It’s a magazine, but not as you know it
The format and content of true digital magazines does not resemble the magazine in its paper version.
The dramatic growth of digital technology and mobile devices, especially the rapid increase in the number of iPads, has led to more and more publishers entering the electronic world.
However, an IT expert says creating a digital magazine is not just converting the existing content into a PDF file and making it available for a tablet device.
Different publishing files and file types are required for distinctive forms and formats, according to Kajorn Bhirakit, Adobe Community Professional and manager of Thai Adobe User Group.
He pointed out that while e-books and e-magazines are often in generic electronic files or formats, the digital magazine is an application.
“Many publishers misunderstand the concept and simply jump into the electronic version by putting the same content as the paper version on a PDF file for tablets. This is not a digital magazine at all,” said Kajorn.
PDF focuses on presentation, so users cannot change the text size or font, nor resize. E-books and e-publications are reading material in PDF form without an interactive mode, while the digital magazine is interactive.
The preferred format of Kindle and Nook, e-books allow in-line graphics and figures, HTML and CSS-based templates, while layout control is nonexistent.
The form and format of digital magazines, on the contrary, are solely for iPads and tablet PCs, offering a media-rich format, touch interface (swipe, pinch, flick) and separate horizontal and vertical layouts for device rotation. The format of the future, the digital magazine requires Adobe’s Indesign CS5 program.
In Thailand, there are only a small number of publishers who actually produce digital magazines, such as Mars, Bazzar and travel magazine Andaman.
Kajorn said that each month, Adobe in the US researches what people do with their iPhones and iPads. For iPad download behaviour, they found that 5% downloaded only free apps, 32% did not download an app, and 63% downloaded a paid app. But such research has never been conducted in Thailand.
Patchara Samudavanija, editor-in-chief of Mars magazine, said the revenue from digital magazines is primarily from advertising because the platform can automatically find out how many users there are and which sections they read, and who the target group is.
“Advertising in digital magazines goes beyond the ads on websites in which readers can click ‘like’ or shop on those interactive ads,” Patchara said.
Unlike e-books, digital magazines target for advertising rather than the unit volume of magazines.
Patchara said that in Mars magazine the content is presented as text and video and the readers can interact with the magazine directly. He cited the example of an interview with a musician in which readers can read the text on the iPad as well as click on the video to listen to the music that the artist plays.
There are about 50,000 tablet users in Thailand, which is quite a significant figure. “However, Thais rarely use tablets for reading. Most are for playing games, so we get revenue from digital applications, especially games,” he said.
Kajorn said the digital magazine is not just about clicking and then going to the internet; rather readers must be able to interact with the content. The essence is that the publishers can know how many times each page in the magazine was clicked, so that they can plan the marketing more minutely. Advertising should also be interactive; once the readers click, they can compare or order the products.
Analytic data allows publishers to know which articles are the most read and so the advertising can capture the right target group.
For consumers, the advantages of e-publications over printed ones are searchable content, choice of devices, instant availability, convenience, interaction with content and adaptive content. For publishers, the benefits include easier market deployment, lower overheads, faster delivery, instant correction and updates, dynamic content and click-tracking. However, the downsides of e-publication compared to print are market flooding, software piracy, a disposable product and, with some formats, loss of presentation control.
“But if you do the right thing, there is money in e-magazines. Publishers must stop thinking that e-paper is ink on screen, stop charging paper costs to e-consumers and follow e-book and app market pricing models. Sell advertisers on media-rich adverts and interactive experience branding buys, and learn to turn a profit from micropayments”.
Print is not dead, according to Kajorn, who noted that 85% of consumers prefer printed material at least some of the time, The Wall Street Journal, for instance, offers printed, iPad, web and mobile versions, all with differing content, which are all widely read. Even tablets cannot be everywhere all the time. But print-only publications will be dead by the decade’s end, he said.