Wednesday, May 16, 2012

WoodWing's president, Erik Schut, advises publishers to 'exploit the multimedia and interactive possibilities' of the new digital magazine publishing platforms

Last week I asked several digital publishing solutions companies to respond to this post by Technology Review's publisher Jason Pontin, titled "Why Publishers Don't Like Apps." Here Erik Schut, president of WoodWing Software, expresses some thoughts on the subject.

The production of digital 'replica' magazines as PDF or JPG versions of the printed editions is, in our view, appropriate to offer back issues on tablets or an easy way to make your first steps into digital publishing. It is certainly not the future of publishing though.

Digital magazines should exploit the multimedia and interactive possibilities to create an engaging reading experience. A digital magazine should give its readers more of what they love about that publication in print, they demand more than just plain text and images.
Essential for this is to use a powerful platform, like Adobe and WoodWing offer. Initially it seems pretty easy to develop an app in-house, but this will result in high costs for limited functionality and user experience. The Adobe DPS platform has the most extensive feature-set on the market including bookmarking, social sharing and built-in analytics.

Another major issue is the creation part. Many of these in-house developed solutions offer a limited degree of interactivity, and the creation process is quite cumbersome – which will turn out to be a bottleneck when issues need to be produced on a regular basis. This is where WoodWing jumps in with efficient tools, which are used by hundreds of publishers to create digital publications every month, week or even daily. They can quickly enrich their publications with scrollable areas, hotspots – also nested, slideshows, widgets, video and audio and much more. For all that they don´t need programming skills, they can produce this using existing teams and resources. And, via social sharing they can broaden the reach of their digital publications.

Yes, publishers will need to put in some extra effort, but with the right tools this can be done efficiently, not only for tablets, but for all channels.

As for generating new revenue, a lot of possibilities have not yet been exploited, also not in full interactive apps – think of sales of reviewed products, music or tickets for concerts in the agenda. Think of offering in-depth stand-alone articles, or cross-selling other publications.

All of this will help keep existing customers and attract new readers. It also contributes to providing an attractive platform to advertisers. The tablet publications created by Hearst, Meredith and Time Inc. are positive examples in this regard. Hearst has just reported that they sell 600.000 tablet magazines every month.

Finally, it should be noted – if publishers don’t bring an engaging tablet experience they can be sure new players will step in and disrupt the market.

Erik Schut is the president of WoodWing Software, a Netherlands-based multi-channel digital publishing solutions company. Their customers include ACP Magazines Limited, American Express Publishing, Condé Nast, Hearst Magazines, and others.