Friday, April 20, 2012

Swedish custom publisher, Appelberg, relaunches its own customer magazine back into the Newsstand, providing a showcase for the company's digital publishing prowess

Eearlier this month the Swedish customer publishing company, Appelberg Publishing Group, launched a new iPad app version of its customer magazine. TNM caught the release and immediately posted a story about the new app. Since the magazine is in Swedish, I could not tell that the issue to be found in that new app was just a partial edition, there to provide the Apple review team a look at the new app with its natively designed digital magazine.

Johan Nohr, art director at Appelberg, contacted me the next day, expressing surprise that I had seen and grabbed, and written, about the new app so quickly.
"I’m very happy to see that you’ve featured our new iPad app Appelberg in your blog, and you are spot on about the reasons for us having the app and why we feel like it’s time to upgrade from the old one which was pretty much just a pdf reader," Nohr wrote me.

"I’m also amazed that you managed to find, download and even review the app in such short time! It’s quite funny actually, because we didn’t mean to publish this version of the app publicly. The version of the app that got released yesterday was intended for Apples review process only, and the final version will be more sophisticated and include lots of more material such as stories, images, animations and video (for instance, the cover image begins with a film from the photo shoot). Hence why the app you saw and reviewed is so light and starving for content."

Nohr then told me that Appelberg had already pulled down the new app and would relaunch it on the 20th (today). We arranged to hook up later via e-mail so that he could further explain their design choices. I sent Nohr a short list of questions and I liked his answers so much that rather than incorporate them into a follow-up story I've decided to get reproduce them here completely as they came to me:

1) You recently launched an app for your customer magazine, Appelberg. What digital publishing platform did you use to create this new app and why did you decide to use that platform?

Since we first started our journey into tablet publishing (summer 2010), we’ve worked with a few different platforms and solutions. These have spanned from the simplest PDF reader that we used in the beginning, to a highly experimental, custom-made HTML5 solution that for various reasons didn’t really cut it, to the production tool we use today.

We recently had a look at the different options available for tablet publication. We tried some of them, met a lot of people and drank a boatload of coffee doing both. We finally decided to go with Mag+, a Swedish production tool that not only suited the way we work at Appelberg, but also had a price model that was way more compatible with custom publishing than the other options. Most platforms, at least at the time we evaluated them, had a price model that assumed you sold subscriptions and issues, and that’s not often the case with us.

2) Your previous app for Appelberg was a replica edition, why the release of this new app?

The replica edition (that was essentially a PDF reader, with some links and video content on the side) worked out well in the beginning. But things inevitably changed, and production tools became more sophisticated and technically advanced. So we felt that we needed to stay updated with what was happening in order to be able to provide the best possible product for our clients. Nowadays, you can’t just publish a PDF on an iPad and call it a day – readers require something more captivating than that.

3) As I understand it, your company is the custom publishing division of Stampen AB, creating branded magazines for outside customers. Have any of your customers asked you about creating tablet versions of their magazines?

A big part of our job at Appelberg is strategic consultancy: We help our clients identify, select and communicate in different channels depending on the story. For some companies, getting a tablet app early isn’t the best option and some probably don’t need to make an app at all. But for others, it’s vital.

One of our largest clients in the industrial segment is the Swedish bearing company SKF, for whom we produce web content, a newsletter and an international customer magazine called Evolution (distributed four times a year, 40 pages, 120 000 copies in 12 language editions). Since they are such a tech-oriented company, they felt the need to be on the forefront of new technology. As part of their communication strategy, making a tablet version of Evolution was important. (You can read more about it, in Swedish, here)

The Evolution tablet edition was the first sharp project we produced using Mag+. We learned a lot from doing it, and the end result is something that we are very proud of. As a matter of fact, the second issue was recently released.

4) If so, are there plans to bring these magazines to the Apple App Store and will these be replica editions of the printed magazines, or reformatted versions?

As of now, all of the tablet magazines that we produce for our clients will be published in the Apple App Store.

5) The publishing industry remains in a depressed state in the U.S., how would you describe the situation in Sweden?

I’m not really the best person to answer that, so I asked Maria Westman, Editorial Director at Appelberg, to comment:
“The situation in Sweden is a bit different compared with the one in the U.S. Of course the publishing industry has taken a dip, but Sweden is a smaller country and readers still want printed publications. Swedish publishing agencies have been very creative over the past few years. To survive, they’ve had to think and publish in new formats, and to deliver solutions other than the printed magazine, such as tablet and mobile solutions and movies.”
Thank you to Johan Nohr and Maria Westman for giving TNM readers more information on their company, the new tablet edition, and a look at the state of publishing in Sweden.

So how does this new tablet edition inside the newly released app compare to what I saw two weeks ago?

The tablet edition I saw then was a natively designed issue that would be familiar to anyone who has read a digital magazine that used the Mag+ platform. It still is, of course, but as Nohr said in his e-mail, now there are the bells and whistles you might expect from a tablet edition produced to show off the digital publishing skills of its publisher.

The easiest way to show you would not be screenshots, but a quick run through of the digital magazine itself, which you can see below: