By: Kristina Ackermann
If you’re a regular reader of this magazine, you’ve likely caught on to the idea that we think newspapers should embrace tablet publishing. What’s less clear, however, is exactly how you should go about doing so.
Creating a tablet-optimized version of your newspaper is something you absolutely have to get right the first time. Tablet users fall into a demographics sweet spot for many advertisers: young, trendsetting professionals with disposable incomes. As such, they are the demographic that every for-profit business in the world aims to reach. These users are inundated by magazines, newspapers, book publishers, social networks, ad agencies, mega-corporations, TV networks, movie studios, and more, all competing to get a slice of their attention span — their “eyeballs,” as we’ve so disturbingly come to call it. If at first launch your product isn’t smooth, easy to use, and chock full of interesting bonus features, don’t expect to get a second chance to woo that reader back to your product.
In order to put out a compelling and engaging product that will keep tablet users coming back to your app, you’ll need the right design tools. There’s no dearth of companies out there devoted to creating rich, interactive apps. In this article we look specifically at the Digital Publishing Suite from Adobe. Adobe’s DPS is already in use at The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, along with magazine publishers Condé Nast and Bonnier.
The greatest advantage of the Digital Publishing Suite is that it integrates with InDesign CS5.5 and Creative Suite 5.5, so publishers who are already using these Adobe software packages (or who are thinking about upgrading) will find the most value in DPS. DPS is used in conjunction with the Folio Producer tools in InDesign CS5.5, so designers have the tools to create content for interactive tablet apps and traditional newspaper pages in the same program, cutting back on the time needed for training and integration.
Adobe has made DPS available in two editions, Enterprise and Professional, to meet the differing needs of different-sized publishers. Adobe describes the Professional edition as an “off the shelf” offering for traditional midsize media companies. Enterprise is a fully customizable edition of the software suite, best-suited to global publishers, corporations, and ad agencies. The Enterprise edition has a lot more bells and whistles, but, as with most products that offer bells and whistles, it’ll cost you. The Professional edition starts at $495, but the Adobe website doesn’t even list a base price for Enterprise; just an option to “request a consultation.” (See sidebar for a comparison of the two editions.)
Perhaps the most valuable feature, available in both editions, is the built-in analytics report and integration with the Adobe Online Marketing Suite. Publishers can use these tools to track what happens to their content after distribution. Use these tools to understand which interactivity tools resonate most with your audience and identify the most engaging ad formats to establish a premium pricing model for those placements.
Adobe also touts its easy subscription payment options for publishers looking to monetize their content. DPS users can offer their publication in the Apple App Store, Android Market, and BlackBerry App World, with options for single-issue, multi-issue, and subscription. DPS is also compatible with the Amazon Kindle Fire.
If you really want to see Adobe DPS in action, download an issue of one of Condé Nast’s titles. When it comes to publishing content on tablets, magazines are running circles around newspapers — with video, photo galleries, audio files, in-app navigation, panoramic view, pinch-and-zooms, and integrated e-commerce. So, take a cue from the big guys, and adapt it to your own needs and budget.
As someone who always seems to need more hours in the day, I appreciate the option to have lengthier stories read aloud to me. The New Yorker does this very well within its app for the Kindle Fire. I listened to Sam Lipsyte read aloud his work of fiction “The Climber Room,” while prepping my rosemary chicken for dinner one evening — a key timeslot that newspapers would be wise to take into consideration when developing their own apps. Research from comScore has shown that tablet usage spikes during after-work hours, providing an opportunity to deliver longer reads and in-depth reporting that goes beyond the day’s headlines.
Women’s titles such as Self and Glamour do an especially good job of utilizing integrated e-commerce capabilities. These magazines often feature product reviews and editors’ picks in the front of the book, and now they can link readers directly to the sites to purchase those products without directing them away from the app. Newspaper apps could include this function in classifieds and advertising pages as a way of delivering added value to clients that buy in to the app.
When I was browsing through apps doing my research for this piece, the one thing I got excited about over and over again was video. I opened every single video I came across. Maybe it was a case of new app excitement, but I think video is the top feature that sets tablet publications apart from the printed masses. So if your newspaper’s app doesn’t include video, it doesn’t take full advantage of the tablet’s capabilities. Even goofy behind-the-scenes videos (see Wired’s “Most Dangerous Object in the Office”) instilled a sense of value in the cover price paid for the issue.
The bottom line is that you won’t convince your readers to pay for your digital content if you don’t make it worth their while. When building your app, respect for the readers’ time and money will go a long way in producing an engaging product. Do your research, use the tools available, stick your neck out a little, and get it right.
Apple iTunes Newsstand Top Grossing Titles as of Jan. 10, 2012:
(Titles in bold are produced on Adobe DPS)
1. NYTimes for iPad
2. The Daily
3. New Yorker Magazine
4. Men’s Health
5. National Geographic
8. O the Oprah Magazine
9. Popular Science
10. Consumer Reports
12. Martha Stewart
15. Runner’s World
16. Vanity Fair for iPad
18. Women’s Health
20. Golf Digest