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Forbes exec: Magazine apps must give content, curation

NEW YORK - With the rush to develop digital editions of print and Web publications, publishers need to first think about how mobile can help the brand, according to an executive from Forbes.

Publishing executives discussed how digital efforts, including mobile, have impacted the publishing industry during the ?Branding and Business Model? session at the DMA?s Circulation Marketing Day 2012. The session was moderated by Nancy White, director of sales at Strategic Fulfillment Group, Big Sandy, TX.

?We have taken a different path than other publishers with our digital strategy,? said Nina LaFrance, vice president of consumer marketing at Forbes, New York.

?We did not rush out with an application and instead paced our entry to find research with what will serve our readers and the brand best,? she said.

?It is important that the content has value and the curation has real value, which is where the debate lies.?

Content is king
Forbes has developed its digital strategy by building its Web site and then evolving a mobile strategy to follow.

Forbes has a free iPad application that showcases its photo and video content, pointing to research that finds consumers are actively watching video on their tablets. The publisher also has a mobile-optimized Web site.

Going forward, Forbes is looking for ways to monetize content with efforts such as paid apps.

Forbes is a traditional media company, making the push for digital a challenge to find ways to make content accessible and relatable to users.

Forbes has recently revamped its Web site by including a network of 1,000 journalists that contribute editorial content to bring a new voice and community to the site. Ms. LaFrance claims that saw 29 million unique visitors to the site last month, showing the ongoing shift from print to digital content.

One of the biggest challenges for publishers is finding ways to monetize content, which often includes paywalls. 

When thinking about including a paywall on its content, Forbes decided that revenue from its Web site was high enough to warrant free content for users.

Social media also plays a large role for Forbes with platforms such as Google Currents that help drive traffic to

In addition to its digital push, Forbes is also mixing up its print strategy to target new readers. For example, the company has started including more editorial content that is aimed at younger readers as well as including new subjects on its covers.

Mobile politics?
Katelyn Belyus, circulation fulfillment manager at The Nation magazine, New York, also spoke on the panel.

Unlike other publishers, The Nation is circulation-driven versus supported by advertising, making the role of editorial crucial for the magazine.

?Branding is hugely instrumental because we have a radical readership, and our branding goes hand-in-hand with our editorial efforts,? Ms. Belyus said.

Similar to Forbes, The Nation?s core readers are older and not necessarily as tech-savvy as young consumers. 

However, a cross-platform strategy still plays a large role for the publisher, and the magazine aims to be on every device possible. The Nation has apps available on Android, iPhone, iPad and Amazon Kindle devices and relies on platforms such as Zinio to convert its publication.

The Nation uses a variety of promotions to spread the word about its mobile products, including print and Web advertising.

Although readers are consuming news on multiple devices, Ms. Belyus said she was surprised to find out that not as many users as she thought were using multiple devices.

When it comes to tablet versus smartphone users, tablets users are drawn to more long-form content, according to The Nation executive.

Ereaders also play an important role for the company. 

?Being on devices that are text-only is important to us because our readers like text and non-flashy things,? Ms. Belyus said.

With the future of mobile publishing still up in the air, The Nation is still deciding which platforms are best for its readers.

The Nation has seen 27,000 downloads from its app that focuses on blog content, which is some of the publisher?s most popular content.

Additionally, The Nation relies on TV, a Web paywall and social media to interact with readers.

Rebrand effort
According to Annie?s, which is part of DRG Publishing, making content available on the Web is essential to today?s publishing.

Annie?s focuses on magazines, catalogs and books that are targeted at crafty women.

With a growing number of publications, the company has become fragmented and is in the middle of rebranding itself. 

Annie?s is an example of company that is aiming to unify its company with digital assets.

As a foray into digital, Annie?s has focused on social media and Web access. Annie?s is also working on creating one consumer-based Web site that readers across all of the company?s publications can access.

?We are going on every platform we can,? said Greg Deily, vice president of marketing at Annie?s, Berne, IN.

?We have grown up over the past 20 years and became very fragmented after being in lots of brands,? he said.

?It has gotten to the point where we realized we were missing out by not connecting the magazines together.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York