Publisher iBeacons

Last week we showcased the way in which Exact Editions apps can be used to deliver small-scale site licenses to bars, cafes, hotels etc. Our first public installation was at Bar Kick in London’s Shoreditch. TechCrunch reported on this event, iBeacons used to deliver location-based access to iOS newsstand publications. Darell Etherington called this a “novel, intelligent use of iBeacons, and a perfect example of how we’ve only just begun to see the benefits of this new Apple tech”.

Ibeacon with walnut

A Publisher iBeacon smaller than a walnut

Exact Editions launched the first examples of iBeacon subscriptions a few days before Apple’s roll out of iBeacons in all its US stores. Again TechCrunch were quickly on top of the story: Apple Turns On iBeacons In All Its 254 U.S. Stores For In-Store Notifications And More. Apple’s deployment seems to be more in line with the expected use of iBeacons, as a means of enriching and achieving close impact in physical retail stores and locations. It seems as though the classic use of iBeacons (as currently envisaged) is for them to work as a kind of environmental net between a retail location and users moving through it with iOS devices. A kind of distributed Point of Promotion system to mesh with the Point of Sale services already in the store. A reasonably dense network of iBeacons then becomes a way of managing or coaxing foot-traffic within the store. Since Apple has some of the densest and most populous retail environments on the planet it is hardly a surprise that they are interested in how it may be feasible to energise and lubricate these consumers in a closed environment. Moving the customer to the appropriate spot where they are most likely to make their buying decision.

The Exact Editions use case is rather different, as we see iBeacons as a way of liberating or empowering the apps that are already in the iOS devices. Especially those that may be close to an iBeacon. So there is much to be said for arrangements whereby iBeacons can be installed in venues, relevant to the interests of the magazine readership.  Taking this one step further, if IBeacons could move around it would be practical to move the open hot-spot to the place where the customer, or potential customer, is. Since iBeacons are small and portable devices it clearly is feasible to take the iBeacon to the customer. The shopping challenge is to move the customer towards the point of sale, whereas the subscription challenge is to get the content to the potential subscriber. We demonstrated the relevance of this approach to the group of publishers that gathered at the Bar Kick event. Exact Editions can now offer the publishers with which we are working a fully portable promotional tool: Publisher iBeacons.

How does this work?

A Publisher iBeacon can be thought of as a mobile iBeacon, for example one programmed for Grand Designs, that a publisher might carry in her pocket, wallet or handbag. Wherever the iBeacon is taken the publisher carries an open access zone with them. Of course the publisher has to let the audience know that the iBeacon is in the room and that it will give complete free access to Grand Designs, but once users are aware of the cloud of free access, the following will happen:

  1. Users will download the magazine’s free app from iTunes and use the complete resources of the app without limit.
  2. They can sync issues and read as much as they like of the archive, whilst they remain in the zone of the Publisher iBeacon
  3. The Publisher iBeacon will carry some gentle additional branding with it. “You have free access to Grand Designs courtesy of Media 10”
  4. The iBeacon usage will be logged and will tell the publisher how much the app has been accessed, day by day, location by location

It is a key feature of magazine content that all magazines have unique audience profiles. Magazines tend to have strong appeal to clearly definable groups. Model railway magazines appeal to people who have or like model railways. Cricket magazines appeal to people  who play, watch or support cricket etc. Publishers usually understand the specificity and uniqueness of their audience much better than anyone else and the Publisher iBeacon is another way in which publishers working with Exact Editions can focus on their audience. It nicely complements the geo-coordinate promotion that we have been simultaneously developing. Publisher iBeacons will be a great resource for magazines where conferences, trade shows and events are important. These personal iBeacons will also be very useful to magazines where there is a resident champion. For the magazine Grand Designs, Kevin McCloud is a contributor, the editor at large, and to a considerable degree the principal promoter of the magazine. With an iBeacon he can now become the principal promoter of the magazines’ app.

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The welcome screen from a Publisher iBeacon

Exact Editions in the last year has hit upon a rich range of promotional and delivery technologies which we are collecting under our ByPlace™ banner. Although these methods have their primary expression in the iOS apps that we work with, they are obviously not limited to iOS. Apple just seems to have this infrastructure much better sorted than any of their competitors right now.

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