Guitar World Launches Lessons App, Boosting Mobile Video Strategy
It's difficult to discuss the future of the publishing business without at some point mentioning the words "mobile" and "video." Mobile devices have become the medium of choice for consuming content and online video continues to grow in popularity. According to the Adobe Digital Index, the number of online videos watched in 2014 was up 43% from the previous year. In the same period, the share of videos accessed via smartphones and tablets increased 59% and 29%, respectively.
And publishers have taken note of these dramatic trends, investing in content management systems for more nimble distribution of video assets and developing mobile apps and websites to better engage and monetize a largely untapped mobile audience.
Perhaps no better example of this shift in focus is Guitar World's move to chop up and repackage its large warehouse of video content for guitarists and guitar enthusiasts. While the brand was still owned by Future, Guitar World built a massive library of guitar lessons, comprising over 100 DVDs. NewBay Media acquired the magazine in 2012 and continued to sell the lesson DVDs on its ecommerce site. The DVDs include such titles as, "Mastering Arpeggios," "Rock Guitar 101," and "How to Play the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Electric Ladyland."
Though profitable, the model needed to change in order to keep with the times. "People aren't going to be using DVDs forever," says Crystal Hudson, consumer marketing director for NewBay. Hudson and Denise Robbins, NewBay's vice president and corporate director of audience development, recognized that there was a wider audience that the DVDs were completely missing and that opportunity motivated the launch of the Guitar World Lessons app. Released in January, the app currently offers approximately 20 lesson bundles -- a bundle equaling the content of one DVD -- and 200 individual lessons that range from 5 to 15 minutes in length. Users can stream lessons directly to their mobile device or computer and switch between devices without losing their place. "Our tagline is, 'Learn to play guitar anytime, anywhere.' We're providing a much more mobile experience," says Robbins.
Web- and mobile-optimized video enables Guitar World to reach a younger, digital-native generation, as well as further monetize its significant international audience. "Although we had digital magazine subscribers overseas, we had issues shipping physical products to them," says Robbins. "With the app they can finally access and purchase our lessons." And that international audience is significant: The Guitar World website attracts over one million unique international visitors each month, notes Robbins.
Finding an App Developer & Building the Infrastructure
Although Guitar World had the benefit of a deep well of content at its fingertips, it was still a challenge to convert those assets into mobile-friendly formats and develop the app and ecommerce platform through which to distribute lessons. Lacking the right in-house app development skills, NewBay looked for outside help.
Hudson and Robbins spent some time looking for the right vendor to convert their video assets and build the app and ecommerce platform. They settled on Giant Interactive because of the digital agency's unique expertise in both app development and video creation and distribution. The agency has developed websites, apps, and videos for Warner Brothers, Roadside Attractions, and Interscope Records.
For the lessons project, NewBay's production team edited the video internally, but Giant Interactive managed the rest of the project. The agency manages the storage of the assets as well as relationships with additional technology providers, such as the video streaming service.
Now that app development is complete, Guitar World is able to maintain and update the app using the content management system (CMS) Giant Interactive custom built. Guitar World will use the CMS to manage and distribute the assets that are essential to the app experience. These include the video lessons, as well as the accompanying PDFs that provide sheet music and video transcripts for users.
Of the 100 DVDs at Guitar World's disposal, only 20 have been converted and sold through the app so far, leaving plenty more video content to work with.
A New Payment Structure
With the new platform comes new opportunities to package and sell content. One of the biggest changes, notes Robbins, is the ability to try a lesson for free before purchasing the entire lesson bundle. "Try before you buy is huge I think. Being able to test your skill and see if this is the right level for you and the right type of instruction video I think is great."
Price was an important consideration as well. As a bundle, the lessons cost about $17, which is much higher than the average iTunes purchase. "People are used to paying $.99 for content on the iPad, and we didn't want to price ourselves out," says Robbins. Guitar World decided to sell individual lessons that cost $1.99 in addition to the bundled lessons.
With this price structure Hudson anticipates Guitar World will recoup its investment in 12 months. "We knew what we were earning off the DVDs so we knew what the potential was for the app," says Hudson. "We expect revenue to build slowly, since there is a lot of free content. Once users get through the trial period, though, we expect sales to pick up." After downloading the app, users will also be notified when new lessons are released, which Hudson and Robbins anticipate will spur further purchasing.
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