Mag+: Blending the art and science of tablet publishing
As it officially opens up its Mag+ tablet development suite to the publishing community, the Bonnier spin-off dubbed Moving Media+ sees an opportunity for publishers to redefine the magazine reading experience on tablet devices by blending the art of great magazine creative with the science of digital analytics.
The suite of design tools is available for free download on the magplus.com website. Moving Media+ is offering the tools at no cost to encourage publishers to experiment with new tablet concepts.
“The only way we’ll get better at this is if more people are doing it,” said Mike Haney, U.S. director for Stockholm-based Moving Media+. “We want [Mag+] in the hands of more people who will get in and play with the system.”
Mag+ joins a growing list of tablet publishing tools coming to market from companies such as Adobe, Texterity/Wonderfactory and Woodwing – all of which stress the merger of traditional magazine design and tablet-based functionality.
Putting creatives 'back in the driver's seat'
In a phone interview, Haney said the goal of Mag+ is “to put the creatives back in the driver’s seat,” but he also emphasized the importance of using analytics to help guide decisions about editorial as well as advertising.
“One of the cool things about publishing on these devices is that it marries everything we love about the print reading experience with the tools of the Web that provide extremely valuable information about the audience,” he said.
Mag+ enables publishers to integrate analytics from Omniture, Flurry or Localytics. Publishers will be able to track a variety of user behavior, such as time spent (per page, per issue, per month, time of day and location), return sessions (a potential measure of loyalty), and engagement with rich media (such as video starts/stops) – metrics that will apply to both editorial and advertising content. They’ll also have access to technical information about the device, operating system and carrier.
Because the tablet space is still in its infancy, “there really are no established user behaviors yet,” said Haney. “As our ability to capture some of this information expands, we’ll start to get a better understanding of how people are using these devices. The experience will vary so much from magazine to magazine, so you have to be willing to try lots of things.”
The Mag+ suite is designed with experimentation in mind. It consists of a plug-in for InDesign that lets creatives build tablet functionality into their existing print design workflows. A second component, a Reviewer app, lets designers and editors evaluate the issue on an iPad to get a firsthand view of the user experience. A third piece, an issue-bundling app, lets you showcase the sample app to a broader audience. “You can build a whole issue, take it out to advertisers, run focus groups – basically get all of that learning in place before you take it out to the world,” said Haney.
While the design tools are free, Moving Media+ will charge for the actual publishing of app editions. It charges an up-front fee of $2,500 for a branded reader app (required for each tablet platform supported) and access to the Mag+Publish back end for managing the app builds; the fee includes five months of free publishing. After that period, the cost is $500 per issue or $500 a month for unlimited issues.
Bonnier has been using Mag+ internally for the past year; its Popular Science title was the first to release an iPad app with the tools. Popular Science+, released last April, averages about 15,000 single-copy sales a month through iTunes (priced at $4.99), and Bonnier has sold close to 11,000 subscriptions since Apple launched its in-app subscription system in February. Mark Jannot, the magazine’s editor-in-chief and editorial director,
told my colleague Ellie Behling said at the Publishing Business Conference in New York that Popular Science has covered its investment in the app’s development with a net profit of approximately $450,000.
Haney said a version of Mag+ for Google’s Android (the Honeycomb version optimized for tablets) is due in June. It is also evaluating support for other tablet platforms such as the BlackBerry PlayBook. “Our intention is to go where the consumer goes,” he said.
Here’s a MovingMedia+ demo of page design using Mag+: