Google, Apple & Texture Trigger Latest Trend in Digital Publishing -- Disaggregated Content
Every six months, we at Next Steps Marketing put together a Digital Magazine Dashboard to bring you the latest trends in digital publishing from an audience perspective. You can read our recent blog about the publishing trends we’ve dubbed the Big Loser and Big Winner from the latest Dashboard. But what I want to dive into in this post is a significant strategic shift for three major players in the media industry -- Apple, Google, and Texture (formerly Next Issue Media). I’m calling that shift chunking, or disaggregating magazine content.
Google was the first to monetize disaggregated content through Google News, years before disaggregation gained momentum as a trend. Google News began as a free addendum to selling magazines on the Google platform. It was where readers could go to view content publishers were willing to put up for free. The tradeoff: publishers get traffic coming from Google News, which they hope to translate to revenue through ad sales or upsells; Google News gets free content to feed their revenue beast -- advertising.
What made disaggregating magazine content an actual trend, was when Apple -- a company that traditionally made its money through selling products not advertising -- created Apple News for iOS9 this year. Apple News, like Google News, is an RSS feed that the consumer fills with categories of free content. Publishers give away this content in a lead gen play. Their goal is to attract readers through the well-designed Apple News platform and covert those readers into paying subscribers.
Meanwhile, to be clear, publishers continue to create the great content from which Google and Apple are directly profiting.
Now, we get to the third player in this trend, Texture. Texture is the big digital publishing winner of 2015. While paid digital subscriptions are more or less flat and sponsored subscriptions are down, single copy sales, 88% of which are on Texture, are up. And they’re up quite a bit.
Texture’s model is different than any other digital magazine sale. Rather than purchasing a magazine, a consumer chooses an array of titles they’d like to read over the month, pays a flat rate for those titles, and has access to them throughout the month. Publishers are not paid when the consumer chooses the title, but are paid by the minutes the consumer spends reading that particular magazine. In other words, they are paid by engagement. This is something that most publishers have been loath to do, as it breaks so dramatically from print magazine models. But, according to publishers that I’ve worked with who are on Texture, the model is working. Revenue is climbing, and single copy sales are climbing.
This makes it all the more interesting that Texture is also going to a “disaggregated” model. As explained to me by a publisher, Texture employees pore over the magazines as they come in and pluck what they see as extraordinary content out. That content will be promoted throughout the site. Whether you choose the magazine or not, you as a consumer can read that article and you as a publisher will be paid for the amount of time the consumer spends reading that article. Clever.
How are these three implementations of disaggregated content, or magazine chunks, different? As you would expect:
- Google focuses on the advertising. It’s not a pretty site, but it’s effective for giving Google more content against which to sell advertising.
- Apple focuses on the experience. The articles look better than they do on Google News. In fact, they look a lot like they do on Flipboard, a software product that is eerily similar to Apple News. Like Google and Flipboard, Apple also sells advertising for publishers, or allows publishers to sell ads themselves.
- Texture actually offers something tangible in terms of revenue back to the publisher. If the reader does read the article, the publisher gets paid for it. No need to sell additional advertising against it, no need to give away articles for free.
Where this is leading for the publisher remains to be seen. Let’s watch it, shall we?
To get all the juicy details on digital publishing, download the Digital Magazine Dashboard here.
M. Thea Selby is a Principal in Next Steps Marketing, a San Francisco boutique firm that solves audience-building challenges in creative, customized way using practical "call-to-action" marketing techniques where the return is clearly measurable by clicks, online sign-ups, responses to direct mail, orders from partners, or sales at newsstand.
She was the 2010 Women's Leadership Conference Chair, is a co-founder and board member of Exceptional Women in Publishing—a national organization dedicated to supporting women in and through the power of online and print media—and is the former CEO and Publisher of Light Green Media, a digital publishing company.