The Future is Bright for Newsstand Publishers

Apple’s Newsstand launched with the release of iOS 5 on October 12th, and by any measure, it appears to be a big win for Apple and for publishers alike. Since the iPad took the technology world by storm 18 months ago, it’s been an interesting time for publishers with several notable App Store rejections, industry confusion about how to implement tablet subscriptions, and a fair amount of criticism of Apple’s 30% revenue share. It appears now that Newsstand is the real deal, delivering on the iPad’s promise of a new dawn for publishers. Huzzah!

Not all major publishers came out of the gate with Newsstand titles, but a handful made a splash. Urban Airship customers The Guardian and Future Publishing were notable early adopters. The Guardian released a long-awaited update to its popular iPad reader, and Future Publishing launched nearly 60 new magazine titles on their custom-built publishing platform, including Future Music, Total Guitar, and Mac | Life. The New York Times, Conde Nast, Rodale, and others were all early to market as well, contributing to a great selection of Newsstand titles from which to choose.

The early success of the platform bodes well for traditional publishers that are under increasing pressure to produce big revenue gains in mobile distribution. Here at Urban Airship, we’re excited to see so many customers using our tools to achieve this success. We have been fortunate to work with many large publishers since the early days of Urban Airship, and have built a compelling product offering for this segment of the market. “Urban Airship is a Direct Marketers dream”, said Richard Walker, who oversees distribution and marketing at Future Publishing.  He also noted that, “The impact on our customers has been a better user experience, and the opportunity to discover new publications in Newsstand.”

Here’s a bit about each of the components we provide that make up our complete offering:

•    Newsstand library support. Via our iOS library, Newsstand apps are configured to handle Auto-renewable subscriptions and single-issue purchases via Apple’s In App Purchase, integrating with the Newsstand framework easily.

•    Content Delivery. Urban Airship hosts & delivers the physical magazine & newspaper content and verifies purchase receipts with Apple, making that content available to the end user on multiple iOS devices and restorable in the event that a device is reset.

•    Push Notifications. Push is a key piece of the puzzle for a properly functioning Newsstand experience. Notifying subscribers of new available content, breaking news, or live in-app discussions is a key engagement driver, bringing end users back to your app again and again. Push Notifications also wake up the app and trigger background downloading when new issues are available, eliminating the need to wait around while the new issue downloads. Content is preloaded while you sleep and available for you right away.

•    Audience Segmentation. Our flexible APIs allow publishers to collect preference information from end users, e.g., alert settings for Political & Entertainment stories, location information, “Quiet Time” preferences, and more. By allowing users the ability to opt in only for the most contextual alerts at the most appropriate frequency, volume, and times, publishers maintain optimal access to this communication channel. Use our Tags & Aliases features to run drip campaigns, associate mobile users with profiles in your CRM, and offer a highly personal and contextual user experience.

•    Free (seed) content. It’s important to include a suitable amount of free and/or preview content for non-subscribers, or as our customers like to think of them, “future subscribers.” If a free app has no useful function without requiring a purchase, then it will most likely be deleted faster than you can say Qwikster. Urban Airship supports “free” content, such as back issues, that can be listed alongside single-issue sales and subscription options.

•    Reports. Know thy users. Understand how your users are interacting with your app, which types of messages are most effective for which constituencies, peaks and valleys of app usage, and more. Our reporting tools round out the third pillar of any successful digital distribution strategy. Engage, Monetize, Analyze! (Rinse and repeat, naturally).

It’s been 18 months since the iPad was announced. Some called it a big iPhone. Publishers held out high hopes but ran into early disappointments, and even today, struggle with their digital content strategies. Today, Newsstand is paying off, and visionary companies like Future Publishing and The Guardian are taking the lead.

Contact us if you are interested in adding Newsstand and Subscriptions to your app.