Thursday, March 22, 2012

Questions about tablet editions often get very different answers based on how the question is asked

Forums are filled with magazine publishing executives asking all sorts of questions about tablet editions, but most of the questions are centered on bringing their titles to Apple's Newsstand or the Android Market (or whatever it wants to be called now).

But no matter who is asking the question, or what the title is, the answers are pretty much always the same: it only depends on who is providing the answer.

I suppose it shouldn't surprise anyone that a vendor might say their digital publishing solution is the best one, but while there is often wide variation in the original question asked, there is consistency in the answers given. This is why, when you find me in one of these forums, I am usually trying to rephrase the question, trying to explore what the publisher is really asking.

The tablet edition for American Photo was created using the Mag+ platform.

For instance, how do you answer the question "I want to bring my magazine to the iPad, how should I do that?"

Simple enough question, but is it really what the publisher wants to do – bring their magazine to the iPad? If so, then clearly they are looking to replicate the reading experience of their print magazine, but in digital form. Are they already working with Zinio, I might ask (and if not, why not)?

Of course, the question is sometimes asked in a radically different way – "I want to create a tablet edition, how should I do that?" Again, the question needs to be qualified, do they really mean "tablet edition" or are they meaning digital edition, as in something approaching what was asked above.

But if "tablet edition" really is the goal then clearly one would point them to a digital publishing solution such as from Adobe, Mag+, Aquafadas, etc. This would produce a digital magazine that is designed specifically for the tablet environment, even if the raw materials used in the digital magazine originally came from the print edition.

Electronics Industry Update uses the replica solution from Yudu Ltd.

The third way I see this question asked is "I want to reach tablet readers with my magazine?" – this is probably the best way to ask the question, but the one I see least online. In this case the publisher might be saying that they are willing to look at creating a whole new digital product, or at least would consider it.

The question, asked this way, leads to lots of other questions that are often difficult to answer, at least today: "how many of your readers own a tablet?" "is your reader best served with a tablet edition (for instance, in the case of B2B, often readers use their tablets during leisure-time and may not want to read your business magazine after hours)?"

Unfortunately, online forums tend to attract vendors looking for new customers and who see their publishing solution as perfect for everyone.

A good example of this was the answer from one vendor who said their digital solution was perfect because it didn't involve apps and would work on any platform. Sounds great, but the solution is simply an HTML5 web solution – another form of a digital flipbook. Yes, you'll be able to read the product on an iPad or Kindle Fire, but it is not the branded experience the publisher really was looking for.

I've yet to see a digital publishing solution that didn't seem to be perfect for some publisher – but I've never seen one that is perfect for all publishers. To get to the right solution, though, publishers may want to spend more time on refining their questions first. Otherwise, they will be vulnerable to getting sold the wrong solution, over and over.