How Important Is Discovery?

This week the company I work for made a bold move. We not only released an exclusive app for the Nokia Windows Phone 8, but in it we redesigned our user experience to be optimized for a smartphone, and be focused on content discovery.

A few years ago we made a pretty interesting find. We learned that people who came to our app or site would actually try a magazine they had never heard of before if they were introduced to it through content (inside the magazine) that connected with their interests.

All of a sudden the cover of the magazine became the supporting element of the value and the content categories inside the issue drove the sale. We found this fascinating and began testing all sorts of different ways to merchandise through content discovery.

When we started to work with Nokia on the Windows Phone 8 project we decided it was time to put our money where our mouth is and create an enhanced reading experience that relies on discovery, and interest-based recommendations as the core for effectively utilizing the app. This means that now, when you sign in to the app, instead of being taken to a store, or even your library, you are taken to your “reading list.” The “reading list” is the destination where articles and magazines that match your interests are stored in an interchangeable manner to promote an enjoyable reading experience.

Early focus groups and user testing showed that this approach (along with the Nokia ClearBlack phone display) was going to be a win. When the app went live, we all held our breath, but the reviews show a five-star rating.

Could this mean that publishers may need to rethink the way they market content to make it less about title and brand awareness and more about personal content connections? Think about these three questions:

  1. Can a cover or brand name by itself effectively compete with hundreds of thousands of people who will pay $69.99 for a bushel of Smurfberries, or an “Angry Birds Star Wars” experience?
  2. If you asked your readers to give you three words that pop into their head when they think about your latest magazine issue, will those words be about the brand, or the content inside of the issue?
  3. When people share items on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, is it ever more than the cover? Or is it more often content ripped from the inside pages?

The art of content discovery is critical for anyone in publishing or marketing of any kind to master. Even Google is changing how its own search will work.

What do you think?

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

Related reading