Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cygnus Business Media establishes its own take on tablet editions for its B2B titles; newest title to get its own iPad edition is Aircraft Maintenance Technology

One thing that used to drive me crazy about working at B2B media companies was the attitude that every title had to be treated the same, the same website design, the same way of doing things. While the philosophy helped bring new services and products to each title, it also stifled creativity, and limited growth.
Not surprisingly, as most magazine companies begin to create digital tablet editions each company immediately creates its own template in order to speed the time it takes to create a new digital edition for another title. Don't get me wrong, it's not necessarily a bad way to do things, at least initially.

One of the few U.S. B2Bs that has been actively creating tablet editions is Cygnus Business Media. With the release of an iPad edition for Aircraft Maintenance Technology, the company now has a dozen iPad apps inside the Apple App Store (three of which are universal, meaning they will also work on the iPhone).

The app for Aircraft Maintenance Technology (AMT) is about as small as one can get, less than 10 MB, the smallest tablet edition I believe I've ever seen. The app opens to the library page where one is told they can download the May issue – but it's actually dated April once you have opened it up.

AMT is a 41K circulation B2B title that is published ten times a year. It is the official magazine of the AMT Society which might be wondering where the rest of the magazine went when it was converted to the iPad.

A better tablet edition to look at would be one released earlier, Law Enforcement Technology, a 30K circulation monthly. Like all the Cygnus tablet editions, the one of LET is to be read in landscape only, reducing the overall size of the files created. The May issue of the title is 74 MB in size – larger because the digital edition itself is larger, and because it contains a bit more interactivity.

Left: One of only two stories to be found in the tablet edition of Aircraft Maintenance Technology; Right: the cover of the May issue of Law Enforcement Technology.

Like all the Cygnus tablet editions, the app of LET resides outside of Apple's Newsstand. The decision to do this is interesting as it means that readers are forced to go back inside the app and find new issues. To try and compensate for this, the LET iPad app contains a registration page where readers are encouraged to register in order to be notified about future issues. It's a strange way to do things as this could be done through Notifications or by placing the app inside Newsstand.

Like most B2Bs, the Cygnus apps choses to offer readers the issues free of charge. As mentioned many times here, B2Bs face a dilemma when it comes to pricing their titles. A typical B2B title is a qualified circulation magazine, free to those within an industry. Each of the titles here are BPA audited – in fact, LET has 100 percent direct request. LET also claims to have 200 paid subscribers – these are typically readers who would not qualify to receive the magazine for free so are given the option to buy it (it is also possible that they are foreign subscribers).

The invitation to register, though, is not a bad idea, one I would think other publishers would attempt.
Left: the library page for the Law Enforcement Technology iPad app; Right: a page where the magazine invites readers to register.

It should be mentioned that these tablet editions are not mere replica editions produced by some third party vendor. Cygnus has decided to go native, and though the digital editions are fairly simple, they are specifically designed for their platform, the iPad. Some changes in design, though, would improve these digital issues. One can tell that the art directors come from print by the decision to include page footers, a totally unnecessary leftover from print. Also, the font sizes look like they were taken from the print edition, then reduced down for the iPad.

The last thing that I would be remiss to not mention is the lack of a business model here. These free issues are also free of advertising. I suppose the idea here is to encourage downloads and then sell the issues to advertisers next year. As a B2B publisher, the idea of letting the opportunity go to showcase the tablet editions would drive me crazy. I would have insisted that each new app at least contain a single-sponsor, even if it was given away to a loyal print advertiser. If these were print prototype issues, they would certainly not be printed out sample ads. Why not employ the same strategy when creating tablet editions?