Ten guidelines for magazine mobile apps

Recent research commissioned by the Specialist Media Show shows that  19% of publishers already have mobile apps, and a further 15% plan to launch in the next year, so they are clearly on the agenda.  An in-depth report on mobile publishing by Dominic  Jacquesson for The Media Briefing is therefore very welcome. This is my summary of the top ten guidelines for publishers contemplating mobile apps:

1. Mobile will be revolutionary for consumer publishers

B2B publishers had their world turned upside down by the web.  Mobile will do the same for consumer publishing, as tablets are more of an entertainment device.  B2B publishers must focus on smartphones

2. Plan for the transition over next 5 years

In 18 months smartphones will predominate.  Tablets will take 4-5 years to be a mainstream device.  Apple will dominate for the next two years, but Android will grow rapidly, eclipsing Blackberry and Symbian.  So publishers need a long term plan across multiple devices and platforms.

3. Accept pricing of apps is capped

Few apps are priced over £3/$3, and many are much lower.  Publishers need to accept they can’t replicate print cover prices for magazine apps.   But paid for downloads are growing faster than free.

4. Make the most of real-time and social benefits of the web

Replica apps are all very well, but the real win is updating app content real-time from your website CMS, and providing opportunities to share content.  Factory Media have made this transition with their second generation apps.  See Media Pioneers article.

5. Optimise for the touchscreen

Touchscreens and particularly tablets provide a more immersive environment than the web, and images render beautifully, so adapt your content to make the most of this.  Image galleries are a great asset.

6. Use free trial to build a database

Having a free version of your app maximises downloads and builds a prospect database for the future.  The FT has used this approach to good effect.  Offering the app FOC to print subscribers creates advocates and meets consumer expectations.  See recent article on consumer attitudes to mobile.

7. Capture data on your users

Use in-app subs, competitions and surveys to build data on your users.  Many low-cost app providers offer this service.  See vendor comparison table in a recent digital magazine from the Specialist Media Show.

8. Price advertising carefully

Think hard about bundling ads with print.  If audiences migrate from print to mobile, need to protect mobile yields.  Consider making print ads a separately priced add-on.

9. Go beyond app stores in your marketing

Fully exploit your own database to market your app, and seek out PR opportunities and social media promotion.  Be prepared to cannibalise your print sales yourself before your competitors do.

10. Sponsorship, freemium and integrated subs best business models

Sponsorship is a great way to launch if possible.  Freemium  models build a prospect database.  Offering a combined print and digital subscription is appealing to readers, and worth the hassle of managing VAT.

Dominic Jacquesson, author of this report, is running a round table discussion on apps as part of the Specialist Media Show conference on 25 May 2011.

See the full conference programme here.

Book to attend the conference.

The full report is available to buy from the Media Briefing.

Delegates to their full day conference on mobile publishing on 14 June can get a half-price copy.