Monday, February 11, 2013

B2B publisher GIE Media committed to building native tablet editions, finds reader engagement dramatically higher than flipbooks, or even print magazines

This morning TNM posted its first look at the new tablet editions released by B2B publisher GIE Media for its Golf Course Industry and Lawn & Landscape industry titles. Both new apps use the Adobe DPS platform to create native tablet editions that not only reformat the editorial content of the magazines, but also includes some interactive advertising, as well.

The new B2B apps are very impressive and quite a bit ahead of what most other U.S. B2B publishers are doing today. But the first native app released by GIE Media was not a B2B title at all, but a digital-only consumer magazine, seen here last May, A Garden Life.

"We've been working on A Garden Life for the past year," Chris Foster, President and COO of GIE Media, told me late this morning.

"We decided that the only way for a B2B publisher to compete in the consumer magazine industry is to make a digital-only magazine, but we wanted to make it very engaging and very rich. So we used the Apple platform, because if you take a look at most of our downloads some 96 percent are on the iOS platform, the remainder are on Android or (Kindle) Fire or something else."

Now GIE Media is releasing native apps for their biggest titles – in addition to the two landscape industry magazines PCT - Pest Control Technology Magazine has its own native tablet edition.

"We went through all the growing pains and learning curve with "A Garden Life"," Foster said. "People engage in the native app versions of magazines so substantially more than they engage in flipbook apps. We see engagement of roughly 47 minutes per entrance into the app, which is huge."
"It's probably more than you see with print magazines, and the average person is going into the app several times during a month."

All together, GIE Media has 17 apps now inside Apple's App Store, though many of them are really just flipbook apps. "The flipbook apps don't give you that kind of measurement, and frankly are just not very engaging, so people go in they read an article and they pop out. So we made a decision to move away from Texterity, which was the majority of flip book apps that we had until this year," Foster said.

GIE Media appears very committed to building their own digital publishing products, which a big reason why the company decided to go with Adobe's solution rather than an outside vendor or a plug-in solution.

"We have an internal web design group and right now we are doing PCT - Pest Control Technology Magazine, Lawn & Landscape and Golf Course Industry in native versions, so we have three, in addition to A Garden Life. So the design teams are separate, and we're looking at how we could potentially merge those groups to expedite the design process now. We probably won't be able to do that for the next three to six months but we're looking at how that might work – because people who do native magazines, they're very good at native, they love animation, they get the metrics, they get how the page should lay out on a tablet. Traditional designers, though they may do a lot with web, they are still very print focused."
 photo GIE-B2B-iPad-sm_zps6ee7e44e.jpg
GIE Media's three B2B titles with native tablet editions
Like most B2B publishers, GIE Media will have to grapple with the issue of what to do about qualified circulation and their BPA audits. GIE Media has maintained the audits on their large magazines, and the audit for Lawn & Landscape, for instance, even includes information on its digital editions and their e-newsletters. But this may have to change in order to keep up with the changes in digital publishing.

"To start with BPA does have some methods to qualify BPA circulation, but they aren't very good," Foster told me.
"I want people to do that to my ad," says print advertiser about interactive ads
"The reality is you are operating in a world that is changing very quickly, and its changing faster than independent, say, battleship organizations can manage. If you want to tell a marketing story BPA is a great tool, but really that starts with leads. If you are bringing your advertisers good leads, regardless of how BPA displays it on a piece of paper, they (the advertisers) are going to want to do business with you. So we are looking at how we can tie the iPad circulation to an audit, whether that ends up being a BPA, or an independent verified audit, or even a publisher's statement is an issue we also talking about. But BPA needs to do some things to keep our business."

What separates GIE Media's B2B tablet edition efforts from many others is their push to obtain interactive ad material from their advertising clients. Several ads inside that latest edition of Lawn & Landscape, for instance, contain either video or slideshows – some form of enhancement on the ads as seen in print.

"We just got back from The Golf Industry Show, the national show in that market, and you could see people who were using the app touching and trying to find interactive elements on ads that were not enhanced," Foster said.

"We had lots of clients say 'yeah, I want people to do that to my ad' so what we're doing is we're up-selling those advertisers to create the enhanced ad material internally – it's about a 20 percent up-sell from the current rate card. It will probably change next year in terms of how each market develops digitally but we're basing it off print rate cards right now."

One of my first questions to Chris Foster was whether he saw these native tablet editions as still an experiment or whether it this was the direction the company would be pursuing.

"By year end you'll see all our magazines doing this. This is not just a limited trial. We're starting with our biggest products and moving from there," Foster said.