In recent years the focus for digital magazine publishers has been on apps, and the great debated of native apps (which are run on the device) versus web apps (actually websites run in a browser). While mobile web apps have become very popular, basic digital editions (digital replicas of print publications) have always held their own and are becoming increasingly popular as a moderately priced solution for digital publishers.
Digital (replica) editions accessed through digital newsstands (reader apps) have long been an affordable way for publishers to provide value-added features to simple replica editions and offers readers interactive functions such as the ability to browse and buy subscriptions to magazines as well as to read them, bookmark, search, etc. This technology is fifteen years old now, and is a solid proven business model.
What is new in the digital newsstand arena is the focus on mobile devices. Long gone are the days when the primary devices used desktop and laptop computers. Now it’s all about “phablets” and smartphones. These new mobile devices have been a boon for digital editions and newsstands.
According to syndacast.com in 2014, for the first time ever, internet use on mobile devices exceeded desktop browsing, with 99.5 per cent of mobile users accessing content through smartphones and tablets. This trend is only expected to continue.
Native newsstand apps are very appealing because they are easy to use. Instead of downloading separate magazine apps and learning how to navigate through each one, you download a single newsstand app, browse through magazines, and read them all through the same user interface.
Digital editions are simple and inexpensive for publishers. Production files with the subscriber information are send to a digital newsstand vendor, which does the rest. The vendor will handle billing and payments and the publisher collects subscription fees and readership data that the vendor sends back, which is very valuable for analytics and marketing.
Revenue is also a big consideration for digital editions. The traditional model for legacy publishers has always been that publishers charge advertisers rates depending on circulation numbers. Circulation numbers come from third party auditors such as AAM (Alliance for Audited Media). Digital editions can count towards magazines’ total circulations if they meet certain criteria, including those about the look and feel of the publication, such as the similarity to the print edition, and the price of the copy, including criteria such as minimum percentage of the print price and whether single-issue or subscription. AAM has loosened these criteria over the years, making it more possible for publishers to count digital edition readership towards total circulation.
Advertising in digital editions has become commonplace as both ad salespeople and their customers have become more and more comfortable with digital editions. Whereas in the early iterations of digital editions publishers often were not able to charge for the ad space in an issue, that space is now considered prime revenue-generating real estate.