February 17, 2016 Last Updated 10:59 am

Dialect Inc. launches new digital magazine for game developer Beamdog: The Familiar Magazine

Not weighed down by the need to sell single issues and subscriptions, the new app can take a more innovative approach to delivering content to its targeted readership

The one thing that differentiates one digital magazine from another, I am increasingly convinced, is whether there is an existing print edition. If there is an existing print edition one can be pretty sure that any digital edition created will be unreadable. On the other hand, taking this new digital magazine from Overhaul Games as an example, if one starts with the idea that the magazine will be digital-only there is a pretty good chance the new digital magazine will be a great read.

thefam-cover-iPadThe Familiar Magazine from Overhaul Games, a division of Beamdog, is the game developer’s first free digital magazine. The new magazine’s subtitle clearly explains the mission: “The official companion to all things Beamdog.”

Beamdog designs, develops, and distributes games such as Balder’s Gate, and this new, free digital magazine was created as part of the company’s promotional efforts. That, of course, means the magazine will have a different business model: promotional, rather than a new P&L line, as would be the case with a traditional magazine publisher.

Although the new magazine appears under the developer account of the game developer, the publisher of the magazine is the content marketing company Dialect Inc., based out of San Francisco and London. Both Stephen Pierce who is listed as editorial director, and Matt Chapman who is editor-in-chief for the magazine, are staffers at Dialect.

thefam-homeDialect also is behind a similar digital magazine, Dragon+, which was released last year for Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. Chapman is the editor of that digital magazine, as well.

The great thing about building a digital magazine from scratch is that one is not weighed down by the conventions of the magazine business. Most digital magazine apps are all about getting the reader to buy an issue or sign up for a subscription. They fail to build in elements that might attract the reader to open the app more frequently than once a month. For instance, their store/home pages are just places where the reader sees the different issue covers.

This is why several digital newsstand apps such as Texture and Magzter have started moving in another direction, offering individual articles upfront, hoping that this will get readers to return again and again. It is also the idea behind the new Adobe Digital Publishing Solution, which is designed to build more mobile-first apps, ones that are more like news apps rather than digital newsstands.

Here, the developer has the app open to a place where the reader is presented with lots of updates. One can download the issue or move on to the updates. Once the reader has downloaded the issue, this area changes a bit, with the issue moving to the left of the screen, and the updates taking up two-thirds of the screen (on an iPad). The reader can either tap the issue cover to return to reading it, or “dismiss” that part of the screen and have the updates take up the full screen.

The digital magazine itself is designed for easy reading on both a smartphone or tablet (the app was released for both iOS and Android) – what might be called a mobile-first design.

I’m not a gamer, so I really could careless about the editorial content of the new title, but I really like this approach. Yes, you want people to read the magazine, but what you really want is for them to interact with your brand as frequently as possible. Building an app that simply delivers PDF replicas of your print magazine inside a digital newsstand app seems already old fashioned an unimaginative. Agencies like Dialect Inc. likely see this and are delivering a far better alternative for their client Beamdog.

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