Exactly and Precisely

Exact Editions began with the goal of delivering magazines, issue by issue, as subscription services for web browsers. For various reasons, some of which I may have forgotten and some of which are deeply ideological, we took the view that the service had to be a pure web service. Every page of every magazine should be rendered as a web page, so that it could both link and be linked to. This is still the underlying, database-driven, system that underpins the apps that Exact Editions delivers for the iPhone O/S.

It is a year since Apple accepted our first app and it appeared in the app store (a year and four days), so it may be a good moment to take stock and review progress. One thing to say, loud and clear, is that we think Apple has built a great system. A system that is great for publishers, good for developers and very good for consumers. Apple gets stick, and its share of mockery, (and we occasionally mutter oaths under our breath when they inexplicably delay approval of a great revision to one of our/their apps) but they are doing a great job. Thank you Apple and thank you also for designing and building the iPad! The iPad is the crowning glory of the system that Apple has constructed and it is going to be very good for magazine publishers.

Exactly was our first app and it remains in some respects the lynch-pin of our offering. Through it anyone can read sample digital magazines on the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad and they can access their own Exact Editions account to read the current and archived issues of magazines that they subscribe to. We have been steadily adding functionality to Exactly in the course of the year. Six months ago we added content sync-ing so that the latest issue in an account could be stored on the iPhone/iPod Touch. This ability to sync has greatly improved the readability and speed of interaction with the apps on phones. Currently we have a further improved version of Exactly with the Apple approval process and this will allow double-page spread viewing and navigation on the iPad. Exactly will continue to improve as we move forward and as the Apple O/S develops — multi-tasking is one of the features that Apple-followers are looking for in the imminent release of OS/4.

Exactly is a lynchpin in the Exact Editions product offering, but from our initial exploration of the iPhone platform we had taken the view that most magazines will benefit from having their own ‘branded’ apps in the iTunes app store. We have recently started viewing this complementary development of branded apps as a kind of co-relative of the Exactly proposition. Whereas Exactly allows the user and the subscriber to read and access her magazine subscriptions on the iPhone platform exactly as digital counterparts to the print subscription, the branded apps solution allows the publisher to project the title precisely branded for the iTunes market place. For the consumer a branded app works precisely as the Exactly app works, but with better branding for a particular magazine or title. But for the publisher the branded apps project the PRECISE brand associated with the magazine (or book).

Exactly is a ‘white label’ solution, it is neutral between the brands of the magazines that might be viewed through it, but the precisely ‘branded apps’ target and carry the design of the particular magazine. We are not going to make the ‘precisely’ label even a sub-brand for Exact Editions, because we think that the specific brands for the magazine itself is what matters to the integrity and brandedness of magazines. Precisely is an extension of the underlying Exact Editions app platform, a non-brand or place-holder for magazines that need their own brand in the iTunes economy. And that is the key point about the ‘precisely’ proposition, a magazine app which is branded for the magazine itself can be moved into the iTunes app store, with its own price, its own content offering, its own front cover etc….The magazine publisher who can place the magazine directly in the iTunes app store takes advantage of the existing brand recognition of the magazine itself and by selling subscriptions through the efficient Apple system the brand is of course further developed. Having the magazine directly in the iTunes app store, means that the magazine app can be sampled and bought by the 70 million people who already have iPhone O/S devices. The magazine sits directly in iTunes and there is no need for the subscriber to come to the content via the Exact Editions web service.

There are some additional immediate gains from this approach. First, the magazine app can be sampled (and in this way the App store becomes a very effective digital kiosk where some parts of the magazine can be browsed before the title is bought). Second, magazine subscriptions can be sold as 30-day subscriptions, which is a huge advantage because the iTunes market is still quite sticky about buying apps for $15 or $30 (typical prices for annual subscriptions) but much more accommodating about buying subscriptions (albeit only for 30 days) at the price of $1.99 or $2.99 that might seem appropriate to a publisher who sells print subs at $15/30. The Apple system of in-app purchasing works fine, and the low threshold for subs and renewals at modest prices are huge advantages of the iTunes e-commerce system. Apple is getting a lot of this stuff right!

A Summary of the Strengths of the Exactly/Precisely Platform

Exactly has:

  1. Full digital fidelity for magazine issues and archives
  2. Interactivity and in-page and in-issue navigation (live links for urls, phone numbers etc)
  3. Search
  4. Offline syncing
  5. iPad and iPhone support

Precisely has all of that from Exactly and more:

  1. Full digital fidelity for magazine issues and archives
  2. Interactivity and in-page and in-issue navigation (live links for urls, phone numbers etc)
  3. Search
  4. Offline syncing
  5. iPad and iPhone support
  6. Branded app name
  7. Branded icon
  8. Branded splash screen
  9. Branded app-store presence
  10. Current issue preview
  11. In-app purchase
  12. 30-day subscriptions
  13. Data on consumer up-take
  14. Revenues from iTunes

That is all rather a big deal for magazines that want to have their own direct presence in the iTunes economy. The Exactly/Precisely platform can get a magazine up and running in the app store within two or three weeks (allow at least one week for the approval process), and most magazines which look for a strong consumer presence should be doing that now! However, we do emphasise to our partner publishers that we are offering them a branded solution from an underlying technology platform. We are not building customised app solutions. Sure there are plenty of choices and there are many issues where there can be some fine-tuning, but the platform is database driven and largely automated. It works the way it works.

Exactly and precisely that way.

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