The Magazine vs. the App

For years, digital magazine providers have built unique selling propositions based on the platforms they support. For example, my company supports everything from the PC to the new Windows 8 platforms. Other companies have built unique selling points around availability on the BlackBerry platform; others still focus on airplane access. And the list goes on. The justification for unique access by provider is basic. It requires a tremendous amount of attention to detail, funds, and technology integration in order to create native apps by operating system.

Providers want to provide the absolute best experience to their app users. They work for months designing an exceptional user interface (UI) and flow. By the time they get to market they are proud to have created an exceptional experience. This helps set them apart from other digital magazine providers.

While this has been standard in the technology space, a few months ago the tide changed. Progressive magazine publishers started to feel that their readers should have the ultimate choice. They started to ask for “cross-platform authentication” – which is the ability for a reader to read their magazine on any platform it is available on, despite the provider.

This change has serious implications for the digital magazine providers. It immediately eliminates unique selling propositions and creates a challenge to justify why a reader should subscribe from your platform versus others.

For publishers, this change should speed engagement and readership. Publishers don’t need to worry about platform barriers (e.g., iPad issues cannot be read on an Android).

For digital magazine technology providers, it could hurt business. Many providers make a portion of revenue off of subscriptions. Now, a reader can buy on platform A and read on platform B.

For the magazine developer itself, it is a bet. On the one hand, the magazine may make more money by increasing access and thus, increasing ad revenue. On the other hand, the magazine may make less money, as in the past consumers would buy a print subscription and a digital subscription (or two) depending on which device they have.

So the question is: Does cross-platform authentication help or hurt magazines as we move into the future?

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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