Digital Publishing Platform Comparisons
Written by Matt Berringer
December 15, 2021
The world of digital publishing has many content creation and hosting solutions, each with a unique set of advantages. If you’ve been using static PDFs to publish your content, you should know there’s a vast array of solutions to help you make your content more user-friendly, immersive and interactive.
If you’ve been using one of these solutions and are looking for a change, it will take some consideration to arrive at the right decision. With options from Nxtbook Media, Issuu, Joomag and more for a digital publishing platform, you have many possibilities to weed through.
In this post we’ll compare:
Issuu – Foleon – BlueToad – GTxcel – 3D Issue – Nxtbook
This post also dives into the questions to ask yourself when choosing a platform, which platform is the best for your industry, and the main differences to be aware of. Let’s get started with the comparisons. Let’s explore the publishing options available and how to compare them head to head so you can find the best solution for you and your team.
What to Consider When Looking for a Digital Publishing Platform
The first step to choosing a digital publishing platform is establishing goals for your content strategy. If you’re a print media publisher, you probably have different objectives and needs than a business that will use its digital content for marketing products or services.
An excellent first step is to ask some focusing questions within your internal team about what you need to succeed. If you already have a digital publishing platform, what do you like and dislike about it? What is the reason you’re hunting for an alternative? This step helps you prioritize the capabilities you need and which benefits you should be looking for.
Benefits of the Platform
Each platform available offers some unique advantages that make them ideal for certain digital publishers. Consider the benefits of each and compare them against which ones will be most useful for your specific needs.
First, there are many different types of publishing platforms that allow you to design and share your content in different ways. Each option will contribute to a unique user experience compared to the other types of publishers available. Some of the types of platforms include:
- Native app: Creating your own app gives you a centralized, branded environment to host your publications. Here, you can control every aspect of the user experience. Because they require your readers to download and store them on their devices, apps work best for established publishers looking to extend their mobile reach. Another benefit of the native app is the ability to collect in-depth data about your readers and engage them with notifications and personalized content suggestions.
- Responsive website: A responsive website is one of the simpler publication solutions. With HTML coding, a responsive website can automatically resize itself to fit any device, improving the experience for mobile viewers. Websites are often pretty intuitive to publish onto. While they’re great for some types of content and to act as a “homepage” for your company, they cannot always provide a structured, immersive and narrative-driven user experience.
- Bundled replica publisher: A replica publisher replicates the feeling of reading a magazine and flipping pages while interacting with content on a digital device. They’re handy for companies that publish print magazines and want to quickly and easily turn them into digital editions. You can upload a PDF right into the publisher and add interactive elements.
- Bundled responsive publisher: A responsive publishing platform takes the advantages of responsive web design and combines it with an immersive, bundled content experience. The platform allows you to curate specific articles and media into a linear narrative like a traditional magazine while providing the advanced functionality of a digital-first content experience. Your readers can scroll in multiple directions, view multimedia content and zoom in and out with ease.
Choosing from among these options is an essential first step because the type of platform will drive your user experience in many ways. For example, here at Nxtbook Media, we offer both responsive and replica bundled content publishers, and we’ll often recommend one or the other depending on your specific goals, situation and challenges.
Required Features for Your Business or Organization
Besides the types of publishing options out there, you’ll find many platform providers who differentiate their products in specific ways. For example, Nxtbook Media’s nxtbook4 is a replica publisher that’s more customizable and interactive than many of our competitors. Other replica publishers may differentiate on pricing or ease of use while compromising on advanced features or even allow you to publish for free in exchange for the ability to run their own ads on it.
Once you know what tools you need, you might want to compare several products and providers to see how they stack up. Consider the exact required features and services you need for your organization, such as:
- Number of user licenses
- Number of monthly or yearly publications
- Production and design support
- Ease of use for content design interface
- Ability to use advanced design elements, buttons and interactivity
- Ability to embed multimedia content
- Specific metrics required for tracking reader engagement
- Search-engine friendliness of the publication
- Pricing, payment options and budget
- Right to retain ownership of the content
Considering the Publishing Needs of Your Specific Industry
Every industry uses its digital publications for unique purposes. Some use content marketing to educate potential customers. Others cultivate an audience through a digital magazine, which they use to sell ad space. Still, others may provide the magazine for free to paying customers as a value-add or sell publications with valuable research a la carte.
With so many ways to incorporate published content into your business, you must consider your particular industry’s needs and use cases.
B2B Enterprise Marketing
B2B marketers and sales representatives have one of the most involved buyers’ journeys. When selling to an organization, you have to convince many decision-makers, and the buyers will likely conduct in-depth research on the product before committing. Thus, B2B marketing involves a lot of informative, in-depth content to help customers understand the product and build brand authority. B2B content marketers regularly publish sales decks, whitepapers, product selection guides, catalogs and other informative publications.
