Digital Media Strategies: Dennis Publishing and New Scientist on evolving consumer publishing

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Jasper Jackson, New Scientist, TheMediaBriefing Experts' Blog, Dennis Publishing, Consumer Media, Digital Media

Last year PwC heralded what it described as "the end of the digital beginning" for media companies. The challenge for most is no longer making the leap to digital - it's about developing and fine tuning digital products to build a successful business. 

That quote was repeated by Google's Madhav Chinnappa at Digital Media Strategies in London, where delegates also got to hear two real-life examples of successful digital publishing operations that are still evolving.

The New Scientist

John MacFarlane, publisher of Reed Business Information-owned The New Scientist shared some key stats from the publication's digital operation. 

-- Digital subscribers: The New Scientist has 10,000 paying digital subscribers through the Zinio platform. It also has 100,000 people signed up to its Google Currents feed. 

-- Print vs Digital: MacFarlane says around 10 percent of The New Scientist's subscribers pay for the most costly print and digital bundle. Globally 25 percent take the digital-only subscription, but that figure falls to 18 percent in the UK. 

MacFarlane describes The New Scientist's approach to pricing as "aggressive", but constantly evolving: "The real expense still resides in content creation, digital costs are not far off print. 

"You can't give your content away for free and expect your business to survive. Experimentation has given us confidence to take a premium priced product to market."

The Week

Alex Watson, head of app development at Dennis Publishing, explained to the audience that while Dennis' The Week app has been a success (recognised at the PPA awards), it is still dwarfed by its print counterpart. 

-- Editions: 1 million issues of The Week have been downloaded to date, but that pales in comparison to the 11 million copies Dennis prints each year. 

-- Ad revenue: Digital accounts for 20 percent of The Week's ad revenue - around half of which comes from the app. 

-- Readers: Dennis has 195,000 readers in print, compared to 45,000 who read The Week in app format. 

Of course, Watson expects the app audience to keep growing, and he says one of the best ways to drive that growth is to be on as many platforms as possible. Over the last 30 days, 71 percent of sessions on The Week's app came from the iPad, the iPhone accounted for 18 percent and the Kindle Fire accounted for 10 percent. 

The Week app for Google's Nexus 7 was launched three weeks ago, and only accounted for 1 percent of sessions over the last 30 days. However, Watson says Dennis is looking at how to promote the app on Google tablets. 

A service, not an artifact

Of course, putting out an app on many platforms takes a lot of work, but Watson says there are a few things you can do to make the process easier including making your editorial team work with templates, and scrapping InDesign-based production which leaves you having to redesign each page for a different screen size. 

Watson says those changes are part of a wider ethos at Dennis: "Don't focus on what you want to produce, think about what a product does. 

"The Week is a service, not an artifact," he says. "You don't have a favourite bit of water as it comes out of the tap." 

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