The iMonitor list of best consumer publications and news-related apps for iPad was released at the end of November 2012. iMonitor provides App Ratings for design, functionality and use of rich media enhancements based on consistent evaluation of over 100 criteria. Many of the top publisher apps rated by iMonitor are developed using Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite (DPS), including Martha Stewart, Time, Oprah, Newsweek, National Geographic, Magazine, Fast Company, Reader’s Digest and Vanity Fair. Publishers are also increasingly turning to the iPhone as a digital publishing platform, with Men’s Heath and Best Life magazines recently launching iPhone versions of their publications using Adobe DPS.

According to, citing a survey conducted by the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations), 90% of U.S. magazine and newspaper publishers now have some sort of mobile presence, and many of their digital businesses are gradually becoming profitable. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents say that tablets are the most important digital channel for their publication’s future.

Lynly Schambers-Lenox, Adobe’s Group Product Marketing Manager for Digital Publishing, told us, “There are many platforms available that enable publishers to create mobile apps. A lot of them are very niche and not well known and most don’t have the same level of  tight integration with Adobe InDesign, which is a huge advantage  for  publishers who have standardized on an InDesign workflow and one of the key reasons magazine and newspaper publishers are choosing Digital Publishing Suite.”

Adobe counts among its strengths Digital Publishing Suite’s integration with social media  platforms as well as the Adobe Marketing Cloud, which includes a complete analytics solution that is part of  Adobe’s online marketing and web analytics business unit, and the mobile experience itself.  Schambers-Lenox says, “Using DPS, publishers can easily create interactivity that enhances the editorial experience, out of the box.  Through InDesign publishers can create over with 10 interactive overlays publishers can implement within their .folios without any programming, and we also support HTML5 content that allows a newspaper app, as an example to display running sports scores that feed directly into the app.” Omniture features 40 unique reports specific to magazines and newspapers, delivering key metrics that are important to publishers as they make the transition to digital.

Fast Company Magazine

We spoke with Fast Company executive editor Noah Robischon, one such publisher, about how the company sees digital fitting into its publication strategy. He said, “Our website content is free, a replica of the print edition that publishes the best photos and articles from the magazine every month. But our readers also had been telling us that they would like an iPad edition so they didn’t need to carry the paper copy on airplanes. So you can find the articles on the website, but you can’t really browse the magazine per se, as you can with paper. And that’s the digital experience we strive for on the iPad, with, of course, additional features that are enabled by a digital publication.”

Robischon explains that the company reformats each issue to a version that is tailored for the iPad, adding, “The cover is almost always animated or interactive and there are anywhere from two to six interactive pieces throughout the issue.”

Fast Company has seen an uptick of new subscribers joining view News Stand and the digital edition. Subscribers generally purchase a single subscription that gives them access to both the printed magazine and the iPad edition.

In terms of Android devices, Robischon says, “We haven’t yet been seeing great demand, even though we know a lot of people are using Android devices.  That may change in the next year.” Fast Company is available as a replicated version (PDF) on Amazon Kindle devices, but not on Kindle apps running on other devices, such as Google’s Nexus 7. The reading experience on the Kindle Fier is okay, but not as comfortable as the iPad edition. There is some access to Fast Company content via Google Currents on the Nexus 7, but that experience is also less than optimal.

As to why Fast Company chose Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite for its iPad edition, Robischon says, “We looked at lots of different options including in house development.  Adobe, along with providing a lot of the basic tools to manage the process of delivering issues to customers through the app store, provided a way for our designers to create in a medium they were comfortable with that could work on a digital platform.”

Robischon explains that often when creating digital editions, there is a big gap between print and digital designers. They have different competencies, and you have to play to the strengths of the medium. He says, “Adobe DPS allows our in-house and outsourced design teams to work from the print design as the fuel rather than having to design from scratch for digital. As Adobe has added new features, we have been able to experiment with things like with HTML 5 for interactive animation rendered in a way that is usable on the iPad and on the website. These tools are starting to close the gap between print and digital.  There is a learning curve, but we have been excited about the possibilities. Everyone on our team wants to do this and to start thinking about the way we can do things like infographics differently from the start.”

As to the future of merging the digital and print teams, Robischon doesn’t think that will happen, saying “We will still need people with Javascript expertise to do the work for digital. But because of Adobe, we are closer to having a design team that combines both print and digital designers. They used to be very separate. Part of what DPS has done is to allow the print team to think more digitally while helping the digital designers as well.” 

Robischon is quick to point out, however, these cross-functional synergies don’t necessarily reduce time to market for the publication. “With every new fun tool you get in the Digital Publishing Suite, you end up doing newer and better things,” he says. “Sure, we could save time if we were willing to do less, but we strive to add more and push the tools to the limit, and that takes time.”

Robischon concludes, “This year we are looking to experiment with “replica plus,” different models of how we might offer parts of the issue or even special editions in different ways to see if there is an audience for something closer to an ebook experience within the print model.”

Why Should Printers Care?

Why should you be interested in all of this? Because it is a new business opportunity for providers of printing services, whether they choose to use the Adobe platform or some other solution.  And this not only applies to newspapers and magazines, but also to catalogs, brochures and other materials to help bridge the print and digital worlds.

Schambers-Lenox commented, “It is not just publishers that are using DPS.  Enterprises are also very interested in deploying mobile apps for a variety of uses cases, including internal sales enablement, corporate communications, catalogs, product detailing, brand loyalty magazines and more.  For example, a consumer could start an ecommerce transaction from right within a catalog application on their tablet, or a video presentation from the CEO could be added to a tablet-based digital brochure used as part of a sales presentation. There’s so much that can be done with DPS, and revenue models related to applications are really still in their infancy.”

As I speak with printers across the country, I run across a few who have jumped on this opportunity, but fewer than I would have expected or liked to see. If you are creating mobile apps or using augmented reality or other advanced features that link with print and make it interactive, we would love to hear your stories.