Content consumption habits have radically shifted in the last few years, as well as content strategies for corporate publications. Magazine editors must keep in lock-step with how readers prefer to engage with content in print, online and on mobile devices. Preferences can be further differentiated for readers who consume content on smartphones vs. tablets that also must be taken into consideration.
As readers shift from one medium to another, they expect more than the availability of content on their devices. They also expect the experience of that content to be contextually relevant to the medium.
In our analysis of Fortune 500 companies that publish B2B and B2C corporate magazines, over 75% have chosen the path of least resistance by porting their print files to mobile PDF readers.
And why not?
There are many advantages to implementing this streamlined approach: PDF readers for mobile are inexpensive, they don’t require any change to existing print workflows and they provide easy entry into the mobile marketplace. Editorial managers can feel, at least temporarily, that they’ve sidestepped the threat of disruption to business as usual. The magazine shows up on devices, there are realistic page-flipping animations and hyperlinks open seamlessly in mobile web browsers.
But, as the usage data is gathered and analyzed from digital and mobile publications that employ these solutions, a common trend should emerge: readership and engagement are down.
So, while entering the marketplace with a minimal viable product such as a mobile PDF reader is non-disruptive, we believe the user experience of pinching and zooming a print version of a magazine on a tablet is not how readers want to consume content.
Here are the top five reasons to think mobile first for the digital editions of your corporate magazines:
1. User experience: The age of mobile devices and apps have ushered in a paradigm shift in the way content is packaged and consumed. Mobile experiences that require reading via pinch-and-zoom and retain the familiar constructs of linear navigation, three-column layouts and static media exemplify an unwillingness to meet the demands of a new era of content delivery. Users expect design that compliments their devices and content experiences that pull them in through interactivity.
2. Deep Engagement: Content that is optimized for mobile has a greater chance of keeping the reader focused on content, not how to read it. Layout and direct navigation are a great start, however, the selective inclusion of native videos, slideshows, overlays and links provide your readers with fresh content experience that will keep them on the page. Conde Nast, an early adopter of interactive tablet magazines, found that the majority of their readers of GQ for tablets registered longer sessions with less page views.
3. Responsive Design: Tablet and smartphone proliferation has provided consumers with no less than sixteen different smartphone and tablet models, four separate operating systems, three marketplaces and ten different configurations of screen size and resolutions. PDF readers that utilize print files are locked into a single configuration designed for a different medium and will provide the user with varying degrees of difficulty depending on the size of the screen. Publications that utilize HTML or adaptive layouts provide responsive design options that allow readers to feel like the content is made for them, increasing stickiness and loyalty to your publication.
4. Analytics: Collecting session data from your digital magazines is one of the major benefits for publishers in the mobile age. It’s the silver lining in a time of disruption. For the first time, publishers are able to collect behavioral data that can shape the editorial and design direction. Are users spending more time watching videos or reading articles? Are the navigating linearly or using the TOC to jump to articles? How many views were registered with advertisements? Did users open the magazine after sending a push notification alerting them to a new issue? The answer to these questions have the power to reshape the direction of your publication in ways that accurately deliver what your readers truly want. PDF readers with static layout are limited in their ability to provide the kind of data that can impact the evolution of your content for mobile.
5. Readership Conversion: Publishers who adopt more robust reader platforms for their digital editions, like the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, gain a number of utilities that can be used to drive readership. Custom HTML storefronts present all kinds of ways to preview content, present specific calls-to-action and address the reader directly. Sharing utilities allow readers to share with potential subscribers by providing links to articles and article previews that retain the same user experience as the native tablet editions. Custom push notifications call readers into new issues or specific content. These utilities provide direct communication platform with your readers. Reader segmentation allows publishers to tailor content for specific groups based on their actual usage.
PDF readers are a great first step into mobile and a way to dip the toe into the world of digital editions. However, in order to drive readership adoption and retention, a digital strategy must evolve alongside readership habits, as well as leverage a range of utilities that will drive consumption and, ultimately, achieve the desired outcomes of your content strategy for your corporate communications.