At a time of great change in the mobile marketplace, and steeply rising platform costs, Belgian mobile specialist Twixl media is partnering with London based The App Lab to launch its platform into the UK market. James Evelegh talks to Laurent Gerniers and Craig Llewelyn-Williams about why they think Twixl Publisher might just be the right product, at the right price and at the right time.
How, I start by asking Laurent Gerniers, marketing director of Twixl media, does he see the current state of play in the UK mobile market?
“In general terms,” he says, “the publishing market is still centred around the digital edition, but there is a growing awareness of the potential of continuous publishing models and the rise of mobile. People are using their smartphones for things that would have been unimaginable a couple of years ago. Barriers are coming down and some publishers are rethinking their offering from the ground up, to see what new utility and experience they can serve up to their audiences. There is a great deal of experimentation going on, but publishers don’t want to be rushed into new ways of working. They want to go at their own pace.”
“Monetisation continues to be a real challenge and publishers are grappling with paid-for, free and freemium strategies. Recent significant price rises by some platform providers are putting a question mark over the very affordability of mobile publishing, especially for small and medium sized publishers.”
“System proliferation is also a headache, with publishers having to deploy different systems for app creation (often creating the content in one environment and the app in another) and then using a whole different set of solutions for distribution and for controlling access entitlements.”
“There is an appreciation that HTML is the best authoring tool for mobile, but the fact is that the vast majority of publishers use InDesign and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. HTML authoring skills remain in short supply in the publishing sector, although this is slowly changing.”
Laurent Gerniers“The industry as a whole, and not just in the UK, continues to grapple with the ideal content mix and reader experience between smartphone, tablet and desktop (and print for that matter) and how to add value and enrich the reader experience on each. The smartphone and tablet reading experience is, of course, completely different. On smartphones, generally, the need is for information, concise and served fast, whereas when using tablets, users tend to be more relaxed and wanting a deeper lean-back experience and richer content.”
Despite the challenges, no one seriously questions the dominance of mobile, or the fact that publishers need to be as creative and innovative in mobile as they are already in print and on desktop. Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report, published in August, concluded that the UK is now a “smartphone society”. The report said that, “Smartphones have become the hub of our daily lives and are now in the pockets of two thirds (66%) of UK adults, up from 39% in 2012. The vast majority (90%) of 16-24 year olds own one; but 55-64 year olds are also joining the smartphone revolution, with ownership in this age group more than doubling since 2012, from 19% to 50%.”
So, mobile is the future, no question. Publishers really have no option but to excel in it!
Twixl: a hybrid approach
What, I ask Laurent, does Twixl offer to UK publishers?
First, and while no supplier likes to lead on price, affordability! Due to ongoing monetisation challenges in the digital space and the decline in traditional publisher revenue streams, the affordability of mobile platforms is a key issue. “Charging a fair price is a central part of our offering,” he says. “We are looking for long term, sustainable relationships and we want to be able to look our customers in the eye! Our approach is to respect each other and work together.”
Secondly, Twixl recognises the conflicting pressures facing publishers – where they want to be versus where they are now. Most professional publishers are not pure-play digital outfits but have existing print products and workflows / skill sets that need maintaining. The future might be HTML, but the present is InDesign and our platform recognises that, says Laurent. Twixl is a hybrid system that accommodates both InDesign, and through the WoodWing Inception plug-in, HTML. “A key part of our ethos is to let publishers go at their own pace – enable them to continue using the tools they are comfortable with, but to keep the door open for new approaches. We want to challenge and inspire publishers, but not to push them!”
Twixl realised early on that publishers were faced with a bewildering number of suppliers – too many suppliers offering too many different things, so they set out to build a complete solution. Within the Twixl platform, publishers can build the app, create the content, distribute it and also market it. Ease of use, and an appreciation of publisher workflows, was another key consideration. As the company says on its website: “Our goal from the start was to develop a solution that allows non-programmers to create content for mobile devices.”
And, not forgetting, says Laurent, our other USP – our UK partner! The App Lab is much more than just a reseller; the company is a digital strategy and product development consultancy specialising in mobile. “We chose them because they bring real added value to the process. Craig and the team at The App Lab are focused on making the solution successful for the publisher, not just selling our product. They are experts at integration, training and getting the best possible outcome for the publisher. They have also worked closely with us on the development of Twixl Publisher 5, providing invaluable feedback and insight into publisher requirements.”
Strong track record
Twixl media already has an extensive publisher base across Europe and South America. It has been in the app space since the early days and version 1 of Twixl Publisher was released in November 2010, just over six months after the iPad’s launch. The company is based in Ghent, Belgium and consists of a tight-knit team of ten developers. Twixl’s focus is on research and development; all sales are handled by a global network of 40 resellers.
Craig Llewelyn-WilliamsThe company might be a relative newcomer to the UK market, but by partnering with The App Lab, they have plugged into a company that has been at the sharp end of app publishing in the UK since 2013. The App Lab’s USP is knowledge and they have invested heavily in it. They have been at the forefront of major app projects for News UK, Northern & Shell, Hearst, Time Inc UK, Haymarket and Immediate Media. They are experts at strategy formulation, product development and systems integration. The company is independent but partners with leading platform and publishing system providers like Twixl.
The App Lab team’s collective experience and expertise is unrivalled, says Craig Llewelyn-Williams, MD. “We pride ourselves on being able to get the best out of app and publishing platforms. We feel our role is to represent the customer and by understanding their needs, feed into the product development activities of our partners. We love to work with new technology and to be launch partners for new releases.”
Craig says he is very excited about the new partnership with Twixl. “They’re great to work with – very receptive to new ideas and with a clear understanding of publisher requirements in this space. Twixl Publisher is a platform that combines all-important affordability along with all the functionality a publisher needs to develop its mobile offering. When we first sat down with the team from Twixl, we immediately realised there was a meeting of minds; we were instantly compatible in terms of our approach.”
Any other tips…
And finally, I ask Laurent and Craig, do they have any general advice to publishers on how they can realise their mobile potential? A quick fire top ten:
1. Think beyond digital editions. Drive higher engagement through continuous publishing. 2. Make time for strategy! Block out thinking time. Put a date in the diary, pull your key staff together and work out what mobile means for your brand. 3. Set realistic expectations. Mobile is rapidly evolving and it’s not constructive to see each new app launch as a potential game changer. 4. See apps as part of the wider brand eco-system. Apps are not stand-alone offerings, but part of the broader brand mix and, as such, should complement all the other brand outputs. 5. Prioritise commercial. Ad formats and positions should be planned in from day one. 6. Ensure someone takes ownership. The app needs to be somebody’s responsibility. 7. Get the digital team engaged. Digital teams seem reluctant to embrace digital edition products but as these evolve to be more mobile-focused and combine free and paid content, harnessing their skills will be essential to success. 8. Measure it! Insight gleaned from user behaviour should shape the ongoing development of your app. 9. Market it! “Build it and they will come!” doesn’t cut it. If you’ve got something to sell, you’ve got to market it. 10. Invest in the right publishing platform…
Give us a call…
Laurent is very excited about the future, both publishers’ and Twixl’s! He feels that their platform is a very cost-effective, easy-to-use, yet high-spec, publishing platform and a perfect fit for the UK publishing market.
If you would like more information, contact Laurent Gerniers on +32 493 25 25 77 / email@example.com or Craig Llewelyn-Williams on 0845 835 8828 / firstname.lastname@example.org. They look forward to hearing from you.