Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dutch medical app has qualification process that could work for B2B publishers (assuming Apple does not object)

Without a doubt one of the biggest questions B2B publishers involved in tablet editions must deal with is the fact that there is no built-in qualification process for the platform – no way to limit readership of a B2B magazine in digital to just those  in the industry covered by the editorial content of the digital magazine. In print, a publisher only mails their qualified circulation magazine to readers who have filled out a reader response card – giving their name, address, title, company name and other business information to the publisher.

What most publishers and developers have believed is that Apple would not allow an app into the App Store or the Newsstand that forced a reader to be qualified before they could access the content of the digital magazine. As a result, most publishers have launched their tablet editions (or smartphone apps) as free apps, with the content freely available to anyone who downloads the app. A few publishers have gone the paid route, forcing readers of the digital magazine to pay a subscription charge. And still another, though smaller, group of publisher have made their apps "reader" apps, where the reader must sign into their existing accounts before accessing the content.

Until yesterday afternoon I'd not seen an app that contained its own qualification mechanism. That changed with MedZine.

MedZine has been around since last summer, but a new updated app was released a couple of weeks ago. Whether this app has had a qualification form inside it from the beginning I do not know. But I asked a couple of B2B publishers about this and they were stunned to learn of the app's qualification mechanism.
Left: the questions the reader must answer before gaining access to the app's content; Right: if the reader does not qualify this message appears.

This is how this app works: you download and open the app. The app opens to a page that reads "I am a healthcare professional in..." and two choices are presented – The Netherlands or Other country. If the reader selects "The Netherlands" they are taken to a page where they fill in their information based on the medical society they are a part of. In this regards, they are sharing their information with the publisher, but it is also very much like the "reader" app model I described above.

But if the reader chooses another country, then the app takes you to a qualification page where the reader must toggle a switch that says they are a healthcare professional. They then specify what country they are from, their specialty and then their email address. If they do all this they gain access to the app.

This is, in essence, a qualification process. Sure, the reader has not given out their name and address, but the information gathered is plenty to qualify the reader as someone in the industry being served by the magazine (in this case, the medical profession).

Does this app violate Apple's developer guidelines? Apparently not. Did it slip through by mistake? Who knows. Frankly, I see nothing wrong with the app and its qualification mechanism. But as I've argued for the past three years both the ABM and BPA should be on top of this issue with Apple – a lot of publishers are wondering if there is a way to do a qualified circulation tablet magazine inside Apple's ecosystem.

Maybe the answer all along has been "Yes".