In the fall of 2014, when we had been going with RunMags for about half a year, we did a review of software options for digital magazines. The time has come for a 2017 review.
Back in 2014, the HTML5 markup language was employed in some of the platforms to make the reader experience nice on any device, but formatting was at large static flip book publishing and publishers were not in control of their subscribers. The saying “if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product” couldn’t have been more true and many publishers embarked on strategies hoping that digital newsstands would make circulation skyrocket.
Today, many publishers with a print foundation are frustrated with how badly their digital strategies have panned out. Expensive app development initiatives haven’t generated the traffic they were supposed to. Print replica PDFs uploaded to platforms vanish among the other 21 million publications represented in the same newsstand. And it’s questionable, at best if, users event want to consume their magazine content online in the same way as when they read their print magazines.
What magazine publishers need from their online delivery platform in 2017.
The delivery format must align with the target subscriber’s preferred way to consume content
Print is apparently not dead. Despite what some vendors of online / digital platforms have been claiming. The landscape is just changing and we’re still not even close to seeing it stabilize. But while print magazines will have a place, digital replicas of the print magazine will not.
A static PDF sized like a regular paper page simply doesn’t provide for a good user experience on a tablet, let alone on a phone. It doesn’t matter that the app or newsstand adds a “paper-turn” sound. And while a part of the population will indeed sit down and read a new issue from cover to cover, zooming in and out on their tablet, most people will not. In most cases, content consumed on mobile devices is browsed and half-read at best. The smallest inconvenience in the user experience will trigger the user to leave.
With the above in mind, the online delivery platform has to make the information flow in a natural way on the devices used, PCs as well as phones. A magazine that can provide a seamless transition from reading on the PC to switching over to the phone will provide an improvement to the user experience over most competitors.
Content, even that behind a paywall, has to be Search Engine Optimized and shareable on social media
Regardless of one’s opinion of Facebook, LinkedIn, and their likes, many publishers have more to gain from having their content being discoverable and shared on the internet than not. People like to share great stories and it’s free advertising for the publishers who are able to monetize the content at some point.
Each article must have it’s own url so that it’s not just bulked together with the “November Issue”. It must be possible to assign the article focus keywords and meta data. The snippet data and images must look good in the shared posts so that they attract users to read and share.
Publishers must be able to follow subscribers across channels
In order to best serve both readers and advertisers, the online delivery platform must allow for an integrated view of the reader / subscriber. A publisher who can connect their print subscriber’s consumption of online articles and open / click rate in email will stand a much better chance of being able to prove to advertisers who the advertising actually reach.
Most of the online delivery platform that were around in 2014 are closed for integration with other systems which results in lack of unified tracking and updating of subscriber demographics.
For print publishers, publishing content on the internet should not duplicate the editor’s effort
Many smaller print publishers don’t have the bandwidth and resources to re-purpose content for online publication and they don’t have a bunch of programmers on staff. Even if the online channel drives revenue, it may feel challenging to spend a lot of time to adapt images and text so that everything looks good on any mobile device. Also, print advertisers may be of the opinion that if they bought a full page ad in the print magazine, it should also fill up the entire screen on a phone.
This is a major challenge we face with today’s technology and there is not simple answer on how to do it. A mobile-first publishing strategy may certainly be the right choice for many, but it’s not the business model for everyone. With that said, if business processes are set up to have content developed to fit both print and online from the start, the online delivery platform has to be simple enough to use so that articles and advertising alike have the same awesome look and feel as in the print magazine.
Online delivery platforms that publishers should consider in 2017
RunMags is not a delivery platform. Very much like we don’t have trucks to ship print copies, we don’t offer a delivery platform for the internet. Our core is in managing the backbone IT infrastructure with customer databases and business processes.
So what has happened since our last review? What platforms are available now and what benefits do they provide? Below is a list of four online delivery platforms that we recommend you to take a closer look at. They are somewhat different in nature and we recommend that as you start a free trial of them, you should think about whether you think your readers would appreciate the specific platform.
Also, if you haven’t already done so, get out there and survey your target reader base. Selecting your online delivery platform based on your hunch or the fact that it free of charge is a recipe for disaster.
So, behold, here are the online delivery platforms that publishers should consider in 2017:
Our first online delivery platform very different from the rest. Anvil is a WordPress based solution that transforms your website into a magazine with articles, controlled by a paywall if you’d like. The solution is hosted by ZEEN101 so you don’t have to bother with the technology. While the platform also integrates with your iOS and Android apps, the main benefit of Anvil is a website user experience, suitable for phone access, with the ability to control access to premium content.
If you and your readership are open to exploring the limitless possibilities of online publishing, Instant Magazine is for you. If used to its fullest potential, your online magazine is going to have a very different look and feel compared to your print magazine. Even with full screen video included, the magazine is going to be fully responsive and reader access will be fully measurable.
H5mag provides you with the tools to create great looking online magazines that are fully responsive. With the look and feel of a more traditional online flip magazine, H5mag makes it easy to design the magazine and deliver a great user experience.
Use Partica to convert and repurpose your print publications into rich, adaptive HTML5 content. If your business processes and/or resources does not leave room for the design of specifically online purpose magazine, Partica is your answer. The platform will transform your PDF into articles and deliver them dynamically to mobile, tablet, and desktop for a responsive and highly interactive viewing experience.