Where can publishers look to improve their current digital circulation on tablets and phones? Here are ten reasons that I think are a factor in the poor download numbers up to now, and the steps to take:
1. Download size. If it takes longer than five minutes to download an issue. Forget it. Cut the issue down to size with compression, HTML – anything that means the editorial can be read almost instantly is a very good thing.
2. Don’t embed video unless vital…. Video files vastly increase download size, and the majority of users are at home with Wi-Fi so streamed content would work just fine, and its easier to measure. Oh, and avoid video covers with autoplay and sound. Can be massively irritating (especially on the tube!) and unnecessary in many cases. Besides… What other apps have embedded video?
3. PDF replicas sadly, still exist, and many digital magazine teams are following the print design too literally. More product development is advisable to create an experience that’s right for the user, the device, and the technology. Break out from the print mindset.
4. Font size. Consider the reader across all devices – too often we see illegible copy in digital editions, especially on iPhone and iPad Mini. Not a good experience for anyone reading a 2,000 word article. Test it out with a small selection of readers for direct feedback.
5. Overpriced editions and subscriptions. I might argue that £3.99 is too much for a digital magazine. And subscriptions must come down. Even Apple realise that with their new app bundling service. Just a shame it doesn’t work with magazines just yet.
6. Customer Support. Key – the importance of keeping customers happy. From personal experience working in this area for three years at Future, we made sure we answered every email, every comment, and fixed as many issues as possible. Hunt down those iTunes one-star reviews…
7. Custom storefronts. Not enough magazine apps utilise kiosks. These provide the brand to show more content, be connected to social, market offers, show video, help users and display more content up front. Get an expert to help, design plus developer… it can be done quite simply to huge effect.
8. Lack of marketing. Even now, from my work with Magvault, we don’t see enough promotion of digital issues and apps from publishing teams, across social media and marketing. If you want to increase downloads, firstly – make a huge bang for the app launch, build up and then get to as many eyeballs as possible. Show the readers how good your app offering is. Make a promo video, give away a free issue…Secondly, capture the user with a great product. Make it exciting, engaging and offer more value. And thirdly, retain them with a gobsmacking subscriber offer. Then finally, keep telling the user where to find the app for their device and repeat the process over and over. There is no WHSmith for them to pop into, to grab the issue. It needs constant reminders and pushes. Lack of visibilty in the marketplace and on the device one of the main reasons tablet and smartphone editions fail.
9. Poor app experience. Technically slow, buggy, hard to work out, poor user navigation – and worst of all – nothing happens in the app for weeks. No wonder users can’t be bothered to go and hunt for it. If you’re a monthly magazine – add in some archive content – or create weekly editions. Create alternative revenues – top 10 issues, best of collections, how to manuals, annuals and seasonal editions, or how about video specials. Make the app the one place that your loyal followers need to be. You can still focus the library on your monthly edition. Just do more and make the extra issues as good as your regular offering. Take a risk and try to break away from the print mindset. Experiment and then analyse the results to perfect future ideas.
10. iPhone editions. The Apple and Google Newsstand charts are filled with so many magazines that are basically PDF replicas. On a small screen, that is a truly horrible experience. Create something that works for the user on iPhone – yes, exclude print stories from three weeks ago. Yes, include web stories and social sharing. Involve a UX designer to assist with navigation and iconography, and make the iPhone/smartphone app a handy commuting treat for the users. The potential for this is massive – and it could be a life-saver. What are you waiting for?