Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New Ideas for Reader Engagement with Digital Magazines

A few weeks ago I watched, amused, as a two year-old girl tried to decode the ancient edifice known as a 'book.' Green Eggs and Ham had a user interface she was utterly perplexed by: she was trying move between pages by swiping along their surfaces, like one would on an iPad. After numerous failed attempts, the girl's mother stepped in to demonstrate the archaic act of physically turning the page.

Apparently, this is not as uncommon an occurrence as we might have hoped.

Although anecdotes like this might cause us to retort with a back in my day-esque quip, they are also indicative of the fact that tablets, e-readers, and other digital devices are fundamentally changing the way we think about, and interact with, digital media. These devices offer huge opportunities for publishers. Below are a few ideas.

1. Deliver Your Content More Frequently

Do you remember when music first started being digitized and the iTunes store took off? This was a challenge to traditional album sales, but it also presented an opportunity: digital media allowed studios to sell songs individually because they no longer incurred the costs of producing and distributing physical CDs.

Now, consider these principles as they apply to digital publishing. Because you distribute your content via a digital medium, you are no longer bound by the same constraints that you faced when you published only in print. Without incurring the costs of printing and distributing a full magazine, you can deliver content to your readers in more frequent, smaller bursts.

Blog posts, short articles, and even video and audio updates are among the many ways that we can engage our readers between issues. The average smartphone user is within six feet of a tablet or smartphone at any given time, so we should be taking advantage of the opportunity to engage them more regularly. This holds the potential to keep your brand in readers' minds and ultimately make your content more valuable, given a more engaged readership.

2. Converse with your Readers, and Enable them to Converse with One Another

Studies show that people prefer doing things as part of a community, rather than independently. As a digital publisher, you have an entire community of readers at your fingertips, waiting to be engaged in discussions about your articles. Why not take advantage of this?

Comment sections in articles and forums within your app are an exciting way to enhance user engagement by facilitating discussions among your readers. These discussions increase the vitality of your content by enabling it to grow organically, driven by user comments and discussion.

If you're worried about needing to moderate the content of forums and comments sections, remember that you have complete control over your app interface. Require that users' comments be displayed under their real names to prevent anonymous spamming and trolling. One solution could even be to link user profiles to LinkedIn or Facebook accounts, which has the added benefit of integrating your app with existing social media. Reserve the right to ban user accounts from commenting if they post inappropriate content. Finally, reward users who post regular, positive content by featuring their profiles in forums and comments sections and perhaps even give them access to special content within your app. These are methods that Facebook and LinkedIn utilize to encourage positive user engagement. If you put them to work you could transform your magazine app into its own miniature social network.

Interested in these ideas? At PixelEdge, we are continually working to bring digital publishing solutions to magazine publishers, no matter what their sizes are. We are your partners in mobile publishing, and we put our expertise and experience in the hands of each of our clients. Send me an email at sean.monaco@pixeledge.io for more information, and visit www.pixeledge.io for examples of our current work.