First look: Interiors and Art Business Today, new apps from UK B2B magazines
Both apps present readers with a replica edition of the print magazine, but Interiors uses the GTxcel platform which gives readers a text version of articles for easier reading
The rise of mobile and tablet edition apps, I was quite sure in 2010, would present several categories a new chance to reclaim their business. I truly thought newspapers would see mobile and tablets as a great chance to go after local retail and classified advertising again – after all, geolocation services would make it possible for the creation of matchmaking services, bring local buyers and sellers together – something that Craig’s List couldn’t do with its antiquated looking websites. But no, newspapers are run today by executives who have never sold an ad in their lives and when they meet with their managers to discuss apps only the editorial side is usually represented, they will only let advertising know what is going on after the decisions have been made (or, at least, this is what managers at the leading US newspapers have told me).
The other category crying out of new mobile and tablet products was B2B publishing. Like as with the web, were the first real native web publisher was in B2B, it seemed to me that tablet/mobile editions would allow B2B publishers to cut their costs, reach new readers, and show their remaining advertisers that they could still drive business for them. An interactive ad, I imagined in 2010, would be far better than a print ad because the reader could learn more, respond directly, and tracking the interaction would be easier than those print bingo cards still found in many B2B magazines.
Again, I was wrong. I admit it. Publishers are a conservative lot, and getting many of them online back in the late nineties was like pulling teeth (I know I was there with the pliers), so getting a B2B publishing company owner to be enthusiastic about another form of digital publishing was never going to be easy.
If, on the other hand, it didn’t make sense for a B2B magazine to launch an app or tablet edition in 2010, it certainly doesn’t make sense today. Apple has cut the legs out from under the industry by its abandonment of the category, and its App Store malpractice. How a typical digital edition app can find success today is anyone’s guess, and fewer and fewer straight digital conversions are launched today than at any time since the first year of the iPad.
The app presents the reader with basically a PDF replica, but articles contain hotspots that allows the reader to also view a text version of any article. It is, whether anyone wants to admit or not, an admission that PDF replicas are unreadable solution for just about any digital edition. But no one can stop themselves from subjecting readers to them, so at least a hybrid solution that presents the reader with a text version of articles it better.
Interiors’s app presents the magazine to readers free of charge, though they will have to agree to a subscription in order to access the issues. This isn’t much of a burden so it is doubtful many will be deterred.
But the process of subscribing does bring up, once again, the issue TNM presented back in 2010: how digital editions can help B2B publisher with the costly task of qualifying readership.
Those B2B publishers that employ a qualified readership model generally, in the US, have their circulation audited by BPA. While there is a cost for the service, the real cost is in securing the qualified readership. Two decades ago the way it was done was by including reader service cards in the magazine, sending out letters to current and former subscribers, and maybe using faxes to encourage completing those reader cards. The industry eventually moved to telemarketing services which, it was thought, would be cheaper.
Unfortunately, the move meant that many B2B publishing companies started to lose touch with their readers. Many titles soon dropped their audits, or at least cut back in the information found inside them. Many BPA audits, two decades ago, were essentially media kits, containing all the information you would ever want to know about the magazines: who reads it, their titles, what goods and services they were authorized to purchase or specify, the sales volume of the companies they worked for, etc.
At first, Apple specifically forbade publishers from including any sort of qualifying mechanism inside apps approved for the App Store. But this prohibition went away quietly, and a few brave B2B publishers experimented with qualification processes inside their apps – but very few did this.
Remember, what is important to a B2B magazine that uses the qualified readership model is knowing the number of qualified readers it has, not the number of unqualified readers. So even if someone that the magazine would consider unqualified ends of reading the digital edition it hardly costs the publisher much – only a penny or two for streaming the data to the reader, there is no printing and distribution costs like with a print magazine.
So, why haven’t B2B magazine publishers embraced digital editions? Good question, but it doesn’t help that the trade press in the US that covers the industry has been so negative about digital, or that the industry events that publishers attend generally feature so-called industry authorities who always proclaim the return of print.
The second UK B2B magazine with a new digital edition app is Art Business Today which appears inside the App Store not under the publisher’s name but under the name of the platform used – Magzter. The publisher’s name is nowhere to be found in the app description, but the publisher is Fine Art Trade Guild.
This is actually the second app to appear inside the App Store for the magazine. The first, which is still live, was a replica and is under the same name as the new one (here it is). I always thought you couldn’t have an app use the same name as another app, but maybe that only applies when the app is from the same developer.