The Digital Experience Platform for Publishers: Are You Experienced?

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

The Digital Experience Platform for Publishers: Are You Experienced? The iPhone App Store opened on July 10th, 2008.
 The Amazon App store opened on March 22th, 2011.
 Google Play launched on March 6th, 2012.

In a relatively short time, publishers had new and powerful distribution channels to target in addition to the established channels: print, website and industry-specific online hosting platforms. When apps came to market, a new vocabulary had to be understood by publishing staff, including those in management, editorial, product development, marketing, sales, and all the vendors that serve them. The nuance between the terms “mobile,” “digital,” “apps,” and the variety of features available is clearer now than it was a few years ago, but publishers still strive to deliver the experiences customers expect at a price point that’s profitable for them and reasonable to customers.

Successful publishers recognize that the next iteration of apps must provide a digital experience platform—a mobile platform that:

• performs multiple business functions
• serves up various content
• monetizes content
• measures success
• delivers a great customer experience

The good news? The tools have caught up with the industry expectations. Publishing vendors (good ones) can offer workflow recommendations based on real experience. Customers, more often than not, finally recognize that digital does not mean free, and are willing to pay.

The bad news? Publishing organizations need to map a workflow that supports their digital strategy and understand why it’s critical to distribute to all digital outlets. Operations, marketing and sales need to be aligned to best support this “digital experience platform” and demonstrate to business owners why it’s critical for an organization’s success.

What Does This Platform Look Like?

An “app,” short for application, is a shell that directs a person to specific content. Some apps have more interactivity to engage readers, while others are a digital reproduction of the printed product. The next generation of publishing apps will look and act more like a digital experience platform. The key building blocks of the platform include content, commerce, marketing, service, analytics and customer data, served via a mobile app. In other words, going beyond content replicas (e.g., digital issues) or rich media (though that is important) and weaving in e-commerce and marketing to continuously support a publisher’s brand.

Below is a wireframe sketch to provide a high-level visual of this kiosk:

Cenveo Kiosk

It’s important to realize that the content sections depicted in this image are suggestions, and that publishers can really insert whatever makes the most sense for business. However, the difference between the apps of yesterday and the apps of tomorrow is the inclusion of the key building blocks that go beyond content. The panels (banner) can be changed without resubmitting the app, which saves time and keeps the app fresh.

Why Not Just Use Your Website?

The digital experience platform provides a bridge between your website and your customers. Quite simply, publishers need both an app and a website to engage with customers and keep them coming back.

Let’s flip the paradigm for a moment and look at a business example that drives business exclusively from its app: Instagram. Instagram was a mobile-first product that built a responsive design website after launching its app. While Instagram was developed to only serve mobile users, it indeed recognized that customers still wanted a website interface to interact with the content. Uber and AirBnB are similar examples of businesses that run via mobile app but understand that its web presence is critical for business.

Publishers are in a similar situation, except for them, websites came first. Today, they simply can’t ignore the other platform (i.e., app). Understanding how the digital platform experience differs from a website, which indeed hosts content and rich media and even offers the facility to make purchases, is critical to the success of the publishing strategy.

• Mobile apps provide the opportunity to engage with customers in an immediate way based on real-time metrics like location and demographics.
• The digital platform experience packages content in one location with the option to provide content online or off. Survey your readership and you’ll understand just how many customers download content locally before embarking on vacation or business trip.
• The device reader, whether a tablet or smartphone, is typically a more comfortable reading experience than a website, particularly as people tend to “lean in” on websites during the day and “lean back” with mobile devices after business hours.
Push notifications create a structured nurturing process for customers while prolonging session time in an app. This type of communication, rooted in analytics, provides a means of embedding marketing departments into a publisher’s content distribution strategy.
• No doubt in-app monetization is still a sore point with Apple’s 30/70 pricing formula. Successful publishers offer content both on the website and via the app. While you can’t direct people from the app to the website, you can expect new revenue form in-app purchases, which simply offers another way to generate revenue.
Social media integrates effortlessly with a mobile app and device.

According to a 2014 Ericsson Mobility Report, mobile subscriptions will hit 9.3 billion in 2019, and 5.6 billion of those will be smartphones. Publishers that don’t offer mobile apps will become obsolete. What’s more, the digital experience platform, especially when integrated with social media, will reach a younger demographic and provide the sustainability publishers require for the long haul.

So, are you experienced?

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2 thoughts on “The Digital Experience Platform for Publishers: Are You Experienced?

  1. Michael W. Perry

    \Publishers that don’t offer mobile apps will become obsolete.\

    Oh great, just what readers are eagerly awaiting, yet another app to klutz with in order to read books. I have about a dozen on my iPhone or iPad for that and that’s only a small slice of those available. Why wouldn’t I want more? The more the merrier.


    Publishing executives need to realize that readers don’t care about their company. They care about books. They care about authors. They care about genres. Almost never will a publisher enter their mind. That \all our books\ app you’re being told to buy to create a captive customer base will bomb, wasting a lot of money you can’t afford to lose. Don’t bother. Concentrate on what you know—finding, editing and publishing good books through third-party retailers. Work to make that market healthy.

    There are rare exceptions, but they’re exceptions that prove the rule. A James Patterson app, featuring his stable of authors should do well. His fans would be happy to get push notifications and participate in a Patterson-specific social media. But that’s because it’s centered on him. One centered on Megabook, Inc. won’t even rise to the level of provoking yawns of indifference.

    So, relax. You don’t need an app that’d become an endless sink of update expenses. Focus on practical improvements in epub standards (i.e. not multi-media), so the digital versions of your books that display on industry-standard readers are as good as or better than your print books.

    One illustration would be ‘read twice’ murder mysteries. Read the first time with author notes off to guess at the solution as usual. Read a second time with notes on to have the author explain how he slipped in hints. That’s like the director’s commentary for DVD movies. It’d give your digital books a competitive advantage and cost little, since those author’s notes could be handled like footnotes.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

  2. Peter Kay

    My company is taking a whack at book discovery via app. The target audience is the smart general interest reader that is looking for something to read, whether in be fiction or non, literary or genre. The algorithm is gentle and the UX makes it easy for people to browse quickly.

    I agree with Michael that individual publisher apps (excluding name publishers with deep catalogs such as Knopf) would not succeed getting their app noticed, installed or used.




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