February 25, 2015 Last Updated 7:51 am

Reader data remains a weak link for many newsstands; Flipboard adds Twitter sign-in

Getting readers to share their personal information proves harder in an app than online, where the reader can learn more about the publication, identify the publisher and editorial staff

The last few weeks have seen a steady flow of publishers saying they are either moving away from digital newsstands owned by third parties to a reliance on the web for their digital publications. A few others have said they will stick with the Apple and Google newsstands, but have lost hope that they can drive the kind of sales they had once hoped.


VAN, another digital-only magazine moving online

Ultimately, the numbers tell the tale: sales are down. How badly? That may become apparent with the next round of publisher’s statements. But there is another reason these publishers say the systems set up by the big tech companies have failed them: reader data.

All newsstand apps ask the reader if they want to share their user information with the publisher, but the mechanism is so badly thought out – or maybe it isn’t, if the real intention is to discourage readers from sharing. Because of this, a few creative publishers and developers have experimented with new ways to get readers to share their information. But for most digital device owners, the last thing they want to do is reveal more than they have to.

But online, when given an opportunity to gain access to a digital edition by registering many will sign up. The presence of a functioning website, one with the publisher’s own contact information visible, is all that a reader needs to feel assured that they can share a small amount of information with the publisher.

TNM will continue to explore this topic – the migration of digital publishers from an Apple Newsstand-first approach, to a web-first approach – as 2015 plays out. If 2014 was all about the decline and fall of the Newsstand, 2015 may be about the creation of new alternatives for web publishers.

But one thought crossed my mind when discussing this trend with a vendor yesterday: if a digital publishing platform can not develop, and quickly, a way for a publisher to sell their digital editions online, outside of the app stores, they will be left in the dust. The migration of digital editions from newsstands to the web may be fast as the rise of Android, and one with far more consequences for publishers than the rise of that platform proved to be.

Flipboard-iMacFlipboard, which has had a very popular app inside the Apple App Store and Goggle Play, launched an online version of the “personal magazine” product just a few weeks ago. Now they have updated their app again to add the ability to create an account using the reader’s Twitter account as the sign-in mechanism.

The move by Flipboard is not unusual, many apps allow the reader to sign-in or share content using social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, but the question is whether they are simply done for convenience, or whether the publisher is truly using this shared information for marketing and promotional purposes (you can be sure Flipboard will).

Larger publishers have the infrastructure needed to do effective marketing to readers. But smaller and self-publishers will need help from their digital publishing vendors to gather and use this kind of reader information.

Many B2Bs are still reliant on telemarketing services to drive reader renewals – an expensive part of their circulation budgets, and one that readers increasingly do not appreciate. (I still receive calls from many trade magazines that I used to compete against trying to get me to renew magazines five to ten years after I stopped reading them to count ad pages.)

Other apps updated today: Philips Diction recorder updated their app for iOS 8.1.3 compliance. I have been told to expect interesting changes in the app this summer. Also updated was Inkling’s iOS app to fix some bugs.

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