17 4 / 2014

ExecProtec Magazine created an awesome video to explain all aspects of their digital magazine. Available on both iOS & Android devices from iTunes & Google Play app stores!

16 4 / 2014

How to Shine in Cupertino

How does Apple choose what apps to feature in their store? While it certainly comes from high downloads, positive ratings and good press, these numbers don’t just show up overnight. They can only happen if people know about your app and like it enough to spread the word. How do you create an app like that? Give users a reason to keep coming back.

Newness Factor:

Each time a user launches your app, it should have something new to offer that wasn’t there before. Think of your app like a social networking site that you refresh to find something new.  Magazines, for example, generally publish their content monthly, or weekly at best. Imagine if magazines pushed out new content more frequently; users would be launching the app multiple times a day to read what’s new. Free trials, previews, and incorporating all your social networking sites into your app can be useful tools to showcase such content, and engage users new and old alike, as seen below in our storefront.

image

Point of Difference:

Another important reason for a user to return to your app is what I call its “point of difference.” What makes your app stand out from all other apps? Besides basic functionality, figure out what that extra oomph to the user experience could be. Whether it’s amazing graphics, especially fast and fluid performance, or a novel feature unique to your app, this distinguisher is key. A feature unique to our apps is Stream, demonstrated below, it is a visual archive from both the publication and reader of shared and saved content in app and from the web.

image

While in a perfect world, I would be able to simply say, “Follow these steps and your app will be one of the best on the App Store” — I know it is easier said than done. But to me, these are truly the most important considerations an app developer can do to draw more downloads and keep users coming back for more.

Areeb Ahmad is Director of Quality Assurance in Noida, India. Follow him on Twitter @areebahmad.

 

12 3 / 2014

Run, Bison, run! 5 ways Spotlight Media publishes and promotes ‘Bison Illustrated,’ a killer digital magazine

Spotlight Media publishes Bison Illustrated, the official magazine for the Bison Athletics teams at North Dakota State University.  They’ve taken a valuable lesson from the varsity football team, who recently won their third straight FCS title in January: don’t walk when you can run! As Mike Dragosavich, Founder of Spotlight Media Publishing puts it, “We produced a full functioning app on the app stores within no time. It’s an efficient process, period.”

Incorporating the MAZ publishing platform into their media strategy, Bison Illustrated has entered the app market with an engaging and truly cross-platform product line. And they’ve done it all without adding any additional staff or resources. 

Take a page from their playbook, and learn how to make your app just as competitive as theirs:

1.  In-App Navigation and Custom Help Pages

Spotlight Media craftily included custom help pages into their issues. They quickly familiarize the reader with the navigation and media icons they should look out for, the designated areas to visit, and a “visual” table of contents leading to coach and athlete interviews, team schedules, and game summaries.

image

2.  Featured Video Content

Based on an engagement study that MAZ conducted recently, pages that have a video button are four times more likely to be tapped. Bison Illustrated has video all over it.  And once tapped, the metric for time spent in-page sky rockets.  

image

3.  Custom Landing Page for Promotion

In addition to promoting the Bison Illustrated app through their own properties (website, print, and social), they actually made an exclusive landing page just for the app. And it’s awesome.

image

4.  Advertising: Interactive and Social Ads

Spotlight extends the digital canvas to their advertisers as well.  Check out this in-app advertisement for Pratek Philippe watches, which includes a play button for a video ad, a web button to take the reader to Pratek’s online destination (without ever leaving the app), and MAZ’s patent-pending Stream technology, which allows the user to “cut out” and share anything they see to their favorite social media site, their friend’s inbox, or even via a text message.

image

5.  E-Commerce

On a tablet or smartphone, anything can be made purchasable. For example, Spotlight has integrated One Herd, their clothing line for Bison sports fans.  Users can browse the inventory, tap to learn more, share, and purchase — all in the app!

image

Don’t just take my word for it, though — download the free Bison Illustrated app on iTunes or Google Play, and see for yourself. And check out MAZ Publishing if you’re curious how we can help you create and optimize your app, too!

Mike Ram is a Business Development Manager in New York. Find him on LinkedIn.

13 11 / 2013

Is Your Magazine Truly Digital? (Part 2)

Last week, I introduced some of the many challenges that continue to face publishers in the digital age and app ecosystem. As I concluded, the root of the problem is as follows:

In my opinion, the biggest problem in today’s magazine app economy is the lack of a sound engagement strategy. Publishers need a way to ensure that readers spend a lot of time with the content, and have reasons to return to the app everyday - even several times a day - like they do with their social networking apps. In the golden age of print media, engagement was a much simpler game. A physical magazine would lie on the coffee table, next to some other magazines, and the reader would engage himself with one of these few competing titles for hours on end. The notion of having to check if some new pages had magically appeared in one or several of these magazines would have, of course, seemed farcical. But reading patterns and attention spans are dramatically different today: with smartphones and tablets, the digital magazine resides next to hundred of other apps on the device, competing for user’s time not only with other mag apps, but everything from social networking to games to text and email.

