Friday, September 23, 2011

Follow-up: The new book app 'Journey to the Exoplanets' gets some marketing love from Apple in the App Store

Although it costs $9.99 in the App Store I hope you have been able to check out the great new book app from Scientific American and book publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Journey to the Exoplanets.

Despite the fact that the App Store description says that the app was released into the App Store on the 14th, it actually did not become visible to buyers until Wednesday of this week. For most developers, the process of getting your app into the store involves submitting a finished app to Apple and then waiting for it to get approved. Then, after getting notified that the app has been approved, the app very quickly appears in the App Store, often catching the developer flat footed.

Originally released on Wednesday, 'Journey to the Exoplanets'
is now being promoted by Apple with the App Store.

For many media apps, a fast approval can lead to problems, especially for 'library' apps – those apps that create a digital newsstand that pulls in issues from the media company's servers. Sometimes not all the issues that are displayed in the app are actually ready to be downloaded, causing readers to think the app is defective.

I wanted to talk to the team that put this particular app together but was shot down (ah, to be David Pogue). The questions I wanted addressed concerned not only the future of book publishing projects such as this one, but also the process involved in getting an app "embargoed".
Clearly Journey to the Exoplanets was an app where the publisher/developer worked closely with Apple. This is clear from the fact that 1) the appearance of the app was delayed to a specific date so that the publisher could properly promote the app, and 2) the app is now being prominently promoted in the App Store, surely this was prearranged (the app certainly deserves the special attention). What is this process like? How easy was it to get Apple to comply?

The app approval process, the mechanism of getting an app into the store, the process of developing and testing an app – all these things are important things for publishers to experience in order to fully exploit the new digital platforms. For far too many publishers, the mobile media and tablet publishing platforms are treated as no different than changing printers.

Possibly the biggest challenge for large publishers is the product marketing aspect of launching an app. For a book publisher, the process is old hat: PR, bookstore promotion, author tours, and the like. But the App Store is a whole new environment and I think the whole issue of in-store promotion needs to be explored more. I'll get right on it.