Mac|Life gets social with new iPad app


If your audience is made up of tech-engrossed Apple enthusiasts, you might want to incorporate their input for your iPad app. Keeping that in mind for its recent iPad launch, Mac|Life magazine focuses on enabling users to contribute to and share the content ― all without leaving the app.

Mac|Life, published by Future US, based the app around content from a special issue of the print magazine called the iPad Handbook, featuring 101 app reviews and iPad how-to's. Within the app, readers can rate the reviews, add comments and share articles via e-mail or social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The app also displays a live stream of Twitter conversation.

One of the early criticisms of iPad magazine launches was that they didn't take full advantage of the social web. Mac|Life wanted to roll out a more socially interactive app, encouraging users to share content but also staying within the app and spending time with advertisers, said Kate Byrne, vice president of Technology and Active Groups at Future US.

Byrne said some other publishers are using the app to roll out digital editions with interactive features, but the content is still “pretty much static” ―  consisting of publishers giving readers the content without interaction back. Mac|Life aimed to go beyond “repurposed print content” to promote more conversation. The Web (and now the iPad) broke down that barrier between content creators and users, she noted. 

“Now it’s gone from a product to more of a process and frankly from a lecture to more of a dialogue, and a discourse,” Byrne said.

Users have  played a role in developing the app from the start, as Mac|Life asked for app suggestions via Facebook and Twitter. Readers said they wanted more help making sense of apps, which led to the content of the first issue, Byrne said.

Like a lot of magazines dipping into apps, Mac|Life is looking at feedback to direct features of future apps. The tech-focused audience can be a “tough bunch,” so there's already a depth of comments to pull from, Byrne noted. (Mac|Life has a magazine readership of more than 100,000 and gets more than 400,000 unique visitors.)

The magazine's strategy was to get a first issue in the app store quickly and then continue to develop it, so they turned it around in 76 days. The app was designed on the B3 Digital Publication Platform (see a video demo on the platform's homepage).  

While this first app is more “utilitarian,” rather than a digital magazine issue, future launches will incorporate more of the regular magazine content, Byrne said.

Revenue model

Mac|Life's app business model will be based on advertising revenue as well as downloads. Despite a quick turnaround, they secured seven advertisers for the first iPad issue.

While the first app is free in iTunes, future versions will be $1.99 (on the lower-price end of magazine apps). Byrne said they chose that price point because users already have an appetite and tolerance to pay that level for apps.

Byrne said they are continuing to weigh their revenue options, paying attention to what business models (e.g. subscription) that Apple will allow. She also sees potential for other advertising models, such as selling sponsorship packages like The Wall Street Journal

Following the Mac|Life app launch, the Future US tech group will be rolling out an app for Maximum PC magazine, as well as an app for a forthcoming print tiand a new print title/app called Maximum Tech.

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