Wiliam Staff Team : Staff Tags : Online Trends Media

Generating revenue through digital magazines

Wiliam Staff Team : Staff Tags : Online Trends Media

Online documents have come a long way in recent years. Day to day, we have relied on the humble PDF – the rock of the publishing industry which has remained virtually unchanged since the early 90’s. Dominant over all other document formats that have come and gone, it has rightfully found its place on the web. Now the technology exists which will revolutionise online publishing, and savvy publishers are embracing this exciting new medium and benefiting through a newfound revenue channel.

The Internet has changed the game in terms of sales and advertising, but it’s pretty evident that some people were a bit too slow to realise what was happening. It’s only now that an online critical mass has been reached, that this has become obvious to many businesses. You only need to pick up a newspaper to read about lagging pre-Christmas sales and the suffering of those businesses who still thought they could sit safely in their bricks-and-mortar storefronts.

Those who saw the light would be delighted by the boom in eCommerce, and their competitors will be rethinking their strategies as they either willingly come online or are dragged kicking and screaming, lest they be left for dead. Similarly to most industry sectors (retail, travel or entertainment to name a few) traditional publishers and media companies have realised that if they want to survive in the new world, they need to play by the new rules. And the rules don’t mention ‘print runs’ and ‘Alpine Laser’.

I digress; so how are media companies able to utilise digital magazines as a new source of income? Uploading a PDF to the Internet is not a new concept, but it’s generally not very profitable. That is unless you take advantage of one of the numerous digital publishing platforms that have sprung up recently. Issuu, YuDu, Zmags, Zinio... new players are popping up all the time, each one bigger and better than the last. What they promise is a far superior viewing experience to make reading online a lot better than it has been. Sure, you’re not going to need it for every document you put on your website, but it is definitely worth considering if you are all about presentation. Think magazines, newsletters, annual reports, technical documents or photobooks... you’re on the right track.

But it’s not just a swanky new user interface – Adobe could come up with another one overnight and blow the competition right out of the water. It’s all about how the publisher is empowered to create a funky, interactive product which is full of rich-media and bonus, value-added content. Where your traditional printed magazine is a static document, your ‘digital edition’ takes it to the next level. No longer is the publisher bounded by the size of the page, or limited to text and imagery content.

Article too long? No worries, you can add as many pages as you like, or hyperlink to a website that contains an expanded feature. Can’t decide which photos you can fit into the layout? Online magazines allow for all sorts of tricks, whether it’s linking to a hi-res photo from a magazine thumbnail, or implementing a fully-fledged photo gallery. Hell, why not go the whole hog and overlay a video? Your full page product feature now morphs into your advertiser’s prime-time TV commercial, complete with a link to their website. Incorporate your MPU web banners, go all out with some animation or a fully interactive flash feature.

It probably won’t be long before it’s common place to have dynamic, interactive content or data feeds keeping article content up-to-date and relevant. All this becoming main-stream is closer than you think, and the technology is startling. In 2009 we saw some ground-breaking results with dynamic video productions (often referred to as ‘flash movies’). Thousands of people enjoyed putting together a naughty/nice list from Santa at the ‘Portable North Pole’, whilst the Swedish ‘tack film hero’ TV licensing campaign went viral and was so popular that it brought down the web server, temporarily forcing the host to block all international traffic. Who’s to say that the evolution of digital magazines won’t involve this kind of technology?

With the content sorted, let’s look at the interface and user experience. Arguably, all of the platform providers provide excellent free page-turning software. Your customers won’t even need to download anything, it all happens seamlessly and works with any modern browser. Arguably, some interfaces are better than others (my personal preference is for Issuu or Zmags, but they each have their own merits). Zooming in/out, flipping pages and interacting with the rich media is intuitive and easy which makes for pleasurable reading. The bigger your monitor the better as the quality and vibrancy of your digital magazine is superb, having been uploaded as a hi-res PDF. Flipping past the cover, you come across the index page which has been turned into a ‘menu’ with rollover highlights and each feature item linking through to the appropriate page.

To create your interactive masterpiece, you can log into the backend and go to town with the publication editor. Once your PDF is uploaded, it’s very easy to add all the extra components, place imagery and movies around the place. They even include a nifty feature to ‘autolink’ and text within the PDF which is identified as a hyperlink or mailto. Generally, you are also allowed to reorder pages and replace individual pages (if you have revised the document, just re-upload the affected pages). Some functionality depends on the type of license or account structure you have with the provider, but it’s all achievable. Oh, and don’t forget to search engine optimise your digital edition for maximum results!

It should be pretty clear by now how you can use online publishing technology to boost your revenue. I once worked for a media company where the floor was made up of about 60% sales staff. When it was explained to them how they could up-sell their existing print advertising clients by offering additional/expanded advertising opportunities, their eyes nearly burst out of their sockets. It was effectively and entirely new product for them to arm themselves with when they hit the phones. At the very least, if they couldn’t sell the idea for extra revenue, it certainly came in useful thrown in as a ‘value added’ incentive to help get their print ad sales over the line.

And it’s profitable. Very profitable. There’s very little expense required to setup a digital magazine, especially if you are simply converting an existing offline publication, your only expenses are for design and provider fees. Depending on which service you choose, you will have different payment options. Issuu offers unlimited publication plans for a small monthly fee, whilst Zmags works on a per license basis. The more licenses you buy, the cheaper they are in bulk. Given the relatively tiny cost, virtually any advertising or online features you can sell are outright profit. Before long, you’ll find that the correlation and synchronisation between your offline and online publications pays off for both.

The online magazine doesn’t necessarily spell the end to the printed edition, but it can certainly enhance it!