Publishing solutions for B2B companies must provide:
- High reader engagement levels
- Ability to capture leads
- Dedicated support to help many team members learn the tool
- Insightful reporting and analytics to justify marketing investments and improve the reader experience
The publishing industry has a major opportunity in adopting digital publishing avenues and converting print audiences into digital subscribers. Online, they can gather more audience data and find new readers through search engine optimization (SEO).
Digital publishers need a flexible platform with:
- Robust monetization options through interactive content and custom ad designs
- Ability to track user engagement to attract advertisers
- Enable sharing and downloads or restrict content to paid subscribers
- The option to replicate their print magazine
- The option to engage a digital audience with responsive design
Alumni magazines, campus publications, newsletters, lookbooks and brochures are all central to higher education institutions. These publications engage your students before, during and after their time in college while bringing staff, donors and other key stakeholders into the fold. Particularly with collateral for prospective students, colleges and universities must find ways to stand out. Typical high school juniors and seniors are inundated with print mailers and emails from universities during their application process, and your college needs to show off its unique selling points.
Using a digital publication is one way to do that, so long as the platform has sophisticated and flexible design options that can make the collateral stand out. In general, higher education marketers need to look for features such as:
- Ability to incorporate images and multimedia content like video and audio
- Responsive design and intuitive mobile-friendly features to appeal to digital natives
- User engagement analytics to learn what content prospective students and alumni care about most
- An immersive user experience that enhances brand perception
- Flexible lead generation options through content gating and social sharing
Sports leagues can boost their content marketing game with online magazines, newsletters, exclusive fan guides, game day programs and team or player retrospectives. In-depth, premium content builds fan loyalty to help teams fill stadiums and deluxe skybox suites, gain TV viewership on game day, sell jerseys and earn more traction in their league. Much of sports marketing is building on the excitement and drama of the game, which is why storytelling through bundled, narrative content is so compelling.
Sports leagues and teams need to look for digital publication solutions that offer:
- Mobile-friendly, responsive design solutions that allow fans to interact with content while at the stadium
- Ample interactive advertising content opportunities for sponsors
- Integrated multimedia content such as photos, videos and audio
- Sophisticated design options that help your sports brand stand out
Travel and Leisure
Hotels and resorts, tourism boards, travel agencies and others in the travel and leisure industry need to build excitement for traveling and the experiences available in faraway places. The best way to do that is with travel brochures, magazines and visitor guides that highlight all a particular destination offers. Tourism boards often use digital publishing platform magazines to guide visitors to popular restaurants and attractions in the area.
Businesses and organizations in the travel and hospitality industry need digital publishing options that offer:
- Responsive, mobile-friendly designs that support tourists and travelers when they’re at the airport, navigating a new place and looking for what to do next
- Flexible design options that allow for ample imagery and video content to show travelers all that awaits them at their destination
- Integrated calls to action that allow travelers to quickly book their stay, buy tickets or make reservations
Associations often publish print magazines for the professionals or enthusiasts who count themselves as members of the organization. Newsletter and digital magazine publishing are crucial for association communications because they encourage regular interactions with the community, add value to memberships and provide excellent sponsorship opportunities by engaging a niche audience.
Associations need dedicated publishing solutions with features such as:
- The option to publish a replica of a print magazine for a digital audience
- An immersive, interactive user experience that adds value to the publication and heightens brand perception
- Flexible advertising opportunities with banners, sponsored content or pop-up ads to attract more sponsors
- Mobile-first design that lets members access content while attending conferences or otherwise on the go
Marketing agencies need to support clients across many different industries. They can use next-level publishing solutions to help their premium content stand out and provide stellar results for their clients.
When publishing digital content for their clients, marketing agencies require features such as:
- Immersive design that encourages high levels of user engagement
- Creator-focused customization options that provide designers with the flexibility they need
- Detailed insights and analytics to show clients how content creation services are paying off
- Robust lead-generation options with content gating and the ability to secure content
- Search engine optimized publications
- Integrated, interactive calls to action
Financial service companies need to build a high level of trust with their clients while also educating them about the complex world of finance. Premium bundled digital content affords a unique opportunity to connect with current and prospective customers. They often publish magazines with financial advice, white papers, annual financial reports, sales collateral and prospectuses. Their publishing platform should offer:
- Engaging, visually pleasing content experiences that impress clients
- Responsive, mobile-first design that helps your brand build credibility as a technology-forward company
- Immersive, easy-to-navigate content that helps clients understand complex financial concepts and service offerings
- Secure publishing platforms that keep content from being viewed by unwanted parties to help brands stay compliant with advertising regulations
Health care and medical device companies require an easy-to-navigate publishing solution. These companies’ highly technical products often require catalogs hundreds of pages long to provide detailed product specifications. Others in the health care industry may need to produce brochures to educate patients on medical conditions and treatment options.