So, what to do?

Unbundle! Publish content in smaller quantities, but much more frequently. It’s conventional to publish at regular intervals for print because of the medium’s own challenges - printing costs, production and distribution timeframes. etc. But for digital, the app lives right on the tablet of the reader. It is always accessible, and super dynamic: new content can be delivered instantaneously, with no extra production costs. Imagine if there were no print history to the publishing industry, and magazines were being designed deliberately for digital. The idea of publishing just one issue per month probably wouldn’t even occur to you.

Promote to current users! Once your content is published to your app, let everyone know about it. MAZ offers “On the Fly Push Notifications” with which you can send push notifications to all your readers who have the app installed on their device. These swiftly alert them to what’s new and interesting in the app, an easy and effective way to drive engagement.

Promote to future users! Be active on social media, and keep talking about your latest issues via your social channels, be it about an article from the issue, about a reader’s response to a particular story, or whatever it may be. But make sure that whatever you add is interesting and shareable!

Consolidate and emphasize your brand! The app needs to engage the reader with the magazine brand in total, not just the app. As your readers love your brand, the app should feel like a consortium for all the mediums your brand uses, be it your website, your Twitter feed, your YouTube channel, or your Pinterest board. MAZ’s Store is a leap forward in this direction: readers can experience the magazine’s entire brand, not just the app, whenever they open it. It’s a centralized way for the reader to stay abreast of all that’s happening in and around your brand.

Better yet, with our “Featured Web Content,” you can specifically promote a particular social channel right on your app’s Store. Feature Web Content comes up as a draggable window that opens automatically when the Store is launched. Let’s say, on a given day, your Twitter feed is your most popular social medium; with this feature you can hit a switch and change your Featured Web Content to your Twitter feed, so more people can partake in all the activity. On another day, you can point it to your website instead, where a new blog post has been garnering tons of pageviews.

Be dynamic! Keep updating your links, videos, and galleries on the fly, and keep your coverage current, so your readers can enjoy a sense of freshness every time they visit the app (even within the same issue). Apps, unlike print, don’t have to be static. You would never return to a website that seldom updated, would you?

Get your readers to promote for you! Today’s readers enjoy contributing to your social ecosystem, and using content of yours to contribute to their own. Our critically acclaimed “Clippings” feature (which Mashable immediately praised upon release, and our client Forbes more recently called “really cool shit!”), so that users can easily “cut out” what they like with a simple two-finger gesture, and broadcast it to the world.

image

As Paul says in his interview with BillionSuccess “I want to take Clippings even further by understanding why and how people share while reading online.” More and more, social is part of our world, and whether we like it or not, we must embrace it, in apps and everywhere.

Doing even just some of the above can make a magazine truly digital, and reverse the declining trend currently seen in the publishing business. Publisher needs to have an engagement strategy that fully exploits the unique advantages of being digital. MAZ’s platform makes all of the above as simple as can be — and a fresh stock of major updates on the way, we’re about to make it even simpler.

Shikha Arora is CTO and one of the founders of MAZ. She previously spent six years working as an engineer at Adobe Systems, architecting key facets of the popular InDesign software. She lives in Noida, India, and oversees operations at the MAZ India offices.

08 11 / 2013

Is Your Magazine Truly Digital?

Everybody knows we’re living in a time of great change and challenge for the magazine business. 

On the one hand, the industry is seeing a lot of innovation in the digital age: countless new ideas, publishing solutions, formats and philosophies. Most large and mid-sized publishing houses now employ dedicated digital teams, producing and distributing content specifically for and to devices that were unprecedented just a few years ago.

On the other hand, print circulations are declining heavily, and despite the best efforts of both content creators and their marketing teams, the number of ad pages are dropping with them.

So it’s imperative that something changes — and it certainly isn’t the people who produce the magazine content, or those who sell the ads. They know their jobs well; they have been doing them for years. They may need a new toolset, but remain the best men and women for the task at hand nonetheless.

And the promise is still there — moreso than ever, in fact. As Google CEO Eric Schmidt points out, there is no doubt that “the potential audience for publishers will explode.” Tablet sales are booming, and will outsell PCs worldwide by the end of this year, according to IDC. By 2017, tablet users are projected to number 160.7 million, up from 128 million this year, reports eMarketer. It is estimated that by 2014, around 20.7 percent of the world’s population will own a tablet device.

