So you’ve created a terrific online (digital) magazine with engaging copy, bold imagery, and a beautiful design. You’ve told your current audience about it and have even found ways to be included in app stores like Apple’s Newsstand. Yet, despite your best efforts, the readership numbers are consistently stagnant or worse, decreasing after a first flare. What’s going on?
Here is the good news: It may not be your fault.
Here is the bad news: The reason it may not be your fault is that there are some serious structural issues with most digital media stores that prevent your magazine from being found.
In particular, stores such as Apple’s Newsstand and Google’s Newsstand make it actually almost impossible for readers to serendipitously discover new content.
Now, to be fair, getting people to try something new is never easy. One study showed that half of Amazon’s book sales come from people who already know what they want, and it’s safe to assume that digital magazine consumers are just as (if not more) focused as digital book buyers. 
However, this initial challenge is further complicated by how difficult discovery is within the app stores.
For example, let’s take a look at the “Audi North Scottsdale” digital magazine. This offering is clearly of interest to a very specific audience—Audi car owners, aficionados, and potential buyers in or around a part of Scottsdale, Arizona—but it is not a mainstream publication nor is it likely to be searched for specifically within the store.
This means that for an iOS user with an iPhone or iPad to stumble across your magazine the following things all need to happen:
Step 1: Find the Newsstand Offerings
Often we marketers forget that there are plenty of consumers who don’t understand even the basics of how the Newsstand works. And, to be fair, who can blame them? On an Apple device all other offerings (games, weather apps, tools, etc.) appear together, yet newspapers and magazines are separated out into their own confusing world.
Moreover, to find new “newspapers” and “magazines” (which are really just apps) the user needs to somehow figure out how to navigate to the Newsstand, and then to the tiny “Store” button within that experience (or do the same via the general iTunes store).
Step 2: Navigate the Homepage
If a consumer does somehow find the Newsstand store, they are suddenly confronted with a limited homepage showcasing mainly very popular, mainstream, choices (with a few semi-personalized titles mixed in).
For an Audi fan in Scottsdale looking for car magazines, there’s nothing here of interest, and so they must either search for a title (if they know exactly what they’re looking for) or navigate away from the homepage.
Step 3: Find the Right the Category
To browse more niche offerings the user must now find the right category. In this case, it is relatively simple (“Automotive”) but there are many instances where the classification isn’t so easy.
For example, would a magazine aimed at mobile marketers live under “Business & Investing,” “Computers & Internet,” or “Professional & Trade”?
Step 4: Find the Magazine Within Its Category
If the consumer has made it this far, there is still no guarantee that they’ll see your magazine, since the category pages also highlight primarily the most popular and newest titles.
In this case, “Audi North Scottsdale” is new but not new enough, and so it is relegated a few swipes away from the first set of magazines listed.
Step 5: Discover the Magazine
Finally, after three landing pages and dozens of swipes the user encounters this particular magazine.
Even here, the publisher is not out of the woods, since the consumer must decide to take a chance on “Audi North Scottsdale” based on a tiny thumbnail and a title with a limited number of characters.
Given all these challenges, is it any surprise that remarkably few consumers find new magazines via the Newsstand?
Now, this isn’t an issue unique to Apple’s devices. Yes, the design of its Newsstand is particularly clunky, and there could be better recommendations, but the offerings from the other major players (such as Google) are almost as complex and hard to navigate.
Ultimately, this is true because all of these companies face the same problem: They’ve created walled gardens that inherently limit how content can be presented and found.
So let me ask you this question: how likely do you think it is for your readers and prospects to jump through all these search hoops? Wouldn’t you rather be on the number one page of Google when people search for your magazine there?
Do this little test: Tag Heuer has a great customer magazine, beautiful content, engaging pictures. Try finding it!
This is why we’re so adamant at Readz about freeing online (digital) magazines from specific platforms. By allowing access to your content via a standard URL you open up a world of discovery possibilities—search crawlers, lush listing pages, social media, etc.—that are simply impossible to replicate within the walled platforms.
Tweet this: There are some serious structural issues with most digital media stores that prevent your magazine from being found. @readz
Tweet this: Given all these challenges, is it any surprise that remarkably few consumers find new magazines via the Newsstand? @readz
Tweet this: Do this little test: Tag Heuer has a great customer magazine, beautiful content, engaging pictures. Try finding it! @readz