With Apple's blessing, PixelMags readies subscription-ready digital newsstand
PixelMags’ digital newsstand app, called iNewsStand, is close to launching – “really close,” according to COO Ryan Marquis. The first version is for iPad and will support Apple’s much-debated subscription service. iNewsStand apps for Android-based tablets and the BlackBerry PlayBook will follow within 30-60 days of the iPad version, Marquis said in a phone interview.
Details remain scant about iNewsStand, however, and Marquis wasn’t ready to lift the veil further. He described iNewsStand as a single app “housing thousands of magazine titles.” It is based on patent-pending technology that Marquis said “will change how publishers distribute and monetize their content.”
Separately, PixelMags is targeting May or June for the commercial release of its self-service technology platform, which lets publishers create digital editions for smartphones and tablets. The technology has officially been in beta since its debut more than a year ago, even though the company has built and launched hundreds of magazine and catalog apps with it. In January, the company announced that it had surpassed the 1 million mark in downloads of branded magazine and catalog apps. A 2.0 version of the tools portal debuted last month.
The updated platform now provides cross-platform support, enabling publishers to create digital editions that can be published to both Apple and Android smartphone and tablet platforms.
Benefits to the Apple subscription service
PixelMags’ embrace of Apple’s in-app subscription model for its tools platform and its upcoming iNewsStand app is not surprising, given the benefits Marquis believes the Apple service provides to publishers.
“Publishers spend a lot of their time trying to get people to renew subscriptions,” he said. “One of the key benefits of the Apple service is automatic renewal. We think publishers will love that.” For smaller publishers, Apple also provides the extended reach of a global storefront.
PixelMags also has an answer for collecting customer data. Many publishers have criticized Apple’s policy of not sharing customer information on in-app purchases fulfilled through iTunes. The PixelMags platform includes an algorithm for adding a post-purchase registration process. After downloading a magazine app, users are asked if they want to safeguard their purchase or synchronize content across multiple devices. Accepting either request requires the user to enter information including their name and email address – which is subsequently shared with the publisher.
The PixelMags platform also enables publishers to include a coupon redemption code that will let existing print subscribers unlock a digital subscription – a feature that Marquis said Apple has blessed through its app approval process.
Soup-to-nuts app publishing
The PixelMags platform provides a soup-to-nuts process for publishing digital editions. Print PDFs are uploaded into the PixelMags system, which automates links to any existing URLs, phone numbers and email addresses included in the PDF. Physical addresses are linked to Google Maps.
The technology also lets publishers add custom advertising pages built with HTML5. “It’s a great delivery tool for creating fully dynamic ads,” said Marquis.
PixelMags will compile the completed files for each platform and help the publishers manage the app approval process. For its troubles, the company charges a monthly fee and takes a cut of the app revenues (from the net that remains after Apple or Google takes its cut). Marquis said publishers generally receive between 50-70% of net revenues from single-issue, archive or subscription sales.
While PixelMags is fully behind Apple’s subscription service, it’s still on the fence about Google’s new One Pass service. Marquis said the company is considering One Pass but hasn’t decided whether to use it.