Will Mobile Publishing Be the End of Print?

Article ImageApple has sold about 140 million iPads worldwide since the tablet's launch about 3 years ago. The wildly successful device has disrupted many industries, creating headaches for some (think personal computers and Microsoft) and opportunities for others, including content owners who can take advantage of the device's capabilities.

In an interview given to Mr. Magazine, Gregg Hano, CEO of Mag+, a company whose software platform helps content publishers create apps, says that the industry was in "an incubator moment" and hoped that content owners would be up to the challenge that iOS and Android tablets promise. Mag+, a plug-in for Adobe's InDesign desktop publishing software, allows content publishers to create apps with no coding. The company's customers, including Toyota, WebMD, and Popular Science, have created more than 1,000 apps in the last 3 years.

Since the iPad's launch, software companies such as Mag+ and the United Kingdom's Kaldor Ltd. have enabled content publishers to move beyond PDF replicas of their magazines and strongly encourage content publishers to seize Hano's incubator moment and publish truly compelling content.

"With niche magazines, readers seem to be OK with PDF replicas at this point," says Jonny Kaldor, co-founder and CEO of Kaldor. "With broader audience ones, the readers don't buy into PDF replicas-they want more. I think we'll see a migration from publishers where one or two magazines will be delivered via a bespoke, more functional platform like ours or Adobe DPS (Desktop Publishing System). And the PDF experience doesn't translate well to smartphones or mini tablets." Kaldor's Pugpig software allows users to create apps that look good on any size platform, he says.

Hano is "rooting for the publishing industry, and content owners in general, to be more creative at this great moment," he says. "There are opportunities to repurpose and reuse content that are being missed. I just want everybody to keep with it. PDF replicas in my opinion are not a long term solution."

Some of Kaldor's customers have moved far beyond PDF replicas by creating publications where readers can purchase advertised items directly from the app. "It's kind of exciting," he says.

Hano and Kaldor say that custom publishing on tablets and smartphones is another area that should see explosive growth. Kaldor expects that Members of the U.K. Parliament will soon start reading agendas, meeting minutes, and other governmental information via an app on an iPad instead of on paper, saving taxpayers many pounds and countless reams of paper. The information will be published via Kaldor's Pugpig platform. The year-long pilot project is wrapping up, and Kaldor hopes Members of Parliament will begin using the app when the new session starts in September 2013.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London used Mag+ to create a "free monthly tablet guide" that includes videos and an event calendar. "They are taking content that they have in the museum and finding new ways to share it with people from all over the world," Hano says. "Their life blood is tourism."

Another insight that Hano has gleaned from Mag+'s first 1,000 apps is that successful content publishers will use apps, social media, and traditional websites to create a sense of community. "Tablets, smartphones and traditional sites give content owners this great opportunity to build community around deep areas of interest," he said. "It's an opportunity to build communities with trust, and I think if content owners will do that there will be a whole new revenue stream and opportunity for them to distribute their content and make money in the years to come. Apps engage in a way that print and websites cannot."

One of the reasons Kaldor and Hano see a bright future for mobile publishing is the way publishers are "training" children. Hano says, "Content publishers are trying to train young consumers to buy quality content as soon as they possibly can. Great content created by trusted brands curated by editorial teams has value."

Kaldor says that tomorrow's consumers will "have been trained to pay for content since they were children. This is a massive risk to traditional print publishers who don't get their act together and see that they need to change the way that they deliver content to their readers."

Will apps kill print magazines? Eventually, both CEOs say.

"This is a complete rethinking of how content is consumed by humans," Hano says. "That's really what we're watching-a revolution in content consumption. I think that what is now a series of waves is going to become much larger. People will continue to replace computers with tablets, which will increase demand [for content].

"Apps are the end of the endlessness" that the traditional website internet experience offers according to Hano. Like a print magazine, a magazine app "can give you the beginning, middle, and end of a curated brand." Apps can also provide enhanced content such as videos and more compelling ads that tomorrow's magazine readers will consider the norm.

"The future looks extremely bright for content owners that have quality content and want to migrate that content to tablets and smartphones," Hano says. "The surveys show growth in the use of both. Apple has done a great job, but Android tablet growth will kick in."

"I can't see print surviving," Kaldor says. "For content delivery, I just don't see it. As you see Apple devices and Android devices being put in to the hands of school children all over the world, I think the first trend for me is that print will go. I genuinely believe that. Print will be effectively the vinyl of the music industry; it will be very niche."

He continues, "When we sit on the train or on the sofa or by the pool, I think we're always going to want a sizable read from cover to cover, delivered by somebody who knows what they're talking about telling me about something that I really care about. I believe there will always be a place for quality brands that are delivering content to people who are interested."  

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