Apps that know where they are

Exact Editions was the first magazine platform to deliver magazine apps for the iPhone. We also had magazines on the iPad as soon as it was available. When the Apple iTunes Newsstand arrived all the apps on the Exact Editions platform were there. We have always been at the cutting edge of iOS technology.

Today we announce that Exact Editions apps are the first to be aware of their location. All the magazines and periodicals on the Exact Editions platform now support our ByPlace™ technology, and this means that the behaviour of an app depends on where it is opened. This positional awareness has tremendous potential for all topical, content-rich apps in mobile markets.

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Reading the Tablet for free ByPlace in St Peter’s Square

All Exact Editions apps with the 7.4.1 version number have this ByPlace™ capability and an obvious application for publishers and consumers is that it will encourage new forms of digital magazine promotion. A magazine publisher can decide that a standard iTunes app, available for a subscription in iTunes can now be made freely available from a specific place, or several places, for a specified period of time.

In the next three weeks more than a dozen magazines on the Exact Editions platform will be freely and fully available including back issues, to potential consumers who use the iOS apps in specific places: as from today Dazed & Confused will be fully available from the Victoria & Albert museum; Le Monde Diplomatique from either end of the Eurostar line, at St Pancras station and the Gare du Nord; leading Catholic periodicals will be available free from St Peter’s square in the Vatican, and the precincts of Westminster Cathedral in London. The Literary Review will be freely available from the environs of the British Library; Music Week from Abbey Road; the Gooner from the Emirates stadiumOpera magazine from the Royal Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, NYC etc. All the magazines with free ByPlace™ access today can be seen on this Google map. Users who pick up one of the Exact Editions apps, which are all freemium, now see a different message when they come to hidden content:

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Sliding the ByPlace™ button  will enable downloads from zones wherever and whenever the magazine app’s content is free in the zone.

Magazines are reading solutions that have evolved to suit specific audiences. The successful magazine defines its own very specific audience, and the best magazines achieve success by appealing to an audience that wants to return to the publication, again, again and again. This is why subscriptions have usually been the best way of selling content to consumer magazines. Exact Editions has focused on the business of selling subscriptions to digital magazines, this focus on selling subscriptions is a great help when it comes to promoting to mobile audiences.

Exact Editions’ Managing Director, Daryl Rayner puts it this way: “Most magazine audiences collect around major events or venues, once or twice a year — or on a more regular basis — the Exact Editions platform which now offers access and promotion ByPlace™  is the best way of reaching these audiences with the simplest and most pleasing digital magazine experience. All the content available is there, within the app, for as long as you stay in the venue”. When you leave the venue you still have the app on your device but you no longer have access to the full service. As Daryl Rayner notes: “We are framing this as promotion ByPlace™, but you can also think of it as trialling by venue, and I guess that the publisher may think of it as selling by location”.  A successful trial of full, free content at a venue, a concert, a conference, an event, or a stadium, translates to a potential subscription as soon as the customer leaves the venue. The free access is no longer available when the customer quits the location, but a subscription to the magazine is just a click away, and the app remains on the customer’s device.

Magazines and Newspapers in the Air

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The Financial Times in mid-air

In the dog days of August, about two weeks ago, Tyler Brûlé found himself in Australia with some cancelled appointment and decided that it was time to get home to London, earlier than he had planned:

After a layover in Singapore, I boarded the last British Airways service up to London and settled in for the 12-ish hour flight. I asked the crew for a copy of the FT’s weekday edition, and a few minutes later the BA staffer returned with a nicely folded bundle of pink paper.

“Oh but it’s the Tuesday edition,” I said, with some surprise. “Do you have today’s, by chance?”

“I’m sorry, let me check but I don’t think so,” the flight attendant replied. “I’ll be right back.”

A couple of minutes passed and the woman returned empty-handed. “It seems we only load the papers in London,” she explained. “I guess you can’t get this particular paper in Singapore.” At this moment it’s hard to say what face I pulled but I know I sat upright and leaned forward and into the aisle slightly. In a very low voice, I started to explain the problem with this particular scenario. “This paper is, in fact, printed locally and, as it’s close to midnight on Wednesday, the Thursday edition is almost available. Don’t you think you should be loading papers locally? Just like you do food and jet-fuel?” The Joy of a Clear Diary

This experience does pose a few questions for those of us who believe in a digital future for magazines and newspapers.

It really should be much easier to read a newspaper digitally on your iPad in the aircraft cabin than to get a printed copy of the magazine or newspaper loaded locally like the food and jet-fuel. But the only currently guaranteed and practical way in which travellers can get digital magazines to read on the long flight from Singapore to London is to have loaded the app version before you set off and made sure that you sync it to the device.

Providing your passengers (especially your business class passengers) with a top quality selection of magazines and newspapers and magazines should still be a premium part of the package. It should be easy to set up a system which will supply travellers with hundreds of magazines to read whilst they are in mid-air. Providing this service can be both a profitable service for the periodicals and a promotional opportunity.

There are indeed such systems for digital magazines and newspapers, and one will find them at business lounges and sometimes in mid-air. Why are they not more successful? One reason may be that the companies that provide these digital periodical reading systems are building a proprietary reading environment. Reading a digital magazine in mid air should be a very similar experience to reading the digital magazine on an iPad. Another related problem is that by and large magazines and newspapers are each inventing largely proprietary and unique delivery methods for their digital editions. There has to be some standardisation. There really ought to be a way of reading an iPad app magazine in flight, on a temporary basis (as a guest of Emirates or Lufthansa) without having to learn six different reading models for six different magazines and newspapers.

There are clearly some problems to be solved here, but it is still somewhat strange that Tyler Brûlé did not ask why there is not already a much better digital reading solution for the problem he identifies. Brûlé is the publisher and editor of Monocle which would be a great magazine to have in one’s hands on most long haul flights. Personally I would much rather have it in hand on my iPad then any other way. When Tyler Brûlé also thinks that the digital solution is the obvious one to the problem he has in getting hold of a current copy of the Financial Times, the magazine industry will be confident of its digital future. Newspapers need this digital solution even more than magazines but magazines have a lot of catching up to do.