Magzter: Steering the Digital Newsstand Revolution

Date:   Friday , February 01, 2013

The Recession of 2009 sounded the death knell on a host of established print magazines. With around 500 of them biting the dust, traditional print media houses are bogged down by adversity owing to rising print and distribution costs that are plaguing the industry today. Moreover gaining traction in readership with print magazines is proving to be a slow and costly affair in the current scenario. Several magazines found solace in the digital space but this move also comes with its share of pressures and risk of relying on a new platform. The Newsweek closed its doors to printing on December 31st 2012, after a nearly eight decade track record, it has now shifted entirely as an online entity. Magazines such as Tehelka, People, Time, and Cosmopolitan among others have also faced a stark decline in readership and are focusing on capturing the online reader’s imagination. The transitioning trend has not been about the quality of journalism, but about the challenging economics of print publishing and distribution. All of these events point to a single fact; the digitalization phenomenon is predominantly here to stay and promises to impact the masses for the better. Having taken the cue; two Indians are now creating ripples in the digitalization of print Media. Magzter, headquartered in New York, with offices in London, Singapore and a back office in Chennai, India, is the newest company revolutionizing the online, tablet and smartphone digital newsstand space.

Magzter is the most unique newsstand in the market today for publishers and readers alike for magazines that want to experience the benefits of mobile and tablet publishing firsthand and readers who are moving to their iPad or Smartphone for their dose of current affairs and knowledge.

With the Magazine industry estimated at 80 billion dollars globally and a growing number in readership on handheld devices, the online counterpart is no exception to the case. Many case studies on digital media adumbrated that online readership advertising revenues are already taking over the advertising profitability of its print counterparts. Adding to this, worldwide Smartphone shipments are predicted to increase from 305 million units in 2010 to 1405 million units in 2016. This sparks a sharp trend that hand-held devices are on course to slowly take over the realm of print magazines and newspapers owing to the large publication and distribution costs associated with the latter.

Realizing the potential of digital readership

One of the founders of Magzter, Girish Ramdas, CEO, started out by founding a poultry hatchery after graduating out of college. Today, he is a veteran in the sphere of entrepreneurship. In 2000 Ramdas learnt the fundamentals of entrepreneurship when he founded Dot Com Infoway, a software services company. It was here that Vijayakumar Radhakrishnan, President & Co-Founder at Magzter, an IT pioneer and a skilled entrepreneur, merged his company, NTS which he founded in 2000 with that of Dot Com Infoway. The duo soon realized a common passion for creating applications for different platforms. With a keen appetency towards media and entertainment, they jumped into the sphere of cinema magazines in the form of and Galatta Cinema magazine co-founded by C. R. Venkatesh. The magazine achieved considerable success with the south Indian audience in a short span of time.

These intellects soon realized a huge potential in the global online digital media vertical. Noticing magazines such as Newsweek, Wall Street Journal and a host of other publications switching to the mobile and tablet space, they saw a combined expertise within themselves that was suitable for the digital media market. The duo laid out an aggressive approach using their knowledge and skills in the fields of editing magazines and creating applications to finally go on to found Magzter Inc. on May 23 2011. Today the online newsstand has close to 1500 magazines in its portfolio with over 6 million readers worldwide.

The duo also has the distinction of creating Asia’s first iPhone magazine app for the Galatta Cinema magazine in 2009 itself when apps were relatively unheard of. The publication clocked 100,000 downloads within the first year of its release and still runs today adding more global users.

“As a Magazine publisher, creating apps is not our business and as a Technology company creating magazine is not our business. So we combined the two and found a middle ground in the form of Magzter where any magazine from anywhere in the world can upload content in an various file formats starting from base PDFs and enhanced Pdfs to fully interactive HTML5 formats. Magzter will then make these magazines available across all devices and multiple platforms,” says Girish.

Print media is under constant stress

In the existent print media disposition, enterprises are having a tough time with rising publication and distribution expenses. Moreover the digital version of any publication offers connectivity to a larger gen next audience compared to traditional print mechanisms. The geographical restrictions (for example) cause monthly magazines to reach farther areas of the globe almost two weeks late. Such prolonged circulation timings can seriously hamper the overall reputation of the media house and the online versions always reaches a much wider base as compared to its physical counterparts.
The digital space also provides print publications with its share of problems. When a potential digital client decides to make the soft copies available for the online audience, there are zillions of devices with their own unique platforms to choose from. Every one of these platforms requires specific and unique programming languages to function properly. Moreover the creation of applications and maintenance of the same is not in the purview with the technology budgets of small and midsized companies in the realm of Media and related verticals. Uploading the digital document on a remote website or a platform can lead to the magazine's discoverability taking a severe beating; this directly affects building a good consumer base. Even if a magazine does accomplish a global online presence, they are unable to tap into the true potential of the area owing to the difficulty in providing/absence of multi currency sales offerings by the respective platform provider.
The publishing technology today does not have the extra technological resources to cater to the digital market. So there is no access to sales revenue to notice how the market is responding and how to plan out sales strategies accordingly.

Solving big questions in digitalization
The sales revenue showcasing model is just one of the many areas where Magzter has extensively focused on and seems to have answered the anguish and apprehensions haunting publications. Magzter empowers publishers in terms of worldwide availability and sales statistics of the respective magazine. In terms of accessibility, Magzter lets the publisher control the differential pricing of the magazine according to the different geographies if the need be. For publications that circulate for an exclusive geographical location, the filters can be set to exclude viewership in certain countries which can be a big plus for periodic publications running in different parts of the world especially those who license their editions globally. The social media connectivity features of the app ensure that the avid reader can instantly share an interesting screenshot with their close circle of friends and relatives through twitter or Facebook.

