Thursday, September 27, 2012

Emmis Communications releases five new iPad editions for its city/regional magazines titles in Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Texas

Emmis Communications, which operates radio stations and publishes city/regional magazines, today released five new tablet editions inside the Apple Newsstand.

Launched today were Los Angeles Magazine, Indianapolis Monthly Magazine, Cincinnati Magazine, Atlanta Magazine and Texas Monthly.

The only magazines that are part of the Emmis portfolio that did not see an app get launched were Country Sampler and Orange Coast. Since all the apps are identical, one can assume apps for those titles should appear soon.

Emmis has a digital division, but judging by these new apps I would have to doubt whether these unimaginative app editions came out of that division (did they?).

Each of the apps, other than their support for Apple's Newsstand, look as if they could have come out back in 2010. Each only give the reader digital replicas of the print edition with only a few links thrown in to assist navigation.

While the digital editions can be read in both portrait and landscape, no reformatting is done to accomodate the tablet platform. Two-page ads look OK in landscape but are unreadable, while the ads make little sense in portrait.

Likewise the editorial pages are as you'd see them in print, including the left-right page folios at the bottom of each page.

The reader can use pinch-to-zoom to assist them and the digital editions did load and navigate smoothly, but otherwise these are pretty backwards looking replicas. As a publisher I would prefer that these were housed in a digital newsstand like Zinio rather than launched as branded apps.

Each of the apps offer monthly subscriptions at $1.99 per month, while the annual subscription price varies based on the number of issues each magazine publishes (for instance, Indianapolis Monthly is monthly but also offers two guides for 14 issues total).

The iPad editions do not offer print subscribers access to the digital editions, so look for plenty of angry reviews beginning to appear inside the App Store.
Left: the library page where issues can be purchased or a subscription bought; Middle: the subscription pop-up; Right: since these are replica editions, no reformatting for the tablet platform was produced.

It is certainly a bigg challenge to produce natively designed tablet editions at a city/regional magazine than at a large national brand. Ad page prices are typically low (compared to national magazines) and staffs are often lean.

But if the goal is incremental revenue gains, other digital newsstands are available, one needn't use the Apple newsstand for such a minor project as the launch of a replica edition.

At a chain such as Emmis Communications, with seven city/regional titles, one would think that a more imaginative and profitable solution would be to pursue both national and local advertising targeted specifically for the digital editions. Alternatively, incorporating iAds or some other network is another option.

But Emmis, whose stock is currently trading at below $2, is probably not in a position to invest in digital publishing solutions - which is sad, because very few regional publishers have a large enough portfolio of titles to justify new digital publishing platforms for their production staffs.