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Tablet publishing partner Mag+ talks iPad vs. Android, monetization and surprising demand from the enterprise

by Doug Drinkwater

March 10 2013

Mag+ has helped publishers build a number of iPad magazines, including the UK edition of Popular Science
Mag+ has helped publishers build a number of iPad magazines, including the UK edition of Popular Science

Mag+ has been helping brands make tablet magazines since the first iPad was launched. TabTimes caught up with CEO Gregg Hano to find out where the market is headed and whether Android tablets are ready to become a serious challenger to the the iPad.

Mag+ first premiered on the first tablet magazines back in 2010, and has since worked on a variety of titles, including Popular Science, Marie Claire, TimeOut Chicago, FHM (Norway), the British Journal of Photography and USA Today on the Kindle Fire (edit: this app focused on the British band One Direction).

In fact, as tablet publishing has increasingly curried favor, so has the Mag+ platform with publishers. Today, the firm - with headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden and offices in New York, supports over 1,000 publications, has helped create ABC tablet metrics for media buyers and has even migrated to making digital magazines for the iPhone 5.

For all of this, company CEO Gregg Hano believes tablet publishing is still just getting started.

“We are seeing really strong growth in the market and in particular for titles moving across to all digital pub platforms,” said Hano, told TabTimes.

Android tablet magazines are on the grow

While Hano concedes iPad is the clear flag bearer for tablet magazines, he believes Android devices have the potential to be a signficant part of the market.

“Right now, Apple is the market leader but Android is also doing very well,” said Hano. “Mag+ has 1,000 apps and 900 of those are on iOS, but 100 are Android and we’re getting a lot more interest there.

“Android is more fragmented, but there is growth in that market. At the moment the Kindle [Fire] leads, but we like what Google is doing with Nexus and the Samsung products as well.”

(Photo: Gregg Hano was previously SVP of sales and technology at Bonnier before becoming CEO of Mag+ in April of last year)

Hano admits that smaller tablets like the iPad mini ‘resonate’ with readers because they are smaller and lighter. At the same time, he adds that the Retina Display on the larger iPad has opened up new publishing opportunities for photographers and other creative types in particular.

The Mag+ CEO says that tablet publishing has also been embraced by others outside of the media world stratosphere. For while Hearst, Bonnier and others have taken to tablets, he notes  so too have independent publishers and even enterprises.

“We see a lot of small independent publishers taking to tablet publishing to realize subscriber and ad revenues.

“But the other growth is in enterprise. They are using it for internal usage and marketing. In fact, one phone company in Sweden has started using [tablet] magazines in stores to share handset and data plans.

“They use it for all kinds of different reasons – some are using them for sales presentations and we have the metrics in our editions for the sales director to see how many times a magazine has been opened and the dwell time. With our SDK, you can even build shopping carts into the app.”

Publishers are split on monetization

However, for all the optimism around tablet publishing, it seems that there is a debate related to monetization, namely whether publishers should go the route of charging for subscriptions or rely strictly on advertising.

Hailing the recent decision by Hearst to release the tablet edition before print as “really smart” both for tempting consumers and gaining good promotion, Hano says that print and digital bundles could be key.

“I urge publishers to embrace bundles and migrate as soon as they are ready to the paid model.

“The paid model varies quite a bit by market and unfortunately the U.S. has tended to pay less for subscribers and so relied heavily on the advertising model. The tablet is a chance to reset this as brands migrate to a membership model”.

Not that the tablet publishing company sees anything wrong with the advertising model.

Hano says that publishers will adopt either a sponsorship or advertising model and says that the latter is already resulting in some “very creative” ad executions from the likes of Home Depot and others.

Tablet publishing will continue to grow; could change how editors work

Going forward, Hano says the future of tablet publishing is bright. He thinks publishers of all sizes will be on iOS or Android at a minimum. But Mag+ is also  having “very productive” meetings with Microsoft about building magazines for Windows 8.

He also expects publishing to move away from PDF onto more enhanced platforms like Adobe’s and Mag+'s own solution.

“Any publisher of virtually any size will be on iOS and Android and I totally believe in bundling and people opting into [magazine] communities.

“If I had a crystal ball, I’d even question what happens to the ‘issue’. It used to be used for keeping presses running and a cycle for editorial staff, but increasingly podcasts, breaking news and webcasts are going digital.”

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

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