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!

19 3 / 2014

Stream Web: A Mobile Browser for a Mobile World

Here at MAZ, we have helped some amazing media brands across the globe to launch hundreds of apps using our publishing platform. And today, for the very first time, we are putting ourselves in their shoes — by launching an app of our own.

We are proud to announce the release of Stream Web, a social, gesture-based web browser for iOS.

How is it that a publishing platform company came to make a web browser? Well, for starters, we see ourselves as much more than a publishing platform. MAZ’s mission has always been to connect people with content. What we learned pretty fast is that on digital devices, people don’t only want to receive content; they also want to participate in it.

That’s why we created Stream, a social layer that lives on top of every MAZ-powered app, allowing the user to “cut out” anything they see on their screen and share or save it instantly. Stream also provides a running visual archive of everything they’ve ever shared or saved.

It works like this:

image

Compare that to how we traditionally share on the web: boring text URLs, copied and pasted. In fact, that’s the same way we’ve been sharing content for the entire 25-year history of the web. Copy and paste into an email, copy and paste onto Twitter, and so on.

With Stream Web, we are bringing the power and beauty of Stream to — you guessed it — the entire web. Instead of sharing URLs, you can now share clips of actual content. And each clip, whether it be an image, text, or both, serves as a link back to the original source. So you are still sharing a link, but it’s a visual one instead of the same old ugly text. Then you can visit your Stream at any time to see a real-time feed of everything you’ve ever shared or saved.

Switching your web browser to Stream Web on your iPhone and iPad will make you feel like you are using the real mobile web for the first time, not just a scaled down version of a desktop browser.

Check out some of the neat features we’ve cooked up below, and of course, go download Stream Web for free right now to see it for yourself!

image

image

image

image

image

image

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 2 / 2014

Sneak Peek: Stream Web

MAZ has spent the last three years helping other companies create apps.

For the first time, we have created an app to call our very own– a mobile web browser called Stream Web.

image

Within the hundreds of apps created with MAZ, we saw that many people use Stream to share and save content from the web. Which got us thinking… what if you could use Stream to share and save from any website?

To get a sneak peek at Stream Web visit streamapp.co and sign up to be one of the first to get it when it becomes available (for free!) this spring.

04 12 / 2013

Time to Rethink Magazine Apps

There has been a lot of talk recently about whether magazines are failing on tablets, and if publishers should rethink their tablet/mobile strategies. Here at MAZ, we have had the privilege of working with hundreds of publishers to help them create and better understand their tablet strategies, and therefore the time to think about how we can improve both the user experience and sales figures for these apps.

Let’s get one thing straight: consumers are absolutely interested in reading magazines on their tablets. Newsstands apps, which are typically free in the App Store, in fact see very promising download numbers. But once they’ve downloaded the app, readers are typically asked to make a decision: either buy a single issue, or subscribe to the app outright. And that’s where the problem starts. There is a significant delta between the total number of app downloads and those that convert into a subscription or a one-time in-app purchase.

Let’s say I like cooking and search for some cooking terms in the App Store, then download a food publication that looks interesting. But once I open it, I’m not yet sure if I want to purchase/pay for anything. If the publication is forcing me to make that decision right off the bat, I will most likely just delete the app. It’s a lot of commitment upfront; in the heyday of print mags, I doubt anybody ever purchased a magazine for the first time without at least skimming through an issue at a friend’s home or the corner store.

So how does a publisher solve this problem? We looked at this question long and hard at MAZ, and decided to change our approach to Newsstand app.  We updated all of our 600+ apps, converting each to be a “hub” for their publication rather than simply a digital reader (which is, unfortunately, still the industry standard). So now when you download a MAZ powered app, such as the free Inc. Magazine app, you are now taken to their digital hub - including live feeds from their website, Twitter, and Pinterest board, along with the opportunity to purchase an issue or subscription. The idea is to let consumers experience content from the publisher by aggregating various feeds, such as the publisher’s website, blog and social media platforms. This gives the user several reasons to keep the app, as they can:

1. Get all of the publisher’s free web and social content in one place.

2. Become familiar with the type of content to expect from the publisher should they make a purchase.

3) Enjoy whatever other free content the publishers might want to offer as an incentive to pay for the priced content. (On this last point, Inc. offers a free back issue, though the possibilities are limitless here.)

image

As long as the app stays installed on the device, the publisher can now market to that user using push notifications, featured web content, featured video content, and so on. Using these tools, you can build brand loyalty over time.

We believe this new approach to Newsstand magazine apps will lead to higher engagement with the apps, less deletion, and ultimately more purchases. Our publishers are already seeing a significant spike in the usage of their apps as a direct result of shifting to the “hub” approach. Users now see these apps as a multi-faceted brand and content center instead of just a place to either buy something or get out.

Shouvik Paul is the VP of Business Development at MAZ. Hailing from San Francisco, he tweets @ShouvikNYC about technology, digital publishing, and all the madness of the startup life. He is crazy enough to share his Manhattan apartment with a 170 lbs. Saint Bernard.

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.

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

17 7 / 2013

2.8.5 App Release Update

image

Earlier this summer, the 2.8 version of our apps went live on the iTunes App Store. This update featured our brand new Clippings functionality. Clippings is a fun way for readers to share content with one tap. Our initial release included the ability to share Clippings via Facebook, Twitter and Email. With 2.8.5 we are happy to announce that we’ve extended this functionality to Pinterest as well.

Clippings and Pinterest are really a match made in heaven. Pinterest has quickly become one of the fastest growing social networks in the world. Now with just a tap of your thumb and pointer finger on the iPad screen, MAZ apps allow users to perfectly capture that new must-have gadget or beautiful cocktail dress from the pages of their favorite magazine, straight to their pinboards.

image

We’ve worked very hard to make the experience of pinning Clippings from MAZ apps to Pinterest completely seamless. It is truly nostalgic of what we loved about print editions, sitting around with our trusty scissors and cutting out all the things that inspired us about the world. We hope you are excited as we are about the beginnings of Clippings and where we intend to take it in the future.

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!