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Eight Reasons Why You Should Care about Apple Newsstand

Future Publishing's Mike Goldsmith on the significance of Apple's latest software upgrade for the publishing industry.

By Mike Goldsmith

One of the most frequently asked questions in my role is, 'So what is Newsstand?'. Thankfully, it's an easy one to answer in three easy steps.

Step one: reply, "It's the place on your iPhone or iPad where any magazines and newspapers you buy or subscribe to can now live."

Step two: show them Newsstand on your iPhone or iPad and they'll see those shelves just waiting to be filled.

Step three: Erm, that's it.

Newsstand is an incredibly simple proposition once you explain - or even better, demonstrate - it. However, look beyond those wood effect shelves and you'll see a world of opportunities for publishers old and new.

1. Finally a category!

Launched 12 months ago, Future's T3 iPad edition is the UK's number one top-grossing Lifestyle app. It's gorgeous, state of the art, one of the first four magazines worldwide chosen by Apple to have subscriptions enabled and… it's in a category called Lifestyle. It remains there for iOS4 laggards but Newsstand - essentially a Periodicals category in App Store - finally gives it and other titles a natural and profitable place to be stocked. Fact: Magazines will sell more in Newsstand. Why? Because it's a shop where people come to buy magazines.

2. Don't forget the iPhone

Future has recently made 65 titles available for the launch of Apple Newsstand. After close consultation with Apple, we chose to launch every single one on both iPhone and iPad. How many people would want to read Total Film on an iPhone? We assumed "not that many" but just as online has taught us we are no longer in charge of how people want to consume content, so has Newsstand. To wit, downloads of Future titles total over four million after just two weeks and are roughly split 50/50 across both devices. People want to read GamesMaster on an iPhone? Happy to oblige!

3. No cascade stocking

Take a look at those Newsstand shelves - titles evenly spaced, no customers to move magazines around, no bent covers or stolen covermounts…. It's the planogram of a Circulation Manager's dreams - and whilst every bone in the aforesaid Circulation Manager's body wants to cram it with shelf barkers, aisle flags and to hot-glue a free gift on the front, Newsstand's display is the great equaliser that will make cover design matter all over again. "Can we get some more coverlines above the masthead?" is suddenly a redundant question. Talking of which…

4. Cover design

What makes an effective cover design on Newsstand? Should it be an exact replica of the print title, with its now unintelligible coverlines and flashes imparting value for money? Or should it be completely redesigned, an oversized image and single coverline taking up the space more strikingly and potentially lucratively? What's the equivalent of that lurid Pantone 804 flash slapped on the cover to scream about that exclusive news story? No one knows (yet) - and that's why Newsstand is so exciting for creatives and publishers alike.

5. Pricepoint and frequency

If the internet has all but eradicated news sections from monthly magazines (and monthly news magazines from existence), Newsstand gives publishers a chance to fight back - and charge for it. Newsstand offers the chance for variable pricepoint and frequency - finally, publishers have the opportunity to trial the low-cost weekly they've been too nervous to launch in print. Doesn't fly off the Newsstand? Try some different pricepoints, examine the pagination, move the on sale date… Newsstand is your sandbox and you get to charge for admission.

6. Raid those archives

This is one opportunity that doesn't quite work if you're the publisher of news-based titles (unless you've content old enough to target that casual vintage/retro/'on your birthday' market) but for those publishers with deep archives, why not target the forty-something dollar and fire up the scanner (or possibly remember where those archive discs full of Quark files have been 'archived'). Right now, collectors are going to torrent sites to download fan-created scans of your back issues. Why not make some money?

7. Get used to saying "on glass"

Some photoshoots look great on paper - but it helps if your paper is 240gsm Grapholux with a triple spot varnish. In the world of mobile devices, photoshoots ALL look great "on glass". Video shoots look fantastic "on glass". White copy out of black is totally legible "on glass". And when the iPhone 4/4S's Retina Display comes to iPad? Everything will look AMAZING on glass.

8. No manual

If this list of observations and opportunities has one theme, it's the truism I repeat to interested parties time and time again. The Step Three I pretended not to have at the start of this article.

Step three: remember to say "Oh, by the way - there's no manual…" Should we link out or not? Portrait or horizontal? Where's the marketing budget best spent? Does a magazine have to have originated in print or can it be brand-new? Two weeks in, we are now starting to see trends, opportunities and best practice emerging (as well as surprises, both pleasant and not so) but these are early days indeed where the manual is yet to be written.

Let's make sure we write an exciting, creative and profitable one.