Tuesday, April 30, 2013

B2B publisher PennWell launches its first Apple Newsstand app for its dental industry title 'Proofs'

The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based B2B publisher PennWell has launched its first tablet edition into the Apple Newsstand thanks to its vendor GTxcel. The new digital edition for Proofs can best be described as an enhanced replica edition, though the magazine has no longer has a print edition.

Proofs is kind of an odd title to launch a first Newsstand app with: the magazine does not have what I would term a fully functional website. As a result, the magazine will have a hard time promoting its new digital edition to readers. But the title does have an e-newsletter that the magazine's editor Keven Henry told me reaches 11,000 readers. The magazine will now be using that e-newsletter and email to alert readers that they can download a digital copy of Proofs, or access issues through this new app.

Proofs is part of PennWell's Dental Division and is distributed to dental dealers and executives at dental manufacturing firms. It is, in short, the kind of title that rounds out a B2B publisher's industry focus. .

The new app was built by GTxcel, which was formerly known as Godengo+Texterity. Texterity, back when it was an independent company, built a lot of flipbooks for magazine publishers, and PennWell will be using Texterity, that is GTxcel, to build the new version of Proofs.

The app for Proofs is universal, but even the editor's note refers to this new app as being for tablets. The publishing team has tried hard to make their new replica edition more like a native tablet edition by embedding some video and having a slideshow added. Because of the magazine's font choices I found the digital edition fairly easy to read.

PennWell's production team is clearly struggling with digital publishing as there are tell-tale signs of print everywhere: first, the page numbers are inserted on editorial pages with their left-page even, right-page odd rhythm; second, there is a story that jumps to the back of the book, and no link was placed on the jump to assist the reader in continuing to read the story. Hopefully PennWell's management team and editors will sit down with art directors to talk over what the digital publishing platform should look like (hey, alternatively, I'll come over for a few meetings!).

Pennwell has three other iPad apps inside the Apple App Store, each an older stand-alone app. This may be the first real attempt by the B2B publisher to launch a digital magazine. PennWell, though, has many more mobile apps for its titles inside both the Apple App Store and Google Play – and most look to have also been built by Texterity GTxcel.

One thing that I should point out with the new app for Proofs is that the publisher is charging new readers for access to the digital magazine – $1.99 per issue, or an annual subscription for $19.99. Current subscribers can log into their accounts, however, to access the issue for free.

Many B2B publishers, used to giving away their print magazine to qualified subscribers often decide to launch their first tablet editions with the app and its issues free to download. Only those B2B titles that charge for print seem to be also charging for digital.

But there is no reason not to go in this direction PennWell has taken in Proofs of charging new readers who have not gone through the qualification process. A decade or more ago, it was regular practice for B2B publishers to try and sell issues to non-qualified or foreign readers.

What I would love to see, however, is B2B publishers working with Apple (or Google, Microsoft or Amazon, for that matter) to come up with an in-app qualification mechanism. I have seen one European B2B tablet edition take this approach, but no U.S. B2B titles. (Maybe it isn't even necessary to work with the platform owners to do this?)

Here is a walk-through of part of the first issue of Proofs inside its new Newsstand app: