Building Magazines for Android

Marijn Deurloo

Until recently, Apple’s dominant position in the tablet market allowed content owners to focus on building publications for the iPad. However, consumer preference for Android tablets grew notably in 2012, and as a recent report from the IDC predicts, Android’s global market share is expected to reach a peak of 48.8% this year. What does the surge in Android tablets mean for publishers?

With different screen sizes and processing power, Android tablets have spelled trouble for publishers. As a recent Poynter article argues, some publishers choose to ignore Android tablets altogether and focus on publishing interactive issues on iPad apps only. Another option is to avoid interactivity and release static PDFs or print replicas on Android. Let’s delve deeper into why publishers have a hard time releasing Android products…

Recreating an iPad experience on Android

Most publishers start by developing an iPad or iPhone app and optimizing their content for iOS devices. As a result, they encounter hurdles when they try to recreate their iOS content experiences on Android tablets. Workflow issues, design and usability considerations make it virtually impossible to simply adjust the content for the Android platform and launch in a couple of hours.

A Different Newsstand

As Poynter’s Sam Kirkland points out, the Google Play magazine store is also significantly different from Apple’s Newsstand. While Newsstand serves as a “hub for apps,” Google Play acts more like an app itself, facilitating the reading and publishing of print replicas.

A Different Target Audience

As some reports argue, Android users are less likely than iOS users to spend money on apps, not only for downloads but also in-app purchases. Thinking that they will get less return on investment, publishers tend to spend lower amounts on Android publications. However, with Android devices and consumer demand for apps on the rise, publishers will be compelled to invest more on releasing engaging Android products.

So, how can publishers overcome these issues and reach audiences on Android? Here are some suggestions:

Build for Android

If you want to offer your content on Android, build for Android from scratch. Don’t take the one-size fits all approach. Think about user experience requirements and take advantage of the capabilities and features of a specific device. The differences may be subtle depending on your content. The examples below, taken from Rabobank’s Kennis App, illustrate how specific features and the overall presentation of your magazine’s content may vary on iOS and Android.

Embrace Diversity

A recent survey from the North American Alliance for Audited Media found that 73% of apps are still the exact replica of the print product. This speaks to the challenges publishers face while trying to create richer, more expensive content versus easily reproduced content. But magazines and periodicals have come a long way, from printed artifacts to PDFs, enhanced PDFs and real time content aggregation apps. Rather than sticking to old paradigms, publishers should look towards expanding their app libraries and optimize content for each device.

Know your readers

While most publishers are eager to expand their offering on mobile, many of them also recognize the need to justify their investments with better measurement and data standards. Engagement metrics, access rates and the amount of time spent on mobile apps are absolutely necessary for understanding your audience. Taking insights from your audience’s reading behavior across platforms is also paramount to build the ideal mobile magazine. Such metrics will not only provide accountability for advertisers, they will ultimately define your mobile strategy.

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