Monday, February 18, 2013

Brands take to the Newsstand: Roland Corp. launches its 2nd natively designed digital magazine, while BUILD, Atlas Copco's customer mag, appears as a replica edition

Hhowever much magazine publishers would like to think that their customers still rely on their publications to market their products, the fact is that digital media – whether the web or the new mobile and tablet platforms – are increasingly making brands into publishers themselves. What's interesting, from my perspective, is the choses they are making when launching their own digital magazines.

Roland Corporation, the Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments and software, has launched their second digital magazine into the Apple Newsstand. The first, which I missed the first time around, is called PowerOn Roland Users Group, was released just at the start of this year.

It's newest is called PowerOn BOSS and Guitar Edition, and like the first digital magazine is a natively designed app.

Designed to be read in portrait, the publisher here has decided to keep most of the audio and video out of the app to keep the file size down – 128 MB for its first issue.

When you compare this brand magazine with the digital edition of Guitar World, an app built when owned by Future Publishing (the title was sold, along with Revolver and Guitar Aficionado, to New Bay Media in January) you immediately see that publishers have opened themselves up to branded magazines by delivering less than satisfactory digital publishing products.

As one reader's review inside the App Store says: "Sadly, this magazine app should be a lot more than it is (which is just a scanned copy of the print magazine). One would expect features: linked table of contents, linked audio samples and video samples/lessons at a minimum. But none of that is here. It's just an overpriced scan of the print magazine. You can be better."

Well, the digital edition of Guitar World may not be a "scan", but you get the idea, and the reader has a valid point.

Here is a brief walk-through the first issue inside PowerOn BOSS and Guitar Edition:

Of course, many brands have long ago launched their own customer magazines, usually through the custom publishing divisions of major publishing houses, or through agencies dedicated strictly to publishing branded magazines and newsletters.
 photo BUILDMag-iPad-sm_zpsfcb1bafc.jpg
BUILD is the customer magazine from Atlas Copco, a Swedish industrial equipment manufacturer. The production work for the magazine originates from Appelberg Publishing Group, also from Sweden, and a flipbook of the print magazine is being produced by Issuu. I don't know which company is responsible for the newly released tablet edition of BUILD Magazine.

The new app, though, is miles away from the natively designed digital magazine produced by Roland. Instead, what the reader gets here is merely a replica edition of the print magazine. Is this because a publisher was involved with the original product, or simply because Roland is taking a more platform-centric approach to its branded magazines?

Whatever the case may be, the Newsstand is seeing more branded magazines appear each week, and publishers with current custom publishing contracts should be thinking now about what they would like to launch into the Newsstand – before the brands take up the call themselves.