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The digital edition grabs the headlines

It’s easy to get distracted by the latest tech trend, but, says Readly's Ranj Begley, there is a growing appreciation of one thing that’s been around a long time – the digital edition.

By Ranj Begley

The digital edition grabs the headlines

Go to any media conference these days, and everyone is talking about Voice, Video, 5G, AI and VR. Yet the real-world, day-to-day digital priorities for most publishers are much more prosaic. They are more about upgrading the core website, making sense of social platforms and messaging apps, dusting off the reliable old email newsletter or reviving the podcast. Meanwhile, publisher branded apps look to be morphing into a value-adding engagement service for retaining existing users rather than a front-end acquisition platform. Through all this, the trusty, issue-based, digital edition has become much more high profile. Nothing stays still for long in digital!

The level of activity in the digital newsstand market currently is driving up volumes sold quite significantly. Enders Analysis’ review of the magazine industry shows that after a big dip in sales volumes in 2016, the market grew by +24% in 2017 and by +27% in 2018 to 17.6m copies per year, with another strong uplift in 2019, where sales were running close to +40% year-on-year.

Our own experience from across a number of different countries, is that there are three key reasons why this is happening. Firstly, consumers are changing. They are becoming much more used to magazines in a digital format, as the market has moved beyond Innovators and Early Adopters into the mainstream. Secondly, publishers are changing. Despite the surge into streamed, article-level content (which does appeal to specific, digital-native segments), many publishers are returning to the “issue” as the gold standard transactional unit, which has clear shape and value in the reader’s mind. By applying smart tech to the digital edition, the consumer UX can be both slick and simple & intuitive at the same time. All this has the added bonus that it can be created easily and cost-effectively from a publisher’s existing workflow. At the same time, there is a growing interest in the strategic benefits of growing a digital presence and of using the valuable insights into how the products are consumed from the reading data, rather than just increasing simple audience numbers. Thirdly, the market is changing. With increased activity from a number of major players, from generalists such as Apple and Amazon through to specialists such as Readly, the market has reached a critical mass and is gathering speed. Competition is ultimately a good thing.

So, in a world where monetising digital products remains the major challenge for most media companies and where we all are fighting Netflix, Spotify and social media for share of mind and share of wallet, the digital newsstand and the digital edition offer something unique.

Many publishers are returning to the “issue” as the gold standard transactional unit.

"We want to reinvent the magazine ecosystem."

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Readly's mission is to be on the cutting edge of the digital magazine revolution. We want to reinvent the magazine ecosystem by connecting content creators and publishers with readers all over the world, making content available, affordable and sustainable.

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This article was first published in the Publishing Partners Guide 2020, which was distributed with the January / February issue of InPublishing magazine.