at all on consumers. We have had a robust website since 1994 and “flipbook” version of our print magazine for almost a decade. Please check us out – http://magazine.coffeetalk.com/backissues/ – and let me know your thoughts as to whether an investment in taking our publication to either of the two platforms would be beneficial. – I would love your feedback.

    • D.B. Hebbard 3 years ago

      Thanks for mentioning ‘Coffee Talk’ as I should have mentioned it.

      I think B2B magazines have as much to gain from digital editions as consumer magazines (after all, TNM is partnering with Paul Blake now on App Publisher). But the environment for digital magazines inside the Apple Newsstand and Google Play is not good right now. Nonetheless, I would not bet against digital publishing, in general, and so the merits of an “app” solution remains worth considering.

      My suggestion is to thoroughly acquaint yourself with what is being offered inside the digital newsstands and decide for yourself what you like and don’t like. I find that, sadly, many magazine publishers really are not familiar with what their colleagues are doing in the digital newsstands, what readers are saying about the apps (read those reader reviews in iTunes), and what the audits are saying about their success.