Monday, May 20, 2013

B2B tablet magazines - Part One: independent UK publisher launches Commercial Kitchen; Mark Allen Group launches replica for Independent Nurse

If this were the late nineties, venture capital companies would be pouring money into digital-only B2B start-ups, so wide open is B2B to be disrupted by digital-only products. But it's not the late nineties, is it. Instead, this is the era of private equity investors. As a result, many major B2B publishing companies are hanging on by their finger nails in hopes that they will be able to cash out at some point in the future – investing in digital media only gets lip service, and only as a way of proving that their companies are increasing their value.

As a result, no publishing segment has been as slow to launch tablet editions and mobile media products. That there hasn't been a digital start-up to scare them all into action probably can be chalked up to the fact that so many editors, sales pros and publishers have left the industry, never to return.

But that doesn't mean that there are no new digital launches in B2B. Each month a couple trickle into the Apple Newsstand, new digital-only magazines like Commercial Kitchen from the U.K.

Published by Mark Taylor, the tablet-only magazine is using the MagCast platform which is centered on creating a PDF file using the iPad's specs, then (sometimes) enhancing it with add-ons like video, audio, etc.

In this case, the magazine early on contains an invitation to subscribe to updates and who knows what. It is odd that more publishers don't aggressively push to get more contact information in this way.

Because the tablet mag is designed specifically for the iPad, it is easy to read – though the use of PDFs as the main tool for the digital platform means that the layouts have to be very simple. Commercial Kitchen is charging £3.99 per issue, though the monthly subscription is only £1.99.

Other than the typical hiccups that come with not having a nice sized staff (TNM is a good example of that!), Taylor has done a pretty good job here. Throughout the magazine, and inside the videos, Taylor keeps saying "we" but the lack of a masthead inside digital edition, along with a bad typo in the editor's column, pretty much is a dead giveaway that this is a one man effort.

"Welcome to our first edition of Commercial Kitchen Magazine. I'll admit it was originally planned for early 2013 but I really didn't imagine how diffcicult (sic) the job at hand would be," writes Taylor, though I wish he would expounded on this a bit. A blog spot from February on the magazine's website says that the first issue was in production back on February 8 – so it did, indeed, take awhile to see the new magazine app go live.

Here is the introductory video found inside the digital magazine, which is a player linked out to YouTube (the issue only weighs in at about 17MB):

The Mark Allen Group is a London and Salisbury publisher of 50 magazines and journals. Their third Newsstand app is for Independent Nurse.

Again, this app does something that U.K. B2B publishers do not do: it opens directly to a registration page. The registration is not mandatory, so it does not violate Apple's developer guidelines, but it is a smart move, nonetheless.

Getting reader information is important for all publishers, but it is essential for B2B publishers – especially when the title in question is a qualified circulation magazine (though in this case, Independent Nurse is charging for issues).

Apple's own mechanism for information sharing, its dialogue box that appears after one has subscribed, is woefully inadequate, so until Apple approves a qualification mechanism inside the Newsstand B2B publishers will have to lure the readers to voluntarily give their information. My own preference would be to invite the readers to sign up for an e-newsletter, or some other free offering.