Digital Magazines – To app or not to app?

Future-NewsstandThere was big debate in the milk. magazine team when creating our digital mini-issue over whether we needed to include video and interactive content. We decided that the most exciting publication would be an interactive one with links to our website and video content. Many readers now expect more from their publication due to use of apps and increasing access to video content. Many publications now use a range of different platforms to provide their audiences with new content, one of which is tablet based apps.

However, not everyone is in favour of the magazine app. Jon Lund in GigaOM has recently declared tablet magazines a failure, he argues that “dedicated magazine apps for tablets may look good, but I fear they’re headed straight to oblivion.” He goes on to state that he believes new publications need to be presented “openly, socially, in flow — not in closed tablet apps.” I believe he is right, that new solely tablet based magazines are doomed but publications (whether it online or in print) with a decent following could certainly benefit by having an app or interactive digital magazine that provides exciting well crafted content in a dedicated space on tablets or phones, which are quickly becoming household appliances.

Mollie Makes is an example of a publication which uses various platforms to their advantage, with a beautiful print magazine, a great website, a regularly updated blog with tutorials, a great social media network  and also a well designed digital weekly magazine, Gathered which is available on the Apple Newsstand for download to iPhone or iPad. This magazine is a great example of how digital products can enhance print magazines and provide followers with more than can be offered with a print publication.

Lund argues that digital magazine apps lack connections to social media sites and the digital magazines are not meeting customers where they are. Sam Kirkland from responds to Lund’s argument and states “the strongest media brands can meet readers everywhere; they don’t have to choose between having a website and having an app.” This much is certainly true for a lot of publications, his example being The Atlantic who have introduced their app The Atlantic Weekly, which is a condensed version of the best news stories with added interactive content. The Atlantic and Mollie Makes are both examples of how publications with strong followings can use apps to their advantage, not to stand alone but to add something to their existing print publication. Both brands meet their followers wherever they want to find them, whether it be on the web, on social networking sites, in print, or through digital apps.

Hearst magazines UK used an in-app survey in digital editions of Harper’s Bazaar, Men’s Health, Red, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Esquire to question around 500 readers on their reading preferences for digital editions. The digital editions used were enhanced editions, re-designed for tablets and phones, rather than digital versions of print magazines created from their PDF files. Nearly half of those questioned (45.7%) claimed that they intend to buy a mixture of print and digital issues in future. This shows that readers want more than just a print publication and that they are interested in enhanced editions.

Here’s a great promo video Mollie Makes made for the release of Gathered: