I recently got into an argument with one of my friends about the differing experiences offered in holding a physical piece of content in my hands over reading words off of a screen – how physical books, newspapers and print magazines provide a satisfying reading experience that digital editions could never emulate. Remember when libraries were a place to explore freely, and it was a hunt to find just the right book on the shelf to take home and ruminate over, while drinking your morning cup of tea?
This leads me to the real purpose of this article: to dig in a bit deeper into the new landscape of digital and interactive magazine editions and analyze the features they offer to readers around the globe. NetPage is a cool new free iPhone app for paper that allows readers to digitally clip and save articles, photos or ads and share them through email, text and on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. You download the mobile app and use it to interact with the print version of the magazine that is enhanced for deep interactivity.
The company recently announced that starting with its December 2012 issue, Esquire will incorporate NetPage and be completely interactive. Hearst has also committed to enabling additional titles in 2013. With the December issue, you can Netpage the cover to see an exclusive video of Bradley Cooper, Netpage American-made items you see to buy them right from the page (via a partnership with Made Movement), Netpage a gumbo recipe and send it to your Mom, Netpage an outfit you like and quickly share it on Pinterest, Netpage any article and save it on your iPhone for reading later — you can do all of this using the Netpage app.
According to Paul Morris, CEO of Netpage, “It’s a completely new way to experience a magazine, powered by our ability to make the entire surface of every magazine interactive. This is done through a combination of image recognition, augmented reality and patented Digital Twin technology, so no special coding, watermarking or printing processes are required.”
Other players in the space include Zumobi, a technology company that provides publishers like Hearst, Bonner and NBC the ability to create a mobile iPhone app digital editions of their magazines, and integrates a rich-media ad platform that allows content creators to monetize their mobile content. Through their publisher relationships, Zumobi works with brands including Good Housekeeping, Dwell and Popular Science. Through their mobile ad platform, the company creates native mobile experiences that blur the lines between magazine content and advertising, including rich video content, social media and user-generated content for brands.
“Mobile advertising, if done right, provides brands with the opportunity to connect with consumers in a very personal and intimate way that literally puts a brand in the palm of a consumer’s hand,” said Marla Schimke, vice president of marketing for Zumobi. “With our mobile ad platform called ZBi, we are helping brands translate their message for mobile into a thoughtful conversation that compliments the existing app dialogue.”
When asked whether or not NetPage viewed Zumobi as a competitor, Morris added, “We don’t see companies such as Zumobi a threat to our business. In fact, if I understand their business, which I believe is a mobile ad platform, it is more likely that we would partner with them than compete with them, because we could deliver mobile ads to a smart phone as a result of a print interaction. This, however, is not a priority focus for us at this time because mobile ads can be perceived to be invasive to a reader – and we know that our print readers like to have down time, away from the pop-up screen experience on the web or mobile web.”
Okay, so what does this all mean for the future of print? When I downloaded the iOS app Zumobi created for PopSci, I was delighted to see that the interface was minimal and not a distraction to the content presented to the reader. The ads in the app did bother me a bit, but I’m pretty used to seeing them in mobile apps so it wasn’t that much of an issue. I was able to get sent a sneak peek at the December issue of Esquire optimized for NetPage and was very impressed by the ability to scan virtually any item in the magazine to learn more about the products and access exclusive multimedia content.
On a personal note, my niece is 10 and I’m just realizing that she is growing up in a world where screens are everywhere and an integral part of daily life. While she is an avid reader and reads physical books in school, she also gravitates to the elegant touchscreens her Kindle provides for reading on the go. She has absolutely no concept of what life was like before the Internet and the rise of the touchscreen. I’ll admit that I simply want her to read and have an appreciation and respect for the written word, regardless of what form it is presented.
Yes, the times they are a-changin’, but man, they are getting way, way more interesting.