Thursday, November 24, 2011

Re-run: Part 2 of a conversation with Mike Haney on tablet publishing and the B2B publishing industry

Today is the Thanksgiving Day holiday in the U.S. so there will be no new posts. But here is the second part of the interview I conducted with Mag+'s Mike Haney at the ABM Executive Forum last month – in case you missed it.

Last week American Business Media (ABM) held its a Executive Forum, "Content Matters", which concerned ways publishers and marketers could maximize the use of their print and online content.

One of the newest associate members of ABM is Moving Media+, the Bonnier Corp. spinoff that produces the Mag+ digital publishing platform for touchscreen tablets. Speaking at the event was Mike Haney, U.S. director and a part of the original concept team.

I spoke with Haney about the origins of the Mag+ project and his move from executive editor of Popular Science magazine (part one), as well as the challenges of presenting the new digital platforms, and specifically Mag+, to B2B media executives (part two).

Part Two

While the newspaper and consumer magazine industry has been fairly quick to exploit the new tablets by building natives apps, embracing Apple's Newsstand, or simply launching replica editions, the trade publishing industry has lagged behind – though there are some examples of B2B publications to be found in the U.S. version of Apple's App Store.

I asked Mike Haney, U.S. director at Mag+ about what he is hearing from B2B publishers as he begins to present his company's digital publishing solution to prospective customers, and how this is different from what he is hearing from the consumer publishing side.
"In the conversations I've had with some of the B2B publisher sits fundamentally different," Haney told me, "and that's been one of the really interesting things about spinning Mag+ out and going out to these markets."

"One of the things we've realized is that consumer is a small percentage of our business. It's the flashiest, its where you get the most notice because these are brands people know. But there is such a huge market out there in custom publishing, in B2B, in some of these other verticals. What's interesting about going out and talking to them, especially with my background as a consumer publishing guy…is learning about those different challenges," Haney said.

"So, on the B2B side, what I've learned talking to them is that everyone's reason for doing this (tablets) is different. For consumer publishers its revenue. At the end of the day, it's just revenue. Whether it is about getting consumers to pay for something in digital that they haven't before, whether it is about expanding the audience base, whether it is about getting experimental ad dollars in there, saving on the print run eventually, it's about revenue."

Of course, in B2B, where a large majority of publications do not charge for a subscription to the magazine, but are instead distributing only to "qualified" readers, the motivation to build new digital products is going to be different.

"When you move into this controlled circ environment – it's not that it's not about revenue, everyone wants to make money – but the way their going to do that's different. There not going out there looking for 100,000 new readers necessarily," Haney said.

Consumer magazine Popular Photography used the Mag+ system to create its tablet edition which can be found inside Apple's Newsstand.

I confirmed with Haney his own understanding of the rules Apple currently have as they relate to Newsstand, the new digital publications app that was introduced with the launch of iOS 5. For B2B publishers (and others) Newsstand may provide the kind of solution publishers have been asking for.

While the vast majority of subscribers to controlled circulation magazines will receive the publication for free – assuming they "qualify" – non-qualified readers, such as those outside the industry, can still purchase a subscription to the B2B magazine. Newsstand allows for this if the publisher sets up a subscription pricing level for their Newsstand compliant app within the App Store, but then allow current (or future qualified) subscribers to log into their accounts within the magazine app.

"They open up the app, there is an optional window that pops down that says 'my account' or 'sign-in'," Haney confirmed. "You sign-in and that pings the back-end subscription provider and goes "OK, Doug has has been a subscriber since 2010, he has access to all these back issues and the next 12 issues going forward' or whatever entitlements you want to set."

This means that B2B publishers need a system, either internally, or through a provider, that can provide this kind of subscription verification.

I talked to Haney about what he sees the differences are concerning the value of a digital publishing solutions such as Mag+ versus the solutions being offered by vendors who have traditionally offered digital flipbooks to their customers, and are now offering replica editions for tablets.

"The primary one is engagement," Haney told me.

"People understand when something has been created specifically for that device that its being consumed on, as opposed to being simply ported over."

"Reading PDF replicas, whether on a desktop, or on any kind of screen, has never been a very good user experience," Haney said. "It's a little bit challenging to get through, to figure out where you are in it, to pinch and zoom around it. As a creator it's horrible because you're seeing something that was not at all the way I intended you to see it. You're not even getting the value out of that information that I've spent awful lot of time compiling, editing, designing, shooting, etc."

"What we see when you start designing things specifically for this tablet, where it feels like a native app, where it takes advantage of the touchscreen, or the way you navigate is the natural way you read, people spend more time with it."

Haney talked about surveys that showed that the time of engagement – the time readers spend with one type of tablet publication versus another – shows that native apps and publications specifically designed to be read on a tablet, garner more time from the reader.

"On the advertiser side we've seen the same thing out of this survey that was done this summer, we looked at ads that just weren't replicas – because a lot of the advertisers are still doing that – others are starting to experiment."

An interactive ad from Lexus designed for a tablet edition.

"People are noticing that, and they are spending more time on those ads, they are engaging with it."

"It's a device that wants to be touched and swiped. Whenever somebody gets an iPad the first thing you do is start tapping, touching it, doing stuff with it – that's the value of it, and that's the value of creating things that allow you to do that. In a replica solution you're not really doing that."

"I think the key is really to do this, to create these optimized things that you are going to get you that engagement, get you that value, get you that brand building that people are going to pay for, advertisers are going to want to be part of, but in a way that keeps the cost down."

Sometimes it is hard to remember that it has only been a little less than 19 month since buyers received their first iPads via UPS, and that it has only been that short amount of time since publishers had the new digital platform to launch products into. But with the introduction of Newsstand, more and more publishers are beginning to visualize their products for tablets.

So what does Mike Haney have in his iPad Newsstand?

"In terms of the digital space, I think everyone is still experimenting, so the magazines I look at – I'm still a print magazine, I carry print magazines in my bag, its just easier for me to read in the places I'm running around to – but I like watching what Wired is doing, what Esquire is doing, what some of the Meredith pubs are doing with their solution. I think everyone is still learning. So when I look at the stuff that's in my Newsstand is less about what I'm reading month to month, and more about checking out what people are doing," Haney told me.

Mag+ at a glance:
  • Moving Media+ is a spinoff of Bonnier Corporation
  • Mag+ publishing tools are offered free of charge on the website
  • The system works through an Adobe InDesign plug-in (for either CS 4 or 5).
  • The Mag+ Reviewer app, used to preview your new tablet editions, is a free download in the App Store
  • The company offers free instructional webinars
  • Cost: $2500 gets you a branded reader app, with five months of free publishing, after that you would be charged $500 per issue or $500 per month for continuous publishing (after the first 5 months)
  • To fully brand your new apps, a publisher should become a registered Apple developer – the cost is $99 per year, there are no additional costs for submitting apps