Optimizing Digital Editions: Usage Is Growing but Too Many Publishers Are Sticking to the Basics. Here Are Four Publishers Taking Full Advantage of Their Editions

Article excerpt

PUBLISHER INTEREST IN DIGITAL EDITIONS continues to grow, even as the Web site becomes the primary digital product for many. However, many publishers are just scratching the surface of what's available to them, from embedded search and rich media to back-end audience measurement, which can be used to help plan future issues as well as convert to lead generation.

The following story offers four case studies of publishers that are trying to take full advantage of their digital edition. For many, this continues to be a learning experience.

Publisher: Campbell-Ewald

Product: Custom editions for Chevrolet Cobalt

Platform: Zmags

Digital magazines are increasingly being used as a custom publishing platform. Advertising agency Campbell Ewald tapped Zmags as the platform for a series of regionally targeted digital magazines as part of a Chevrolet Cobalt campaign aimed toward a young, tech-savvy audience. Each issue was geared to moving prospects toward readiness to buy and enable them to link directly to the Chevrolet Cobalt Web site in order to price out a custom vehicle.

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"We focused on the users themselves and partnered with bloggers and Cobalt enthusiast clubs," says Joe Ferraro, art production manager at Campbell-Ewald Publishing. "The idea was to get actual users to share stories, as well as feature local musicians driving the Cobalt to and from their performances."

Campbell-Ewald incorporated rich media including videos of the cars in action and interviews with the drivers into each edition. The agency created a homepage to house the digital editions and formed relationships with some of the leading blogs, which pointed readers to their digital editions. "We didn't want to just spit out what we could do in print but do something that fit the medium," says Ferraro. "That included a lot of Flash-integration through which we created sidebars, call-outs and pop-outs. The editorial was readable and we could expand upon that edit when needed by use of Flash components to build out sidebars--we didn't have to clutter the online page with a lot of text."

Video was embedded in each digital edition much like using an image in magazine layout. "Placement of the video was integral to the magazine layout," says Ferraro.

Campbell-Ewald produced seven different digital issues for the campaign and the South Central (U.S.) component ran for more than a year. The agency partnered with several Cobalt enthusiast events and says that the digital editions helped drive a 4 percent increase in attendance and a 45 percent increase in the number of vehicles at the events.

Each element of the digital edition had a specific purpose, says Ferraro: "Nothing was ever done just because we could--we always had a strict purpose in mind."

Publisher: Popular Science

Product: The Pop Sci Genius Guide

Platform: Zinio

Earlier this year Popular Science launched the Pop Sci Genius Guide, a new digital edition which the magazine intends to be at the forefront of consumer adoption of e-readers. The Pop Sci Genius Guide will be published quarterly in 2009, with the first issue dedicated to the home entertainment experience.

"We recognize that this is an extremely important direction the magazine needs to go--we're making our product optimized for digital platforms in anticipation of the launch of really good magazine-optimized e-readers," says editor-in-chief Mark Jannot. "We're figuring out how we can optimize the opportunities digital delivery gives us and how to overcome the challenges of pixels on screen as opposed to ink on paper. Our goal is to integrate features that can be done digitally while at the same time not undercutting what a magazine does."

Popular Science also aims to make the Genius Guide a paid product and tested several price points from 99 cents to $4.99 with the first issue. …