Content publishers in this industry require features such as:
- The ability to publish print collateral in a digital format for increased convenience for health care buyers
- Integrated interactive buttons and links to help readers navigate long product catalogs and find the information they need
- Robust accessibility options to help all patients navigate published content
- A stress-free reading and viewing experience to support and educate patients
Main Differences Between Platforms
While digital publishing tools all offer the same basic functionality of being able to package curated content for online viewing, they accomplish it in different ways. Some of the main points of comparison between publishing software solutions include:
Licensing and User Options
Publishing platform licensing may come with a few different tiers, and each provider breaks down their pricing tiers differently.
Different publishing platforms may distinguish their tools by what comes with a standard license and what requires an upgraded license for advanced features. While publishing platforms from Nxtbook Media provide all features with a base license, other publishers like Foleon offer only basic features with their base licenses and require upgraded tiers for more advanced features.
Platforms may also distinguish themselves by how many licensed users are available with a particular plan. Nxtbook Media software licenses allow up to four users or more, depending on the plan. Other services may price their software for one to three users. Our licensing tiers are distinguished by the number of projects you can publish and the level of training and support that comes with the product. For increased licensing flexibility, we also offer special pricing and licenses for single projects.
Available Design Tools
Each digital publishing platform has a unique design interface. For example, nxtbook4’s replica publishing platform lets you start with a PDF and drag and drop design elements and interactive features. In contrast, PageRaft has a blank-slate design interface with incredible design flexibility, letting you change the page width for individual pages, incorporate enhanced interactive content and responsive text and images for an awesome-on-any-device design.
Every platform offers a unique user experience, and the best way to get a feel for each is to browse examples of collateral produced with a particular digital publishing or replica platform. Look for sample projects from the products you’re considering and approach them as a potential reader. How do you feel using it? How easy is it to navigate? Consider viewing example publications on both desktop and mobile devices to get the best sense of the experience.
Every platform approaches user experience a little differently. Some publishers may interrupt your bundled content with their own ads or have complex design elements that make content load slowly or video and audio clips that play automatically, taking the reader by surprise. Platforms that do well with user experience may instead offer features such as:
- Responsive design that lets text, images and video resize to fit the size of the screen, allowing for a seamless mobile viewing experience
- Accessibility options that allow all readers to view, read and interact with the content
- Interactive images and video that expand to full-screen when a user clicks on them
- Integrated buttons and linking that let users quickly contact the company or visit their website
Leveraging Current Assets (PDFs)
Suppose you already have a fully designed print magazine, which is often the case for traditional publishers, associations, higher education marketers and businesses leveraging printed collateral. In that case, you may want a simple way to transform the design into a digital asset. While static PDFs are unresponsive and hard to navigate on mobile devices, you can easily turn them into a user-friendly digital asset with a replica publishing platform.
If this is what you need, look for a publishing platform that lets you upload a PDF and quickly drag and drop interactive elements to enhance the reader experience. Replica publishers like BlueToad and nxtbook4 let you upload and convert a PDF into a flipbook that’s mobile-friendly and easy to navigate.
Every platform will require some technical skills, even the ones with an intuitive, beginner-friendly design interface. Some publishing platforms will sell you a license and leave you to figure things out independently with some tutorials and a community knowledge base. You may have to call a helpline for additional support. Other publishing platform licensing comes with one-on-one training sessions and dedicated, best-in-class personalized support.
Here at Nxtbook Media, all our pricing plans come with product and technical support, while our Pro and Platinum plans come with dedicated account managers. We even offer complete design and production services and strategic consulting to help you make your publications genuinely immersive, engaging and appealing to the eye. Working at one of the best places to work in Pennsylvania, our support team genuinely cares about your projects and will work hard to make sure you’re successful.
Exploring Your Platform Options
You have so many platforms and software providers to choose from when creating your digital magazine or other online publications. Here’s a quick publishing platform comparison guide to help you evaluate the solutions available:
The fantastic thing about working with Nxtbook Media is that you have two publishing platform options to choose from — nxtbook4 and PageRaft. While PageRaft offers an innovative, immersive, multimedia content experience, nxtbook4 offers replica flipbook publishing with enhanced responsive PDF capabilities.
Both tools offer features such as a mobile-friendly viewing experience, SEO tools that can help you get found online and interactive design elements. As a company, we also offer personalized support and production services to design your content for you while you’re learning the program or short on time. Let’s explore each of these platforms.
