Apple, publishers tweak app discovery models
We know by now how important discoverability is in the app stores. Apple’s launch of its Newsstand last fall created a surge in new subscriptions for a handful of publishers. Now, as Apple’s iPad Newsstand has grown to nearly 3,000 digital magazine and news apps, discovery challenges are likely to creep back into the picture.
Apple continues to tweak the App Store in an effort to improve discovery. Last week, the company launched “editor’s choice” and “app of the week” designations to highlight iOS apps. Apple being Apple, however, no one’s quite sure of its criteria for choosing worthy apps.
These labels have not made their way to Newsstand yet, although Apple continues to promote “New and Noteworthy” digital editions. Publishers profess to have no clue about how their apps make this list – other than to say they’re not paying for the privilege.
The consensus seems to be this: Design a great-looking, high-quality app and hope that Apple promotes it.
Apple is expected to continue its focus on improving content discovery as it works on a larger iTunes redesign that’s rumored for later this year. One key enhancement – an improved search function – will likely come from Apple’s February acquisition of app search engine Chomp.
Publishers and service providers are also making progress integrating sharing tools that will expand promotion of digital editions into social media. Adobe, for example, recently added social sharing tools to its Digital Publishing Suite, which will enable publishers to add Facebook and other social widgets to their digital editions.
For now, just being in Newsstand – safely away from Angry Birds, Sketchbook Ink, Cut the Rope and the half-million other iOS apps – is good enough for some publishers. Last week, Future US announced that it had generated more than $5 million in revenues from more than 830,000 digital edition sales across its brands since the launch of Apple's Newsstand last October. Since Newsstand’s launch, 40 percent of new subscriptions have been digital, and 90 percent of those are from new customers, Future US COO Rachelle Considine told Folio.
Curating long-tail content
Other newsstand vendors are experimenting with additional ways to improve discovery, particularly for smaller, niche publishers. Zinio, for example, recently released Collections, a series of theme-based articles curated from the digital magazines it produces. The Collections are promoted on Facebook and link to a landing page that includes previews of articles. The bad news is a user still needs to purchase a full issue or subscription to the title in order to read the full article.
Zinio continues to experiment with the model, but sees it as a way to promote long-tail content that might not otherwise be found.
“It’s a great way to introduce people to some of these magazines that otherwise are hidden behind covers,” Zinio Chief Marketing Officer Jeanniey Mullen said in a phone interview. “It opens the door for new customer acquisitions.”
Zinio is exploring different models for sharing and pricing the content offered through these collections, and also hopes to offer the Collections in app form.
“We are extremely respectful of the publishers – we’re not looking to go crazy with the content at the publisher’s expense,” said Mullen. “But we’ll continue to look for different and interesting ways to package the content and work with publishers on different ways to monetize it.”