It should come as no surprise that in a country with such a vibrant magazine market, 55% of UK tablet owners have read a digital magazine on their tablet.  

Indeed, for some magazine brands the reach of their app is almost the same as that of their print edition. Technology magazine T3 has a print circulation of 36k, almost matched by its digital downloads of 29k.

1. Who is your audience?  

What you know about your prospective readers and their lives should have a direct influence on whether you choose a magazine app, and how you approach it if you do.

For instance:   

  • Do they actually own a tablet? Around 11% of the UK population do and that number is growing.
  • Do they have regular access to Wi-Fi? If not then you won’t want to burden their 3G data plans with large app downloads.
  • Is most of their online access at work, home or via mobile? Their content consumption patterns are likely to indicate whether they’ll be up for an app.
  • What devices are they likely to own? For example are they business professionals using a Blackberry and an iPad? Or maybe they’re students, more likely to buy cheaper Android devices than the latest iPhone?

This kind of insight usually requires investment in proprietary research, so sometimes it is easier and simpler to have a look at data that’s already available.

The analytics for your website on tablet views, ABC data for magazines in your genre, and the new NRS PADD data can all give you a sense of your app’s potential market. 

2. What do you want to achieve?

Magazine apps usually come in two formats, replica digital editions which just transfer the PDF layouts to tablet without the added interactivity, and interactive editions, which include extra, enhanced content and functionality. 

The option you choose will depend on your objectives.  

Replica digital editions are a cost-effective way of extending the reach of your content. But if your aim is to deepen customer engagement or acquire customers who aren’t warm to your brand, then you need to create something that is more engaging and easy to use.

In this case a bespoke interactive edition, something that has been tailored for the tablet format, and Wired is a good example, will be more effective than a replica, even though it’ll require additional time and resource to do well.  

3. What assets are you working with?

If you are working with PDFs from your existing print publication then you are only a few steps away from creating your digital edition. Read on.

If you are right at the start of the process (and, who knows, you may not even be contemplating a print publication) then this is a good moment to pause and ask yourself whether you need a magazine app at all.

You might have enough resource to go down the route of developing a full CMS-driven magazine website, supported by a social strategy. Or you may consider creating some form of HTML solution – useful for one-off events or single campaigns. 

4. Which platforms should you target?

iOS or Android? Or maybe even Windows? In the first three months of this year Android accounted for over 56% of tablets sold, so it shouldn’t be an automatic assumption that you’ll only be producing an iPad edition. 

Most third-party vendors will repurpose your replica app for Android, though usually at an extra charge.

Interactive editions can also be shared between iOS and Android without work, but you will need to check how the edition is displayed on different screen sizes and that the user experience is the same on all platforms. 

Once you have made your decision and get stuck into the production process make sure that you check and check again the functionality of the different versions.  

5. What is your launch plan? 

Before you launch your magazine on the expectant world, you need to make sure that the scheduling is right. Apple has a lead-time of four weeks for new apps, so if the digital edition and print magazine are to come out at the same time careful planning is required.   

You can’t assume that your magazine app will be promoted by Apple or Google, so in order to get those downloads you’ll need to spend some time marketing your app through your print magazine, your website, email updates and social media, too.

Once you’ve done all that it’ll be time to start worrying about the next issue, but remember to check the download stats so you can toast your success!