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BJP’s iPad success

One print magazine that has found spectacular success with an iPad edition is Incisive’s 150 year old British Journal of Photography. Linda Wakeham explains how the iPad has expanded the title’s editorial boundaries and opened up global markets.

By Linda Wakeham

Tom Royal joined the team preparing to launch Incisive Media’s iPad magazines in 2010, moving from a background in technology journalism. His bosses at the B2B global publisher were already talking about how the iPad would disrupt traditional print business models and wanted to get ahead of the game.

Tom says, “As news about the arrival of iPad broke, we grew increasingly enthusiastic about the possibilities of putting our magazines on it. The British Journal of Photography (BJP) was an obvious choice as our first title to launch, given the gorgeous image quality of the iPad’s screen. But our choices had to fit into an over-arching strategy for the group. Given the flexibility and efficiency offered by Mag+ this was easy to do.”

The British Journal of Photography launched in 1854 to become the world’s oldest photography magazine in continuous publication. In the earliest years the magazine was full of articles about the technical process of photography – such as selling bucketfuls of processing chemicals – but over the years it transformed into a weekly publication for photography professionals, covering principally art and documentary photography.

A growing problem with the weekly format was that it did not have enough room for even a fraction of the photographs that the editors wanted to include in each issue. And so, in 2010, the magazine underwent its most radical makeover since inception. It was re-designed as a larger, monthly, glossy magazine.

It was during this re-design phase that its editors and art staff began to plan for an entirely new launch, free from the restrictions of print.

Tom elaborates: “We set out to create a brand new version of BJP, bringing the heritage and high production values of the print magazine along, while presenting each story in a new way that can’t be achieved on paper – with as much room as we needed for photos, plus a chance to showcase video work.”

The parameters set for the new tablet edition included publishing quarterly, packing each issue with expanded versions of print stories plus entirely new content, and obeying the same rules as those for print: never cropping photos, for example, and never covering them with text.

The design team also wanted to make the best possible use of the iPad’s gorgeous screen and to add touchable, interactive controls. Even though a simple ‘page turner’ edition would have been easy to produce, the team knew that iPad readers wouldn’t get any real advantage as a result.

BJP considered a lot of technological options to achieve its goals, initially building some interactivity concepts in-house. The team eventually chose Mag+.

The app was launched in September of last year and the results have been startling: iMonitor named BJP a Top 10 European app of 2011, Apple recognised the app as ‘new and noteworthy’, and on its launch, BJP topped the app store charts.

Having almost no international exposure as a print magazine, BJP has lately been attracting 2,000 downloads a day in the US alone.

More important, though, is the business case: The app has almost three times the print readership already and this is growing fast. Since the September launch, the app has had more than 150,000 downloads. And it is making money – it costs £6.99/€7.99/$9.99. BJP is selling both subscriptions and one-off extra publications.


The result has been overwhelmingly positive: Blue chip advertisers including Absolut Vodka, Samsung, Nikon and Hasselblad have leapt on board. Advertising yields are 50 per cent higher than for the print edition.

All this happened despite the challenge of having to invent a new language, new processes and educate everyone – from the in-house sales team, to ad agencies and clients themselves.

Publishers are experiencing a return to the good old days of high-value advertorial. They create the complete product in-house and charge a premium for it.

Next Up

Next in Incisive Media’s stable to get the Mag+ treatment was Computeractive. This is a completely different type of magazine – a mass-market title selling 160,000 print issues every two weeks, discussing technology in plain English.

Incisive decided to tweak Computeractive’s content somewhat for the iPad version – publishing monthly and removing some of the more UK-centric advice as the iPad app was targeted at a global audience. Incisive also turned the printed step-by-step guides into fully interactive elements, and produced screencast videos of what they were doing on screen in software tutorials.

Computeractive launched on iPad in December, with the first edition free for every user. Readers started to subscribe immediately, and the second and third issues have also been selling as single copies.

Conversion rates for the iPad edition (ie. those who sign up to subscribe), are as high as 10 per cent.

In addition, just this month (May 2012), Incisive launched Investment Week on Mag+, again making great use of the iPad’s features by including fully searchable functionality.