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Journals – made for mobile?

December 11, 2012 • Opinion

The global move to digital publishing is great news for academic and industry journals.

Snapplify CEO Wesley Lynch (image: file)

Mobile apps on tablets and smartphones remove much of the cost of producing and distributing print copies, open up new revenue opportunities, increase the addressable markets of publishers, and enrich content opportunities.

Huge prospect

Trade and academic journals have been around for hundreds of years. The amount of content from the medical, legal and other professions, as well as academia, is staggering.

The mobile app model presents a golden opportunity to make these treasure troves of information broadly available to their captive markets, both at lower cost than print, and with significant new revenue opportunities. Best of all, apps give journal publishers global reach.

Well-suited

The journal reading market is ready for digital content consumption. Typically it comprises affluent early adopters of technology who expect their content providers to innovate.

The multimedia capabilities of tablets, for instance, make it easier for journals to fulfil their learning role. Reading up on a knee operating procedure cannot compare to watching a video on it, and mobile makes this possible. While video formats have been available online for a long time, mobile content has the advantage of not requiring live connectivity once downloaded.

Journal content further merits collection in app libraries by virtue of its quality. Whether generated by institutions or within the professions, the standard of content is often of reference or near-reference quality. This makes back issues more relevant than those of many mainstream periodicals, a fact that has seen many practitioners maintaining personal libraries over the years.

Today’s mobile hardware shrinks vast digital catalogues onto a slim portable format, many times more cost-effectively than the price of acquiring rare print issues.

Everything is in place

A new generation of mobile content specialists have the tools to do instant, low-cost conversion of current publications and back catalogues, in whatever format.

They offer platforms for uploading content to ready-made distribution networks in the form of app stores such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

Once in the app catalogue, journal material can easily be monetised (or offered as value-add). The existing payment mechanism of app stores can be adopted by new publishers and offered to their readers, making it easy to monetise their product.

The prevailing payment model for mobile apps is subscriptions. The subscription model has long been used in the journal publishing field, and is set to continue in a digital context. They are cost-effective, which will suit journals perfectly as back issues or entire back catalogues can now be disseminated cost effectively – an enormous cost advantage over print.

Act now

All considered, many new avenues of opportunity are opening up for journal publishers, and they can be seized with the minimum effort or investment.

Staff writer

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