- PageRaft is an innovative mobile-first digital publishing platform that gives you the flexibility to design anything you want. Incorporate stunning designs, animations, videos, images and audio clips for a one-of-a-kind digital experience. While the design platform may take longer to learn, we offer helpful support and training to help you reach the full potential of its advanced design capabilities.
- nxtbook4 is the most interactive and customizable replica platform on the market. We let you start with a print-ready PDF and drag and drop interactive elements and videos for an enhanced digital experience. It also offers an innovative article view, which lets users turn their PDFs into responsive content. It’s an ideal tool for traditional magazine and textbook publishers and any company with print assets to digitize.
Issuu is a digital content creation and distribution platform that lets you reformat your PDF content for optimal viewing on particular channels, such as your website and social media. Like Nxtbook Media, it enables users to leverage SEO through Issuu’s domain authority and link readers to your website. Its flipbook features are most comparable to nxtbook4.
The Pros of Issuu include:
- The option to publish your content for free, with paid upgrades available
- Ability to upload and convert a PDF into a digital flipbook
- Robust knowledge base for self-serve customer service
- Statistics to track user engagement and conversions
- Ability to embed videos and other media
The Cons of Issuu include:
- It has tiered licensing, where not every feature is available with a base subscription.
- Lower tier licenses require you to display outside advertisements alongside your content, and you have no control over the ads displayed.
- Lower-tier licenses do not offer the ability to control access to your content.
- There are a limited number of design templates and sharing options.
- Support is limited to email and self-serve video tutorials, with priority phone support for users at their highest subscription level.
- It does not support accessibility features.
- Users must learn the platform and design everything themselves, with no design or production services available.
Foleon is a responsive web-based app similar to PageRaft and acts as a content creation platform that allows its users to create an engaging user experience and bring static content to life with lots of design flexibility.
The Pros of Foleon include:
- Responsive design capabilities
- Drag-and-drop editor
- Tracking and analytics
- SEO tools and features
- Training and support available
The Cons of Foleon include:
- The advanced features require an upgraded license.
- The drag and drop editor is unintuitive.
- There is a learning curve to the design interface.
BlueToad is a replica publisher that lets users upload a PDF of their designed, ready-to-publish assets so readers can view them in a simple, digital flipbook format. It is most comparable to Nxtbook Media’s nxtbook4 replica platform. They also both offer an article view feature that pulls content from a static PDF to create a responsive viewing experience.
The Pros of Bluetoad include:
- Insights through Google Analytics and other reports
- Personalized publication suggestions for readers
The Cons of Bluetoad Include:
- After uploading a PDF, the client must wait three business days while the BlueToad team turns it into a mobile-friendly publication.
- There is no feature that allows users to recombine existing assets.
- BlueToad’s support services do not include design capabilities.
GTxcel is the software provider behind Turnstyle, which offers an article view feature similar to nxtbook4’s article view. Users can upload a static PDF and turn it into a responsive, interactive article while embedding videos and other interactive elements. The tool is specifically marketed for publishers and higher education companies.
The Pros of Turnstyle include:
- Simple uploader to turn your print-ready PDFs into flipbooks or responsive articles
- Dedicated success team to help you create content
- Easy sharing via social media and RSS feeds
- Detailed analytics
- An article carousel to curate content and give readers personalized content suggestions
The Cons of Turnstyle include:
- No options for publishers without print-ready assets.
- No design or production services.
- No advanced design features or the ability to create something from a blank canvas.
3D Issue is another tool for turning static PDFs into interactive flipbooks. It offers a content hub and native app building for publishers to organize their publications for readers. You’ll also find an “Experios” creator similar to mobile-first responsive content options like Foleon and PageRaft.
The Pros of 3D Issue Include:
- Simple content creation interface
- Fast, helpful support team
- Ability to choose between replica PDF and responsive bundled content publications
- Intuitive drag and drop editor
The Cons of 3D Issue include:
- There’s no option to white label flipbooks and remove the “powered by 3D Issue” messaging.
- It’s not as customizable as other flipbook solutions.
- The design interface requires you to choose from pre-loaded templates.
Choose Nxtbook Media’s Interactive Solution
Nxtbook Media is a comprehensive solution for creating, distributing, tracking and monetizing content online. With Nxtbook Media’s nxtbook4 and PageRaft bundled content publishing solutions and superior interactivity and customizability, we have a solution that’s right for every user. We’re also one of the few companies that offers comprehensive design and production services to ensure your publication looks stellar and immerses your target audience in your top-notch content.
When you book a demo with Nxtbook Media, you can see both our replica and responsive platforms for yourself and work with our experts to determine which is right for you. And since both solutions are under one roof, it’s easy to switch from one to the other if you decide another option will better suit your needs. We encourage you to explore our pricing plans, look at example publications and contact our team directly to discuss your needs and options.