Where Is the Digital Edition Market Heading?
Written by Matt Clement
The digital edition market continues to make turns, but is the product still a viable option for content creators?
There was a time when page flipping digital editions were all the rage. I remember getting my first look at one of these content carriers while I was in my graduate studies at the University of Colorado. It felt cool and comfortable. I loved that animations and video were built in to make the content come to life. Furthermore, the UI was intuitive because it spoke to something I already understood, turning a page.
Today, page flipping technology still has relevance and many of our clients here at Nxtbook Media continue to use it to drive their brands and content forward. Additionally, we’ve been able to enhance our page turning platform to a customization level that makes it suitable for many types of content. Through enhancements from our design team and custom development solutions, we now work on catalogs, journals, education materials, publications, and marketing collateral, among other pieces. Here you will find an example of our page turning solution for a nationally recognized construction company. The platform, as you see, helps to tell a directed brand story that is difficult to replicate through a website.
In regards to the readership for curated platforms, Pew Research Center recently completed a study which demonstrates trends for one form of page-based digital content, e-books. Expansion of the market has been robust over the past five years.
Furthermore, German media research giant Gfk just recently published a study showing a 27% increase in digital edition magazine readership from 2015 to 2016, with similar gains expected from 2016 to 2017 once the numbers are in. On top of this, Nikolay Malyarov, Chief Content Officer for Press Reader, stated in a recent article through FIPP that digital editions are still a very relevant part of a diverse, robust strategy for many publishers. In fact, he goes on to state the following as the top monetization strategy in his article:
“Know your audience to grow your audience through smart data. Digital editions are not dead. Many readers still enjoy them, expect them as part of every publishers’ content offering, and are willing to pay for them.”
Many of our clients who simply post links to their digital edition on social media channels see sizeable bumps in their readership. We have seen it truly doesn’t take much from an advertising perspective, as an audience simply needs to be met where they are and at the right time with a digital edition. Interestingly, Malyarov goes on to mention in the FIPP article, “The lack of marketing of digital editions is also not helping publishers grow digital revenues.” On our side, we have seen content creators simply put their digital edition on a website and hope for the best, similar to putting a magazine on a print newsstand. In our crowded digital content market, this won’t work unless the developer of content has a strong brand that is constantly drawing large audiences to their website.
All this said, the stats still point to solid growth in the electronic curated content market and a strong opportunity for monetization and engagement through simple advertising.
I know overall I am painting a rosy picture for the industry. Honestly, I would be remiss to not mention that the buzz has dulled a bit in regards to page-turning digital editions. Buzz, we have found, tends primarily to follow monetization of a content platform. We can put the blame on what seems to be a “laissez-faire” approach to marketing, but that may not be the full picture. We know page-flipping technology has become “old hat” to some content creators, as well as some audiences. Websites have continued to evolve and carried with them the latest of design and custom development innovations, such as parallax scrolling, full-screen video, ad serving and impressive interactivity. Page flip technology will always be limited design and functionality wise by what many consider its greatest strength, page turning.
Furthermore, as the Pew Research study demonstrates, curated electronic content consumption growth over the past five years has primarily been through mobile devices. Most page flip technologies present a somewhat stodgy pinch-to-zoom smartphone experience. Responsive websites have helped content creators to publish an easy to read experience across all devices.
Still, at the heart of it, we see the stats and hear the desire for a deep storytelling, curated experience from current and potential clients. With this in mind, as well as the aforementioned concerns, we’ve stepped into the realm of responsive digital editions. This type of curated content has the flexibility, in regards to design and all-device functionality, of a website while still holding the curation of a page flipping digital edition. You can see an example of it here. Of course, these enhancements in design and functionality have not only been attractive to content creators but also readers. On average we’ve seen growth of 25% in unique readership when a client has transitioned from our page-flipping digital edition solution to this new platform. Through our talks with past clients, trade show attendees, potential clients, and current clients we have seen a good bit of the buzz return with this new platform.
Of course, no content platform is without its holes, but the data seems to speak to great opportunity in digital editions because readers continue to value the platform. Additionally, the statistics coming from a transition to responsive digital editions show there is a possibility of more expansive growth than we are currently seeing in the market.