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5 Mistakes that Publishers Stumble Upon with Their App Magazines

(This blog article was updated on 2 January 2018.)

„For publishers, the tablet magazine opportunity is game-changing, but the last thing they should do is simply shovel their printed titles on to tablets. Consumers demand more, and the rich new interaction paradigm means amazing engagement and storytelling opportunities for editors and marketers alike.“

The past years in the digital publishing business have taught me a lot and I could make some valuable experiences for my clients and myself. In this blog article I will write about some core facts about app magazines that are offered in addition to print magazines. And about five mistakes publishers stumble upon too often. It doesn’t have to be like that.

Background: In August 2011, the e-magazine for my client "Blickpunkt LKW & BUS" went online – first only for iPhone and iPad, a few years later also for smart phones and tablets with Android. The topic of the magazine (commercial vehicles in Austria) targets quite a narrow niche. By December 2016 the app counted over 10,000 unique (!) downloads. A big success that is linked to avoiding these five mistakes:

MISTAKE # 1: Print content = app content

Imagine this scenario: A magazine lies in front of you, you like reading it. You know that this magazine is also available digitally as an app for the iPad – with the exact same content. Would you download the app and maybe even pay extra for it? Most probably not.

Hence: Offering the exact same content in the e-magazine like in print, does not offer any (obvious) additional value to the reader.

A smart content concept is needed here: Which topics are better suited for digital publishing, which ones are better suited for the print magazine? Which topics offer additional content that can be offered in the app and doesn’t have enough space in the print magazine? Is it maybe worth having specific magazine categories for the app version only? And so on. The editorial team is in demand here. – And if that seems difficult at first glance: Just think – how many times does the editor say "we have so much great material, especially photos, that will never fit on a double page". You see where I’m getting to? ;-)

Apart from content, there can also be a totally different additional value: Time. The e-magazine can be published a day before the print magazine, for example. Weekly newspapers would definitely benefit from that.

Bottom line: The reader needs a clearly visible additional value why he/she needs to download the app.

MISTAKE # 2: Not promoting the app

Just because you’re offering an app, doesn’t mean that it will be downloaded a lot. The times of apps being something completely innovative that you simply have to try out, are definitely over.

So, you need to promote your app. The easiest and free method to do this, is in the equivalent print magazine. You get to the right people at no extra cost, which is perfect. Another tip here: Don’t only have one advertisement in the print magazine, but place several eye-catchers across the entire print magazine and promote the additional value of the app ("see the full photo coverage for this story in our app", "watch the full fashion show video in the app", "a fully interactive, exclusive interview with the CEO in our app" etc.).

Several eye-catchers in the print magazine remind your readers about the additional value of your app again and again. More contact points + clearly visible additional value = rising download numbers.

MISTAKE # 3: Take over print advertisements

It is recommended to take out the print advertisements altogether in the e-magazine, unless your advertising clients are willing to pay extra for that. Otherwise, advertising clients don’t have a feeling for the value of your app.

And if you place advertisements in your digital publication, please make them interactive. Actively approach your advertising clients with different options and pricing models.

In this video you see a few great examples for interactive advertisements in tablet magazines:

MISTAKE # 4: PDF files in the app

The worst publishers can do is to simply shift the print PDF file into the app. Usability and additional value: zero. I as a reader would feel fooled.

MISTAKE # 5: Bad usability

The reading flow on an iPhone differs a lot from the reading flow on a tablet which again differs a lot from the reading flow in a print magazine. The usability has a big impact on the success of your e-publishing efforts. Font size, navigation, size of interactive buttons etc. contribute to a great user experience.

This example shows what I mean:


Another tip for you: If you want to offer your magazine as an app, I recommend to download this free whitepaper in which you find out what you simply have to know before going on the app stores.

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