The Newsstand doesn’t seem to like publishers anymore
Magellan Media recently brought up a topic that I think will be a sore spot for many self-publishers: the increasing difficulty that publishers seem to be experiencing while trying to keep and gain subscribers, when publishing content that is available within the Apple iOS Newsstand. The problem with being a self-publisher is, if you don’t get your publication’s name out there, no-one will.
You can find the original article by Brian O’Leary here. Several new updates to Apple software (iOS7) means that the Newsstand icon no longer presents tiny versions of the various publications you have downloaded or ready to download onto your device – they are now tiny representations of generic magazine covers. Arts, Travel and Sports covers with accompanying generic thumbnails have now replaced your carefully crafted thumbnail. Of course, once Newsstand is open, the real magazine covers are neatly visible, but the new icon clearly represents a step backwards for publishers. Additionally, you can now also tuck the Newsstand into another folder, a new feature that I personally used to desperately wish for as I tried to categorise all of my iPad applications. Essentially, Apple seems to be trying to tuck the Newsstand into a little corner of the Apple device’s universe. Out of sight, out of mind. However, they have enabled automatic downloading – so as soon as a new issue is available, the content will be downloaded onto subscriber’s devices. It’s just letting readers know that this content is available that’s the issue.
This doesn’t really make sense to me, though. Why are Apple trying to hide away part of their income? Comparatively, you don’t see newsagents throwing a sheet over their magazine and newspaper section, or placing generic cardboard covers over their newsstands. Then again, Apple is not really obliged to advertise your product for you, beyond making it searchable in the actual estore. That’s up to you – as a self-publisher you are in charge of sourcing your advertising materials and marketing promotions.
Unfortunately, the cover and design still has a lot to do with whether or not a potential consumer will pick up an ebook or emagazine. So being visible is a large part of getting noticed. ‘The Magazine’ owner and editor, Glenn Fleishman, recently commented that he suspects subscription number drops are (partially?) to do with Apple’s new iOS7 look. Unless the publication is designed to pop up with a red number on the top corner of the application, readers might be forgetting that new issues that are available, or even (heaven forbid) – that the publication exists altogether. But even that doesn’t really seem to be an option in iOS7, leaving more publishers in the dark as to how to publicise their new issues.
Sometimes, it can be a double-edged issue – if people can’t see the publications they want to read, they either forget that it exists or email the publication to complain that they aren’t remembering about. If you create notifications for your readers that new content is available, then they might complain that said notifications are too in their face and annoying. In fact, Newsstand seems to be just a glorified folder in which to hide your publication, away from interested and willing-to-pay consumers. Why bother with Newsstand at all? You might as well just create a stand alone application that ensures your product is being seen.
So I ask that if you are a self-publisher (and odds are, you are probably into self-publishing in some form if you are reading this blog), take care with your advertising and marketing strategies. Don’t forget that it’s up to you – just because you give it to someone to distribute doesn’t mean that they will put a whole lot of thought or effort into promoting your product. Seriously, make sure you actually have some form of external advertising or marketing ready for your publication. Put some thought into it, and remember that (unfortunately) no-one else is obliged to help you – especially Apple.