Digital editions attracting new audiences, not just print readers

Posted on May 10, 2012


This week’s coverage of SXSW 2012 in Austin, Texas, is provided by Next Issue Media.

A panel of magazine executives at SXSW Interactive on Friday talked about the growth opportunities of tablet publishing and the evolving workflows and business models needed to support multi-platform magazines.

The session, titled Digital vs. Print: Storyboard to Digital Delivery, was moderated by Keith Barraclough, chief technology officer at Next Issue, and featured magazine executives Perry Solomon, VP of digital business development at Time Inc., Chris Wilkes, VP of the App Lab at Hearst, Liz Schimel, chief digital officer at Meredith and Joe Simon, CTO at Condé Nast.

The panel began on a positive note: “Amazingly, the majority of those buying digital magazines are new to our brands. But we are also giving existing subscribers the opportunity to enjoy both print and digital with All Access,” said Solomon. The other panelists concurred that they are looking at a definite growth opportunity rather than transitioning existing audiences to digital.

The panelists then dove into four topics, all with “tablet” at the center: User experience, the creation process, business models, and personalization. The following is a mix of quotes from the panelists and reactions from Twitter under #SXNextIssue.

User experience

Everyone agreed that although tablets provide a new platform, it doesn’t mean magazines have to be completely redesigned.

Schimel: “As we talk with our audience, they tell us they want elements of familiarity from print, but we need to add to that and optimize the experience for the device. We are not in the business of repurposing print. It has to still feel special.”

Wilkes said the focus is on reading: “We can’t reinvent too much and forget what we do. A big part of the experience is reading. We really try to emphasize that.”


Creation process

Probably the biggest pain points happen in the creation process, with field reporters, photographers, editors and designers now having to deal with multiple platforms with different form factors.

Simon: “Our brands have been in business for decades and have their own workflow and tools. At least for Conde, we value the perfection of the final product very high. All this is fine when it’s only for print.

“Now, with multiple form factors, how do we handle this? We don’t want to change the creative culture. We have learned we need the same designers to handle all aspects no matter the platform. We really want to maintain high fidelity.”

Solomon said collaboration is key: “We have to collaborate and bring together editors, designers, IT, etc. We emphasize the term ‘design for tablet,’ not ‘replica.’ To do that you have to get all brands to come on board, show them the consumer research and prove that they do value the enhanced issue.”



Business models

The big question remains, how do you really make money with digital publishing? It’s a three-pronged approach: Subscriptions, advertising and e-commerce.


Wilkes: “We really cherish the consumer revenue – and we will fight hard to preserve the value of that. First strategy is to satisfy the customers. Then, advertising and e-commerce follows.

“With digital magazines we finally have a way to get credit for influencing purchasing behavior,” Wilkes continued. “We don’t have to do anything fancy, we just have to get out of the way and let the user do what they want to. Make it easy to buy. We are just doing what we have always done, facilitating purchase, and now we can be compensated for it.”



Barraclough asked the panelists what the future holds. Specifically, where does personalization fit in? Wilkes made it clear that while personalization is great, he doesn’t favor going away from the rich editorial and curated package.

“What you get from the curated experience is discovery of something you didn’t know you wanted to know about,” he said. A better option, he argued, is to personalize around action. For example, if you’re a vegan, tap on a button in the Food Network magazine app, and avoid seeing rich meat dishes.


Next Issue Media is a joint venture formed by five leading U.S.-based publishers – Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp., and Time Inc.  The company was formed to develop, market and deliver interactive digital editions of the world’s most popular magazines and newspapers optimized for digital devices.

Posted in: News-Trend