Monday, November 21, 2016

When it Comes to Digital Publishing, the Time for Change is Now

"Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative" 

                                                                                                          ~Oscar Wilde

For my eighth birthday, my parents bought me a subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids. Every fourth Tuesday, I would run to the mailbox to check whether my new issue had arrived, eager to discover which athletes they'd included in the month's removable sports cards. It was like a monthly dose of sports-related pop culture, adorned with pull-out content, interactive activities, fun game ideas, thrilling photography, and a healthy dose of surprise. This was, of course, back in the days when the word 'tablet' was reserved for references to the Ten Commandments. Print magazines were cutting-edge technology.

Times have changed. What for so long made magazines unique - their ability to combine prosaic, visual, interactive, and other elements into a multidimensional, free-form collage - is being outpaced by advances in digital media. This presents a challenge. "Why should I pay for a magazine," ask many consumers, "when I can find all the content I want on the internet?"

Those of us who work in magazine publishing industry would not consider ourselves unimaginative. However, when it comes to adapting to the brave new digital world, the industry seems to have been marred by a hesitancy, perhaps even a reluctance, to change. We need to think about engaging our readers in new, more effective ways.

Why was I so excited to find out which sports cards were being included in my subscription each month? The core element was the surprise: it was like unwrapping a present each month.

Much like I did back then, digital readers today value novelty. And you can give it to them by continually developing new features, new forms of interesting content, and ultimately, new ways to engage them. You're not just competing against other magazines for your readers' time; you're competing against the plethora of other digital apps and media out there.

Another thing to keep in mind: tablets and e-readers are not pieces of paper. They have touch sensitivity and are capable of playing videos, producing sounds, and connecting to the internet. Why, then, are our magazine apps presenting content in a manner that is virtually indistinguishable from the print version?

Sure, it's convenient for consumers to read your content on a digital device. But is that really all they want?

Publishers who create an app simply for the sake of having one are missing the point. Your content should not simply be converted to fit the digital format, it should be re-purposed. I'm talking about making your content more interactive, with videos, slideshows, podcasts, and even hyperlinks (one of the great things about reading articles online is that one can quickly connect to other content by accessing hyperlinks within the article text).

The main point here is that reading on a digital device is a fundamentally different experience from reading a regular, print magazine, and thus readers expect your content to be different.

The ideas discussed above are just a start; in reality, digital media is so fluid and dynamic that the possibilities for creating a unique experience for your readers each time they open your app are limitless. As magazine publishers, we need to shift our perspective, and this should be our ultimate goal; if we can accomplish it, we will always be sure that we'll keep them coming back for more.

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 for more information, and visit for examples of our current work.