April 25, 2016 Last Updated 8:39 am

Bonnier updates its digital edition apps, including for the app that led the way, PopSci

Six years ago this month, Popular Science unveiled its vision for what a tablet magazine should look like using the digital publishing platform the company itself helped develop

Among the many apps that were updated in the past few days were several from the magazine publisher Bonnier. In particular, apps for both Popular Science and Saveur were updated, which a couple of years ago might have called for yet another article discussing the different approaches the magazines had been taking when it came to their digital editions.

Since April of 2010, the day the iPad was original released to buyers, Popular Science had an interesting and exciting digital edition available. Built using the digital publishing platform developed in-house, Mag+, the magazine along with the others in its group, led the way when it came to publishing to the iPad.

“In mid-2009 an article was in Popular Science’s “What’s New” section on the coming of tablets, and I remember seeing that,” Gregg Hano, then head of the Bonnier Tech Group told TNM several years ago. “I went over to Mark Jannot, who is the editorial director of the Tech group, and I’m like ‘is this for real?’ and he’s like ‘absolutely. No, this is coming, and we think it is coming pretty soon.'”

From that point, the group was heavily involved in Bonnier’s efforts to create a solution for tablets.

“The fall of that year was when we kicked off the project – Sara Öhrvall, head of R&D moved from Stockholm to San Francisco – we started doing conceptual work,” Mike Haney, then editorial director at PopSci told TNM. “At the same time, we contracted with a firm in London. a digital design firm, Berg – a brilliant, brilliant, little firm – and sort of tasked them with doing the same thing along side us.”

The resulting work not only created the first tablet apps for Bonnier magazines, but then the company that was spun out. (Read more about the early days of tablet publishing in Talking Digital.)

But while the magazine titles in the Tech Group were using Mag+ to create interactive digital editions, the other magazines, including Saveur, were creating PDF replicas. For Saveur, a magazine about world food, it seemed an odd choice. One could imagine the digital edition of the magazine with video shot by its world-traveling authors, or at least more photography that might have been left on the art director’s editing floor due to space constraints. But no, there would be two separate visions of what digital edition should be at Bonnier.

Then, in the summer of 2014 came the surprising news that Bonnier would transition their magazines away from the platform they created, to the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite.

PopSci-iPad-4-16“We are very excited that Bonnier Corporation has begun the process of publishing their apps using DPS,” Lynly Schambers, Group Product Marketing Manager, Digital Publishing at Adobe Systems, said.

“What we heard loud and clear from Bonnier is that they were looking for a digital publishing platform that tightly integrated with Adobe InDesign, made it very easy to publish across multiple platforms, included built-in consumer marketing tools and provided the flexibility to integrate with back end entitlement systems. DPS does this. We are thrilled to have them as a publishing partner and look forward to supporting the migration of all their titles to DPS.”

The move could have meant only that the platform used to create the digital editions had changed – since both are capable of producing both interactive and replica digital editions – but instead it meant that the US magazines would no longer be involved in native digital editions for the magazines. Digital at Bonnier had taken a monstrously large step backwards.

Since the move, PopSci has seen its digital issue circulation fall by almost half, though it would probably be unfair to attribute it solely to the change in digital publishing philosophy – because of Apple’s policies, and their failure to maintain the Newsstand (now the Magazines & Newspapers category) many magazines have seen their digital edition circulation fall. Also, while the first issues found inside the revised app were PDF replicas, today PopSci’s digital edition is a hybrid edition – the ads is seen in print (often with links of other interactive features) and the editorial content reformatted for digital reading.

Meanwhile, Saveur’s digital single copy circulation dramatically increased because the title was added to the Next Issue digital newsstand which requires the Adobe platform.

Was the move worth it? Hard to say, but clearly Bonnier is not leading the way in digital the way it did when Steve Jobs was still alive, and exciting things were anticipated in tablets.

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