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Atex on app publishing: “Apple needs to change its policy”

by Doug Drinkwater

January 20 2012

Peter Marsh (right), seen here with Atex CEO Alan Reardon, says publishers must have subscriber details
Peter Marsh (right), seen here with Atex CEO Alan Reardon, says publishers must have subscriber details

TabTimes spoke to Peter Marsh, EVP of Global Product Management at software provider Atex, to shed light on the firm’s Tablet Publishing suite, and to understand the current state of tablet advertising and news aggregation.

Atex specializes in providing web-based content management systems for advertising and editorial teams, and recently revealed that its Tablet Publishing software solution would be upgraded to support Adobe's InDesign, the popular desktop publishing software as used by thousands of publishing houses around the globe.

TabTimes: Can you talk us through Atex and your involvement with tablet publishing?

Peter Marsh: Well, Atex has looked to cover the tablet since the introduction of the first iPad in 2010, and we’ve found that publishers are now increasingly keen to offer tablet editions. ‘Tablet Publishing’ is our solution for media companies to manage, design, create and distribute their tablet production, without requiring publishers to hire extra staff or allow for new processes.

The solution is device agnostic, as it's written in HTML5. The first version became available in April of last year, and was updated in October. Version 1.2 is due to come into effect by the end of January, and this will bring integration with InDesign (Adobe Creative Suite 5.5).

The designer can lay out the website, the print edition and the tablet version using ATP, and they can do this with existing template designs, using freeform gestures of by importing their own designs.

How is this going to benefit publishers?

Designers will be able to use InDesign or an Atex tool to design pages, or work across both for the best of both worlds. The aim is to become more efficient and publish across several mediums in one process, and ATP does that - designers can use the software to lay-out the web, print and tablet editions, using their own imported designs or our templates.

How does advertising work, and where can you buy the product?

The layouts include sections for content and advertising, and the adverts themselves can be created using Atex tools or be imported from third-party mobile ad networks. Once the edition is packaged together, buyers can buy individual copies or subscribe to packages from the Atex website or from an app store- like iTunes or Amazon.

HTML5 is an interesting platform choice. Does this reflect publishers becoming increasingly uneasy about pushing their publications to Apple’s App Store?

Apple needs to change its policy, and make subscription details available to publishers. It would help bring them [publishers] back [to Apple]. Apple is also facing a bit of pressure because competitors are taking a smaller slice of revenue.

I think publishers would actually be willing to accept the revenue split of around 30% if they gained access to subscriber information, because it’s that vital for selling advertising. A few publishers, like The Financial Times, have already moved to HTML 5, so I am pretty confident that the app business model will change further down the road.

Let's circle back to advertising. Is mobile, and in particular tablet, advertising seen differently to that of print and web-based adverts?

The tablet has given life to our industry. Print sales are on the decline, and web advertising is generally seen as a nuance, an intrusion. The trust and credibility of print advertising never really carried across to the web, but that’s changing with the tablet.

People actually enjoy advertising on tablets - it adds to the experience. Tablet adverts more closely copy the look and feel of the content, and make it more interesting. As consumers, we’ve trained ourselves to ignore online advertising, and that's something that maybe changing with tablet versions.

We've heard a lot of terms thrown around about mobile-first or mobile-only when it comes to publishing. Are you seeing this trend?

Yes, many larger publishers are looking at digital or mobile first. For leaking news and updates, publishers are pushing content to mobile devices first, before consolidating this information on the website. The overall review of the news is then later put in print, but the editorial team can use the three channels together, as a new way to deliver content. The mind-set has changed, and the tablet is a natural, next step for publishers.

But how are publishers going to monetize mobile content?

It’s starting to happen for monetization, and it’s crucial that the publisher does charge for content. Many media companies are now allowing access to content on a paid-for basis and we’ve found the best business model to be a combination of paid and free content.

People will always want content to be free, so the only way to allow this is to enforce advertising. Media companies have to grow and will have to continue to experiment with different pay models.

What role is news aggregation having on mobile content? Is it true that there are some legal issues on-going?

There are some issues on embedding rights, and there have been some cases of track aggregators using content, without the creator’s permission. We’ve certainly seen this to be of a big concern to some of the big media companies we work with.

We’re trying to help media companies protect rights. Sometimes aggregators innocently use content illegally, but rights do need to be guarded more vigilantly.

Doug Drinkwater is the International Editor of TabTimes and is based in London, England.

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