May 20, 2015 Last Updated 11:09 am

New B2B digital editions: Construction Digest and Green Building & Design, and more

What’s a legitimate magazine? Who can be trusted? Who is serious about digital publishing? It is sometimes hard to tell in the wild world of U.S. trade publishing

Many moons ago I was recruited out of the newspaper industry by a newspaper headhunter who was looking for a publisher… Well, that’s the way I started this story about the new Apple Newsstand app for California Builder & Engineer about two months ago. So, I won’t bore you with my story again about being a B2B publisher with McGraw-Hill in San Francisco.

CD-article-iPadBut today I was able to look at some new B2B digital editions that made me want to repeat that story. The first app is from the Associated Construction Publications for its regional construction title Construction Digest, which serves the Midwest states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Eastern Missouri and Ohio.

I don’t know how many other ACP magazines are in the Newsstand, other than California Builder & Engineer, because the two apps I know about appear under the developer account of Audience Media, a company out of Vietnam and Barcelona. I did a search for “Associated Construction Publications” inside the Newsstand and no results came up.

The app for Construction Digest is universal, and it is very much different depending whether you are reading it on an iPhone or an iPad. On the iPhone the articles are reformatted for easier mobile reading. On the iPad, the app delivers an unreadable PDF replica. The navigation on the iPad is well done, allowing the read a couple ways to reaching the stories they want to read, but once they get there it is hopeless.

The system for going from device to device needs some refinement. I bought and downloaded the latest issue on my iPad mini, then went to my iPhone. It looked for all the world like I would have to buy the same issue again, but once I tapped Buy it informed me that I could download the iPhone version for free because I had bought the iPad version. That made me feel better, but most apps have a “Restore” option that will bring in issues the reader has already paid for.

Side note: the article at right is about a bridge project in Missouri and I was surprised to see that there was no project related advertising associated with the story. These project (and contractor) profiles used to be our mainstay at McGraw-Hill where we would contact those involved in the project, mostly subcontractors, to see if they wanted to advertise in support of the article (or series of articles). At first I thought of this approach as blackmail advertising, as the sales pitch involves convincing the advertiser that they should support their contractor. But I was told in no uncertain terms by advertisers that they loved these profiles and felt it was the best time to advertise – and besides, if the article and the publication itself is legitimate, then advertisers find it the perfect time to spend their marketing dollars. Other, less reputable publishers, have taken this to another level and produce whole magazines made up of these kind of articles, then print only enough copies to send tearsheets to the advertisers with the bill. Figuring out who is a legitimate publisher and who is not can be difficult to determine, and the industry has done a terrible job of policing itself, as have the trade publications that cover the magazine industry.

If mobile is your first priority, then this kind of digital edition is a pretty good option. The iPhone version is readable and easy to navigate. That the publisher is not credited with the app (other than the copyright), or linked to from the app description bothers me tremendously, though.

Honestly, I don’t think digital is very high priority to ACP as the publisher’s website still has a 2009 copyright date on it. But the ACP magazines have been around a long time and are loyally read by construction contractors. At one time they were owned by Reed Business Information, though Reed never could figure out how to take advantage of the fact that it owned some of the industry’s best trade magazines and a data service at the same time.

One of those companies that appears to use profile advertising as their business model is Guerrero Howe LLC. The company has 9 titles inside the Apple Newsstand, and in 2012 I wrote about one of them, Green Building & Design, and explained the company’s business model.

AB-cover-300Now the same magazine has appeared under a completely new developer account, Green Advocacy Partners, LLC. It looks as if Christopher Howe has left Guerrero Howe and struck out on his own, taking Green Building & Design with him starting with the March/April issue.

What’s the differece between the apps? The new app, Green Building & Design Magazine, is a replica edition of the print magazine, with the new app launching with 32 issues inside going back to July of 2010.

To see if the old publisher was still using the profile ad model (one company I know calls its “Feature Advertising”) I downloaded both the old version of the magazine app, called Green Industry & Design, and several others including American Builders Quarterly. What I found was a very nice digital edition that uses the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to create its Newsstand app and issues.

It was a bit of a head scratcher as few publishers who rely one-time only ad sales generally will consider producing anything other than a PDF replica – after all, the whole business model is based on low costs, low print runs, and high quality printing (to add a feeling of legitimacy to the publication).

I did notice, though, when looking at some of the other app titles under the Guerrero Howe name that at least one has been discontinued (Canadian Builders Quarterly, which hasn’t produced an issue since 2012), or the app doesn’t hold any issues at all (New American Luxury). But Hispanic Executive and is still publishing and is also a native digital edition built using the Adobe DPS.

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