Ten ways your digital magazine numbers could improve…

 1. Your readers still prefer print. Changing reading habits is the biggest challenge for publishers. And once converted, keeping the reader in your digital ‘shop’ is the second biggest challenge.

2. Your readers still don’t know how to access your online content. Education and marketing are key in this and pay particular attention to how they actually download the app and access the content. Step 1, 2, 3 and so on. They don’t know about the app, where to get it and how to use it, and the fact that its possibly the greatest app in the world, and cheaper than the print edition. This stuff seems obvious but so many publishers are not getting this right.

3. The magazine ‘reading’ market is shrinking, and so is the content. Magazine brands are sadly, very slowly in decline. We see a small drop every year in circulation numbers. The shift to mobile is inevitable. But getting it right first time is key. Do we really want to read a 5,000 word article on a phone? Practically everything now is faster, shorter, more instant, made with soundbites… but does that mean there are less readers? No. They’re still there, but your competition is now Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Pinterest

4. You don’t market the actual content enough or even at all. Tell your readers – all the time, every day – about the new issue, and the regular, exciting, in-depth stories they can access. Break up an issue into digestable (and downloadable!) chunks. Make it weekly? Shock horror! The device is connected and on – make your digital app fizz with new stuff all the time and keep telling people about it. 

5. Poor customer experience. So many users complain about download time, the lack of customer support, poor comms, buggy/broken apps, or missing issues from their previous purchases. Customer service is vital in the online world. News travels fast and with virtually no moderation. One bad review on your iTunes preview page can potentially be an app-killer. Be aware of all technical errors, app updates and particularly the operating system updates. Apple can make iOS changes overnight, and if your team isn’t switched on, the users will switch your app off, for good.

6. Your app simply isn’t good enough, doesn’t excite anyone, and it costs too much. If you’re thinking a PDF replica is going to give your readers the optimum experience, think again. The top-selling content apps are all created for each device, and publish content at a higher frequency. The Economist, The Week,  The Guardian, Stylist, Grazia, The Times and more. Pay attention to your storefront journey from startup to purchase. Investigate the drop-off and make the route simpler and easier for the user. How about dropping the price of your key subscription. A music track is 69p and you can keep it for life. Some publishers are still at £3.99 an issue. Are we still clinging on to single issue purchases? Give them a reason to come back. Use an all-access model where the user gets access to everything for a set period. Spotify is the best example and there are others. Going back to PDF replicas? That’s not a digital strategy. That’s a disaster.

7. Your app is tablet only. Get on mobile and make it user and device-relevant. Do some user testing and create a simple feed app, or a collection of articles based around a subject in the news. Consider the mobile reading experience – always switched on, small screen, digestable stories on a commute, shareable and social. Know that the user will get distracted at some point during their time in your app. Don’t let them forget you… push notifications and emails to encourage repeat visits will definitely help.

8. Less is more. Stop hiding content! There is no need to hide a caption, a price or a sidebar. Use an experienced UX designer to devise the perfect read on a glowing device. Try reading your own digital magazine from cover to the last page – did you enjoy it? No, neither did the 200,000 people who downloaded your app and ditched it for Snapchat. Also stop with the autoplay videos. Nobody likes them.

9. Optimise your niche. Your content is amazing. Its unique. Your readers have loved it for all those years. Give them something to be excited about. They still have the same interests! If it worked in print, it should absolutely work on a tablet and phone. Up the frequency. And the intensity. Create new products. Break up the ‘magazine format’ and try something new. Try to be as innovative as your budget allows… and then go further.

10. Your app needs to work harder. There are so many hundreds of thousands of apps out there, just getting your icon onto anyone’s device home screen is a triumph in itself these days. If you do it right, your very own customers will come back for more, and spend good money. The Economist have proved it can be done. Why can’t you?

nb Be aware of Apple News. Its very good. And might be the true app-killer. Get on that roadmap. 

More on that next time…

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About tabletdesigner

Mobile Product Consultant and Creative Director, consulting across design agencies, publishers and brands on digital publishing, apps, UX and interactive design. I also train designers how to use Adobe DPS, and inspire new ideas for getting content working on mobile devices...

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