Wednesday, April 4, 2012

B2B publisher Macfadden Communications Group releases a new iPad edition for its title Pizza Today

The B2B publishing company, Macfadden Communications Group, publishers of Grocery Headquarters, has just released a new iPad edition for its trade industry journal Pizza Today. Pizza Today Magazine iPad Edition is a free app that also offers readers free access to the specially designed tablet issues – and because it resides inside Apple's Newsstand, readers can also subscribe for free in order to have their monthly issues download automatically to their tablets.
Pizza Today is a BPA audited monthly with a circulation of just over 40,000. The magazine goes to owners of pizzerias, as well as manufacturers and suppliers tied to the industry. The monthly is also the official publication of the National Association of Pizzeria Operators, a designation I think they will can count on keeping since Macfadden is clearly showing a dedication to keeping up with new digital media platforms.

In addition to this tablet edition, there is also a show guide for the just completed International Pizza Expo, available inside the App Store. An Android app for Pizza Today is also inside Google Play (the old Android Market) which actually came out slightly before today's release of the iPad version – "kind of a back-end test to see what would happen," Michael Davis, director of digital services at Macfadden Communications told me. All these apps are using the Mag+ platform - an InDesign plug-in based system that makes creating tablet editions fairly easy for publishing teams.

While Pizza Today is published out of Louisville, Kentucky, the apps are being developed using Mag+ by Davis and his team in New York. In addition to Pizza Today, Macfadden also has iPad apps for Dance Magazine and Dance Spirit, released in February. Because Macfadden, like some other B2Bs, was put together through acquisitions, not all the apps can be found under simply the "Macfadden" name – Dance Spirit and Dance Magazine can be found, for instance, under DanceMedia LLC, while Cesar's Way iPad Edition is developed under he Imagine That II, LLC name.

The plan is, according to Jeremy White, the editor-in-chief at Pizza Today, to have the art directors at the company go to New York to learn Mag+ and to create their own tablet editions going forward. In this case, it will be Josh Keown. "Josh is very savvy in this department," White said.

The Pizza Today app's sole available issue is currently the April issue and weighs in at 246.4 MB. It is designed to be read in portrait, which saves a bit on file size. But because it was created using Mag+, I think readers of TNM will pretty much know what to expect: fonts are appropriately sized, navigation is logical and very easy deal with. This is no ugly replica edition.

This Pizza Today app is certainly a rarity inside the App Store – a natively designed tablet edition that is easy to read and navigate and gives its readers a complete copy of the magazine. Only a handful of other B2Bs have ventured into experimenting with the tablet platform and few that have stuck their toes in the water have stuck with it.

Left: Jeremy White's editor's column announcing the new iPad edition; Middle: a native layout with a scrolling text box; Right: the staff box for Pizza Today.

One big problem for B2Bs remains the business model – or more specifically, the circulation model. Most B2B publications are controlled circulation trade journals. Only a few are, like AdAge or Engineering News-Record, paid publications. This means that those that receive the magazine each month must be qualified - proven members of the industry, readers industry members want to reach with their advertising.

The circulation game is different, as well: publishers determine the level of circulation – in this case 40,000 – and have no incentive to raise that number since they are giving the magazine away for free and receive little or no subscription revenue.

Apple's Newsstand, therefore, presents an interesting problem: if one doesn't charge for print Apple doesn't allow for charging for digital; on the other hand, if a reader must qualify to receive the print version how does the publisher limit the readership to just qualified readers.

But my conversations with both the magazine's editor, Jeremy White, and Macfadden's Mike Davis, clearly shows that this B2B company has some talented folks in it who are thinking through this issue. I look for Macfadden to lead other B2Bs in both the development of B2B tablet editions, as well as in using distribution and subscription models that make sense for the B2B industry.

My, my, it's nice to end the day on an up note. I now look forward to getting my copy of Grocery Headquarters (another Macfadden title) on the iPad one day.