This is to speak nothing of smartphones, which are faring even better around the globe than in the United States. For example, in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia, smartphone penetration is much higher (above 80%) than that in the US (roughly 60%), and other Asian territories are catching up quickly. In some parts of these countries, people seem to have skipped the PC revolution completely, moving straight to smartphones and tablets without ever have used a PC.

image

To recap: the devices are myriad, content creators and developers are putting their best feet forward, and longstanding readers still know and love the brand. So then why haven’t the numbers and profit margins of digital — the obvious and inevitable solution to print’s downward spiral — been too encouraging just yet?

In my opinion, the biggest problem in today’s magazine app economy is the lack of a sound engagement strategy. Publishers need a way to ensure that readers spend a lot of time with the content, and have reasons to return to the app everyday - even several times a day - like they do with their social networking apps. In the golden age of print media, engagement was a much simpler game. A physical magazine would lie on the coffee table, next to some other magazines, and the reader would engage himself with one of these few competing titles for hours on end. The notion of having to check if some new pages had magically appeared in one or several of these magazines would have, of course, seemed farcical. But reading patterns and attention spans are dramatically different today: with smartphones and tablets, the digital magazine resides next to hundred of other apps on the device, competing for user’s time not only with other mag apps, but everything from social networking to games to text and email.

So, what to do? Join me again this coming Wednesday for the full rundown!


Shikha Arora is CTO and one of the founders of MAZ. She previously spent six years working as an engineer at Adobe Systems, architecting key facets of the popular InDesign software. She lives in Noida, India, and oversees operations at the MAZ India offices.

08 10 / 2013

User Experience and Behavior Design in the Age of iOS 7

image

Love them or hate them, whenever Apple unveils their latest gadget or software, everyone’s inner design expert comes out to dissect and analyze. Despite a hefty share of pre-release criticism, the iPhone 5s and 5c’s recent launch set another opening weekend sales record of 9 million units. And when the corresponding iOS 7 update rolled out, there was a 35% adoption rate of the new operating system in just one day — another unprecedented conversion rate. How does Apple keep coming out winning?

When Apple announced iOS 7 at their Worldwide Developer Conference at the end of June, people were reasonably skeptical of this whole “flat design” thing. What was Jony Ive thinking with such basic app icons? What had design come to? Some said dismissing push notifications looked harder, or that the options on the new Control Center seemed like a haphazard collection of functions floating in a messy space somewhere above your onscreen content. But these are surface-level changes. Most complaints focus on the design and look of the new software, but fail to mention that perhaps, in part thanks to its new aesthetic, iOS 7 makes many day-to-day tasks simpler than ever.

One user experience study conducted by the tech specialists at Pfeiffer Consulting demonstrates this point: iOS 7 beat Android and Windows in every category but one (customer-level customization, which Android won for sheer quantity of choice). Most importantly, iOS 6 and iOS 7 lead all mobile operating systems in easing user’s cognitive bandwidth. As technology continues to advance, there is a threshold for how much our minds can process and retain at one time, and this needs to be taken into consideration for all effective software and product design.

The work of Dr. BJ Fogg, out of Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, presents special insight into behavior design and advancements in mobile technologies. The Behavior Model for User Design represents three very important and simple factors for understanding human behavior on an X-Y axis. On the X-axis you have the ability to do something, and on the Y-axis the motivation to do so. Dr. BJ Fogg writes, “When products require people to learn new things, they routinely fail. Instead, to increase a user’s ability, designers of persuasive experiences must make the behavior easier to do.” iOS 7’s simplicity really helps to facilitate the transition from the previous standard — iOS 6 — to something that looks and feels completely different. When Apple redesigns their software, you can expect things to be easier and more intuitive to use. We all want shiny bells and whistles from Apple’s launches, but tightening the fundamentals is always what makes the deepest impact. For example, within a day or two of using iOS 7, I was already well used to swiping to close apps. I can barely even remember doing it the old-fashioned way.

As the well-worn aphorism goes, you don’t need to be the first to go to market with something new; you just need to do it best. Apple weren’t the ones to get the flat design bandwagon moving (that would be the Windows Phone 7), but if recent sales figures are any indication, it seems they are by now steering it.

Kristé Marciulionis manages accounts at MAZ. You can find her tweeting @KKriste.

27 9 / 2013

Introducing MAZ Publishing 4.0

We are extremely excited to announce the release of MAZ Publishing 4.0, our fourth major release and the most ambitious one yet.

Not coincidentally, this update follows on the heels of Apple’s iOS 7, and MP 4.0 is a total reimagining of our iOS apps.

We also took it as an opportunity to rethink the platform as a whole. There are updates for Android on Google Play and Amazon’s Appstore, plus powerful new marketing and design tools in MAZ Control.

iOS 7 Design

The most striking difference in our new iOS apps is a total overhaul of the UI (user interface) that we had been using for the last three years. Our new iOS apps are cleaner, flatter, and more subtle, allowing the content to really pop.

iOS 7

Web & Social Content in the Store

Inspired by the use of web buttons inside the content our publishers create with MAZ, we now have web and social media buttons right in the Store- where users can access them as soon as they open the app.

