Publishing a customer magazine is an excellent way to boost engagement with the audience you’re trying to reach. But before you can do that you have a big decision to make about the right technology to use for online magazine publishing. At Content Marketing World 2013, Scott Abel of The Content Wrangler said that marketers need to embrace technology as a partner. We agree, and one aspect of that is educating yourself about content delivery technology. Here’s a guide to three of the main online magazine publishing solutions: PDFs, flipbooks and web apps.
PDFs – Pros and Cons
PDFs have been around since the early 1990s and were once the de facto standard for cross platform and cross device information sharing. PDFs allow you to replicate your print publication in full, complete with color images and layout, but now that the world is becoming more mobile, we believe they don’t work as well.
As we mentioned in our white paper guide, smartphone users, who according to Google’s data are driving the mobile revolution, can’t easily read and resize content and turn pages on PDF documents. And even on larger screens, some PDFs don’t display well. (In fact, Adobe’s got a page dedicated to troubleshooting PDF problems – and that’s just for PCs!)
From a marketing viewpoint, there are other issues. Marketers need to know how people are interacting with content so they can make their content strategy more effective. With a PDF, you will know if someone has downloaded the PDF, but you won’t get fine detail about what they looked at within the publication. That’s why we believe there has to be a better online publishing solution than PDFs.
Flipbooks – Pros and Cons
Wondering what a flipbook is? It’s nothing to do with the popular Flipboard mobile app. Instead, it’s another approach to online magazine publishing, offered by Issuu, Zinio and others. The Flipbook takes a print product and replicates it in digital format. Open the book and you see exactly what you would see in a print publication. You can navigate and zoom using on-screen controls, though some users find the process of getting to the content they want quite tricky.
In addition, flipbooks are terrible for usability in other ways. Some flipbook papers are Flash-based which means they may not display well or show up at all on some of the mobile devices that many readers are using. And reading content that is either too tiny or way too large just isn’t fun. Plus, it’s really hard to save text unless you put it in PDF format – and we already know why that’s not a good idea. Having tried flipbook magazines ourselves, it seems that it’s not a very reader friendly format and that’s reason enough for marketers to avoid it.
There are other reasons too. Similar to PDFs, marketers can’t track the response to individual pieces of content. In fact, when reading a flipbook magazine online, we noticed that the URL stayed the same no matter what page we were on. That’s just no use at all if you want to track engagement and measure content marketing ROI. Flipbook publishing solutions market themselves as replicating print publications online but our question is: why would you want to?
An Online Magazine Solution
So if flipbooks and PDFs are not the answer to publishing your online magazine, what is? A third option that works very well is a web app like the one Readz offers. A mobile web app offers a better customer experience, because it adapts to any screen they are using, a must in this multi-screen world. It’s lightweight which means there’s no huge download for customers and your content loads like lightning. And with platforms like Readz even a novice can make a content-rich, attractive and interactive online magazine in a very short time. An online magazine web app also means that marketers don’t have the limitations of print publications; instead they can take advantage of the adaptability of the latest web technology and standards.
We’re not the only ones to think that getting the right magazine publishing technology is important. The Content Marketing Institute identifies 14 questions to ask when choosing new marketing technology. One crucial point raised is that the technology should enable people handling different aspects of marketing to share content and work together. Our solution enables teamwork and helps everyone get the information they need. Integrated SEO means that your content can rank well in the search engines and there’s built in analytics, not just for the magazine as a whole, but for individual pieces of content. That gives marketers the information they need to make a success of a online publishing strategy.
Unlike PDFs or a flipbook, a web app keeps both customers and marketers happy – and what could be better than that?