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Digital Magazines: Worth a Look? – An Interview

I had the pleasure of interviewing Marcus Grimm, marketing executive for NXTbook Media. NXTbook is a digital media solutions company that I came to know through Penton with the use of digital magazines. There are a few interesting applications for both marketers and publishers to seriously consider. Take a look below at his view of the digital publishing landscape.

Joe Pulizzi: For the digital magazine novice, can you give me a basic description of what a digital magazine is?

Marcus Grimm: The simplest way to describe a digital magazine is this: Take a printed magazine and give it all the benefits of being online – add audio, video, Flash, permalinks. Then, make it so that the publisher can easily view everything that readers do: How many pages they visit, how long they stay on each page, etc. And because publishers are concerned about revenue generation, add in some special sponsorship opportunities.

JP: What is the one benefit of digital magazines that everyone seems to overlook?

Marcus: Everything that we do to a digital magazine – from animation to RSS feeds and more – begins with the PDF of the publication. Without web editors, you can still get your content online in a format that readers like and search engines can index.

JP: Digital magazines have come under some scrutiny for being a short-lived technology.  What would be your response to that?

Marcus: Most of our publishers rely heavily on print circulation with a digital circulation goal of 20 to 25 percent. What this means is that 75 to 80 percent of their resources need to be devoted to their print product because that’s where their readers are and that’s how their bills get paid. A digital edition is a more cost-effective way to reach that 20 to 25 percent of your audience than devoting extra resources to online development. So long as we have publishers with a print focus, methods to make it easy to do digital editions serve as a great business model for us.  The reality is that few technologies are short-lived, but many technology companies are very short-sighted. The product we have today is nothing like the product we had two years ago, and our management teams are just as certain that we need to continue to evolve and improve so that our technology always provides a solution as markets shift.

JP: What is an area that’s primed for digital magazines (or the technology) but have yet to use it?

Marcus: One thing we’ve learned is that there are very few “layups” in this industry.  We’ve had great success stories and failures in every channel. However, there are some common ways to evaluate whether a market will be successful:

  • If an international audience is likely to enjoy your product but you don’t have the resources to send it overseas, a digital magazine might make sense.
  • If you have extra content that constantly gets shaved from your print version due to paper/shipping costs, a digital magazine might make sense.
  • If you have a self-documenting audience – one that likes to talk about your content but can’t because your magazine is a print publication, a digital magazine might make sense.
  • If your website is sold out (no more ad placement positions) and you’re looking for ways to generate more online revenue, a digital magazine might make sense.
  • Most important of all – if your goal is to create content once, but distribute it in multiple formats – print, email, html, RSS, Flash, etc. – a digital magazine might make sense.