Unlike consumer magazine publishers who have, to differing degrees, invested heavily in tablet editions and apps, over in B2B publishing the migration has been slower.
More tied to events, high-end subscriptions and sponsorship, many B2B publishers still need convincing spending scant resources on something many of their users won't see is a good idea.
But that is changing. There is a new wave of professional publishing app editions hitting the app stores. And the latest publisher to go tablet - UBM's Built Environment division in the UK - is aping the Financial Times' much-vaunted device strategy with HTML5-enabled web apps that bypass the app stores entirely.
The apps are for the Property Week, Building and Building Design magazines - they're iPad only for the time being but Android versions are on the way.
Apps for all three brands were launched last November in the Apple app store for all iOS devices -- so this is something of a u-turn. And it's understandable: it means more control, more user revenue and more user data. And who doesn't want that?
Here's what they look like:
Built Environment's apps were built using Abacus e-Media's suite of publishing tools. Abacus powers the content management, user subscription and CRM functions on Built Environment's sites, as it does with several other B2B publishers including Emap (and some things run by TheMediaBriefing's parent company Briefing Media).
So given that this is another expression of a database that already exists, it's not so much of a stretch in terms of budget and technical expertise to build them. Not quite an entirely in-house development job and by no means free, but certainly close to home and far cheaper than building through an external mobile agency.
As we've seen with other magazine publishers, Built Environment is using the apps to add another tier of user subscription and a new stratum of payment.
For Property Week, print subscribers pay £201 a year but to get the app customers much upgrade to the premium package at £230 a year (prices include VAT).
Oddly, the tablet app is included in the lower-end £140-a-year "digital package" - but the production costs would be much lower on a digital subscription, thanks to the lack of printing and distribution. This is a good opportunity to migrate users from print to digital.
App vs magazine edition
There are apps and then there are digital editions of magazines. Despite the impressive speed, usability and cleanness of Built Environment's apps, and the daily news - this is very much the latter.
The press release says the web apps are: "Bringing print content to the digital device. The content of the weekly magazine is available within the apps in real-time, plus the tablet app delivers live industry news as it breaks." (my italics)
This is what B2B publishers really want: a way to extend the reach and revenue of print in a new medium, while maintaining the idea of a central weekly "edition".
Some B2B apps, notably such as Informa's Lloyd's List, opt for more of a live, data-driven approach (see below)
While some, such as Citywire (below) have launched apps not as a vehicle for content but for specific functions. Most successful apps on the app store in general don't involve people consuming content but doing something - in the case find out which funds are worth investing in:
But this isn't to diminish UBM's achievements. The new apps are a boost to its portfolio and another reason someone might subscribe. And when they do, Built Environment will be the people managing all the data, not Apple.
Who are the B2B publishers who are joining them in the tablet publishing revolution?