For owners who are in need of real time sales data, the app provides consumer data, sales reporting and analytics. This can be a big boon as it can help in prioritizing and setting specific goals with regard to content and pricing for a particular area. Some of the publishers in their portfolio include Maxim, Topgear, Reader’s Digest, Forbes, Cosmopolitan and a host of other famous worldwide magazines. The company’s revolutionary self servicing tool “OREY Click Publishing” is poised to be a game changer in the digital publishing world. The Orey tool can work on different applications such as Google play, Html 5, IOS 5 Newstand, Huawei and more in this exhaustive list along with personalized branded apps on Apple's newsstand with one -single file upload.

Resolving the technological and financial burden

OREY click publishing forms only a small part in comparison to the technological might of Magzter. Magzter takes care of the technology burden to support the different types of uploaded files. Today the online newsstand’s field caters to five different formats of online magazines including the basic PDF file, the interactive Pdf file with live animations, or a hybrid model where HTML5 and the PDF work together in conjunction. There are no problems associated with the publication in other devices, the magazine team logs onto the self-service publisher dashboard and uploads the required file. The content is then directly rendered across all device platforms through Magzter’s cloud services.

The application has been designed to tap into the social networking frenzy generation with a dedicated Social media recommendation engine which has the capability to boost magazine sale while the Global Digital Magazine Newsstand ensures a wider reach to readers and publishers across the world. The app is the only one of its kind to enable magazines across Apple, Android, Windows 8 and web platforms including Apple’s Newsstand. All of this is provided at no extra cost to the publisher.

The key differentiators of the application include its quick cloud based service platform, capability to self service issues, a fully automated cross platform tool, wide scalability options and HTML 5 enabled entities. The company’s powered ‘branded’ apps, addresses the need for publishers to retain their magazine brands with stand alone branded apps, the newsstand gives its publishers to self-service ‘white labelling’ of Apple, Google Play (Android) and Windows 8 magazine apps for better reach and efficient growth of its readership base. This has helped Magzter now to be the world leader in creating these branded apps and a single upload feeds the content to all the apps. The various branded apps running off the server almost instantaneously save publications huge costs with reference to financial and distribution aspects.
“It is possible to create the apps by the company on their own, but the cost associated will not be commensurate with the returns. So a standard company will have to shell out close to 5 to 10 lakh rupees to create apps across all platforms. This can be provided by Magzter at absolutely no cost expect for the revenue share model which makes it a win-win proposition for both the Publisher and Magzter,” says Vijay.

Girish Ramdas and Vijayakumar Radhakrishnan went the extra mile while providing for their consumers and publishers by supporting over a hundred languages across the world. Countries include all major geographical locations across the Asia Pacific, North America, Europe and the Middle East.

Attacking pain points with a unique business model

One of the most innovative cut out feature of the Magzter application is their unique business model; the company does not charge for uploading, publishing or downloading magazines. Magzter is the only app for a publisher which allows PDFs in an interactive format with videos, quizzes and audio into the magazine soft copy, at no extra cost to the publisher. The consumer data and magazine analytics for every magazine are provided for free along with a round-the-clock customer support team.
For free magazines the Magzter app charges a nominal 30 US cents per download which is a decent bargain with regards to the offered viewership. The publisher is given the priority to set the interactivity to either a simple or a complex portfolio. New updates on any of the platforms are automatically updated by the team at Magzter (For example, IOS 6). Along with Global bookmarking and direct publishing, the newsstand offers seamless workflow along with dynamic editing options with platform independent digital formatting.

The local online newsstand

Not leaving readers aside, Magzter aims to serve its readers as a simple bookshelf. The method for a good read is as simple as perusing the featured titles, choosing a category, selecting by region and then preview up to 6 pages for free. The user can finally buy the issue or subscribe to the magazine with one simple click. The new issues will be pushed to the subscribers’ device automatically as they are published. Once the Magzter account is created, the subscriber can access purchases across all personal devices such as phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. The user can return to the purchases at any point of time, even if they have been deleted or an advanced smartphone replaced the current basic smartphone, Magzter stores the files safely in its Cloud. Magzter has pioneered a “Buy anywhere and Read anywhere” concept where users can buy their favourite magazines on any smart device and read it on any other device they own.
On November 27th, 2012, the digital newsstand and online magazine store stood as the #1 Top Grossing app in the iPad after having overtaken international favorites and long standing grossers such as Angry Birds, NY Times for iPad, Clash of Clans, FIFA 13, Need for Speed, Temple Run, Poker by Zynga and Zinio among others and brought its total number of global users to 4.5 million. Even in the number of daily downloads stands strong after crossing other reading apps such as Flipboard, Pulse, Zite and other competitors. The figures are a testimony of Magzter’s simple solutions and how much of a success they have been in the digital space. Magzter has since added 1.5 million users in less than two months which shows the need for digital magazine content globally!
“The magazine industry across the world has more than 4 lakh magazines worldwide. Going forward we want to become the ‘Youtube of Reading’. Our users are asking for more content to be read on Magzter and so we are adding comics, books, we are even looking at free news feeds. This is looking to be a nearly 40 billion dollar market globally,” says an elated Girish. Currently looking invincible to competitors, Magzter is indeed steering in the right direction to conquer the online digitization readership space by 2016.