Web Content

Featured Web Content

Users can now see the publisher’s latest news or promotions as soon as they open the app. Regardless of scheduled frequency of the publication, Featured Web Content allows any publisher to update their app with new content whenever they would like.

Featured Content

Custom Push Notifications

Push notifications can now be sent on the fly and say whatever you want, instead of only coinciding with new content going live. There is no better way to provide value to users than by providing them with important news as it happens, even if they are not in the app.

Used in conjunction with Featured Web Content, push notifications can alert users to specific content and breaking news, and when they open the app that content will already be queued up. Push notifications now work with Google Play apps as well.

Clippings Buttons

Clippings has become a staple of MAZ apps. 1 out of every 5 times someone downloads content, they create a clip. Each clip has a Clippings Link attached to it, which refers traffic back to the app or to the publisher’s website.

We have now introduced a Clippings button right in the Store and on every website, so it is easier than ever for users to spread the word across social media.

Clippings

Indicators

Users do not always understand how to take advantage of the amazing features available to them when reading on a mobile or tablet device. Now these simple prompts can be placed anywhere on the page to help educate users about how to best navigate and use their apps.

Indicators

New Design Tools

We have added grid lines and zooming to the Design Tab of MAZ Control. Now you can have even more control and precision as you lay out interactive elements on the page.

The Organize Tab now displays page numbers in real time as you make adjustments and shows you what page you currently have selected.

Visual Page Linking

It is now easier than ever to link from page to page. Instead of needing to know the exact page number, you can simply select the thumbnail of the page you want to link to.

Our Best Release Ever

We’ve been hard at work building these improvements over the last few months, and MAZ Publishing 4.0 is by far the best version of the platform we’ve ever had.

Check it out now.

We hope you enjoy using it as much as we enjoyed making it!

-The MAZ Team

21 3 / 2013

The Road to Android: Strategy and Planning

Last month we announced that MAZ Android Apps are coming soon. You can read more about our announcement here. Follow along here at the MAZ blog as we offer a glimpse behind our curtain to show you all of the thinking, design, and development that has gone into our Android launch.

image


Deciding to launch MAZ Android Apps was a BIG decision. We’re still a lean startup, and projects like this require the whole team to put in a huge amount of time, attention, and effort to make them happen. Our growth depends on us addressing compelling demands when they hit a crescendo, and that time for Android has finally come. 

So why Android tablets? Why now? Well, the answer comes from one simple truth: people have started to buy the things. Consumers are demanding content from their favorite publishers, and “your operating system hasn’t historically been a profitable platform” doesn’t cut it anymore.

We’ve heard the strongest calls from our clients with paid content. Nobody is expecting the same level of profits they’re making from iOS, but there is money to be made. It doesn’t matter which platform is “winning,” we’ve crossed a tipping point where there are enough interested readers using Android to make it worthwhile.

Let’s be clear, though: Android is still a riskier venture than iOS for paid content. There is even more of a reason not to invest too much time and energy into it until you have tested the waters a bit. We want to make sure that publishing to Android is easy. And fast. Really, really easy, and really, really fast.

So that’s what we’ve built - a multi-platform solution that doesn’t put any more work on the publisher’s plate. You do the same work going in, but you get more going out.

Readers are going to love their favorite publications on Android, our publishers are going to love the newfound revenue and ease of publishing across multiple platforms, and we at MAZ are going to learn a whole lot in the process.

The time has come for Android at MAZ. Here we go!

07 4 / 2012

21 11 / 2011

  • Since its inception, Google’s (GOOG) Android Market Place has generated about 7% of the gross revenue of Apple’s App Store.
  • Apple (AAPL) has about 85% to 90% market share of the total dollars spent on mobile apps.
  • Only 1.3% of Android apps are paid, compared with 13.5% of iPhone’s.
  • Apple developers have made more than $3.4 billion since 2011, compared with less than $240 million for Google developers.
  • Although Android is likely to grow its smartphone market share faster, Apple will probably maintain a 70%+ share of mobile app dollars spent over the next 3 or 4 years.

I have always known this in a general way, and have even made reference when explaining to clients why we don’t develop for non-iOS platforms (yet).

Now I have some concrete numbers to relay, and they are truly striking.

It’s a vicious cycle: not enough quality content on Android, so nobody buys, developers don’t make quality content because no one is buying, and so on.

This study shows that over next 3-4 years, Apple will maintain 70+%. That other 30% is still A LOT of people, and certainly worth exploring, but it’s hard to justify development now when the vast majority of money is being spent on iOS content, especially because whatever you develop now will be outdated so quickly anyway.

It’s not just the upfront dev costs, but the ongoing saga of keeping up with the times on multiple platforms.

Glad to have some data to justify what my gut has said for a while.