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Magazine Extensions on Steroids (Part 3): Games and Companion Apps

Following Britain’s brilliant hosting of the Summer Olympics, writes Karlene Lukovitz, what better topic to continue this survey of magazine brand extensions than games?

By Karlene Lukovitz

With both mobile and social gaming exploding, publishers are decidedly getting into the game, both through brand-specific companion apps and standalones that serve some aspect of its audiences’ interests.

Among major publishers, Condé Nast has been particularly aggressive.

One example: Self’s Facebook-based social video game app (with mobile companion version), Workout in the Park, developed with gaming / e-commerce partners. This is an extension of an existing extension: Self’s popular, annual series of live fitness events held in cities around the country.

Users of the free app create look-alike avatars that become increasingly fit as they expend and add to allotted daily “energy credits” by doing workouts and engaging in other health and beauty activities and games. They can also invite friends to join them in activities — and, if so inclined, use another companion mobile app to log and incorporate their real-life workouts into the game. Along the way, users can make virtual buys of fitness equipment and other goods for themselves or as gifts for friends.

For Self, the monetisation routes include sponsorships / product placements (logos on virtual equipment, customised game-play features, etc — as well as tie-ins with the live Workout in the Park events); video and display ads; and sale of integrated packages that span the brand’s online and print assets. But Self VP, publisher Laura McEwan has stated that the game is very much intended to be its own revenue stream / profit centre — and it’s off to a promising start (reportedly about 200,000 users in the first two months).

Non-brand-specific apps

Condé Nast’s Interactive Product Group (iPG), meanwhile, started with launches of Idea Flight (enabling business iPad users to readily share presentations, documents and the like) and Santa’s Hideout (a web app enabling parents to track their kids’ holiday wish lists). And now, iPG has debuted a non-brand-specific, fashion-runway iPad / iPhone game app, Fashion Hazard.

Fashion Hazard users manoeuvre a fledgling virtual model down a 3-D runway, earning rewards for dodging various hazards, including aggressive fellow models. This app costs 99 cents on the iTunes app store. And Condé has partnered with Frenzoo’s Style Me Girl game app series (millions of players competing to rise in the New York fashion world) to create cross storylines / activities and quickly build Hazard’s user base.

For Condé, the revenue opps in offering one of the first arcade-type games specifically designed for females include not only app sales, but sponsorships / advertising and cross-marketing with Style Me Girl on relevant Condé sites. Moreover, Condé expects to leverage the in-house development work by adapting some of this game’s features for other apps, according to Adweek.

Condé’s not alone in the gaming space. National Geographic for Kids has evolved its iPad magazine tablet version – which incorporated some games but frustrated kids who didn’t want to have to swipe through the whole magazine – by replacing cover lines and the TOC with “start” buttons and an icon-focused game menu, reports eMediaVitals. The brand has also released another interactive app based on the Weird But True trivia section in the magazine, and is working on a third, from-scratch kids’ iPad experience (which will make no attempt to be a “retrofit” to the magazine app).

Nor are companion apps limited to games. Many publishers - Rodale, Martha Stewart Omnimedia and Time Inc, to name just three — have internal mobile / app units devoted to developing digital service extensions for fitness, nutrition, cooking, gardening and other lifestyle / interest topics, and / or tie-ins with celebrity, sports and other news / content areas.

As MediaPost pointed out, companion apps are increasingly seen as an opportunity to keep users in a brand’s “own house,” where their activities, including their use of the brand’s sites / other assets, can be tracked and quantified. Ideally, this will strengthen their ties with the print version (encourage use of mobile / tablet apps in conjunction with the new print issue), as well as enable cross-asset (mobile / web / print) sponsorship / advertising packages.

The apps not only give the publisher a “richer, multi-screen offering that might lure advertisers into the magazine’s own mobile program”; print ad campaigns can be tied into in-app promotions that “run deeper than simple links to a mobile site or video”, the piece noted. Rather than feature a host of different 2D QR codes, augmented-reality links and the like from individual advertisers on a magazine’s pages (which take users away from the brand and may require separate downloads), publishers hope to standardise codes / engagements, keeping both advertisers and users in the brand cocoon.

Next time, I’ll take a look at other burgeoning brand-extension frontiers: licensing of content, so-called “custom or branded” (meaning sponsored) content, and magazine-branded physical products.