Digital Publishers Face Tough Road to Success in App Store

Calling the promise of an egalitarian newsstand “probably always a bit naïve,” D.B. Hebbard gives his take on the current state of the digital newsstand in his article in Talking New Media. And pay for play is the new name of the game.

It’s not that it’s impossible to get exposure in the Apple store and Newsstand, but the tight control over what gets promoted (i.e. what Apple believes will sell the most) makes it that much more of a challenge for the little guy looking to break out.

“The promise of an egalitarian newsstand where any publisher/developer could launch their own new digital publication and hope to reach their audience was probably always a bit naive. But the big platforms, led by Apple, have for years pushed this concept aggressively,” writes Hebbard.

Today that promise is a bit of contradiction.

“Apple wants developers and publishers to continue to develop first for the Apple ecosystem, while at the same time it wants to control what gets promoted inside the store limiting the store to what it feels will sell the most, moving the rest of the content off to the side where it will not confuse buyers. To do this, pay to play will become the name of the game,” Hebbard notes.

“In the end, this may benefit the big publishers who have the marketing resources to spend promotion dollars inside the various digital newsstands. But the world of B2B and regional publications cannot support this model. None of the big platform owners will share their user information, so being able to target readers, or qualify them, is not possible,” Hebbard continues.

In other words, promotion is the publisher’s problem, and if your audience doesn’t already know to look for you before they enter the store, good luck being discovered. Add to that the current disarray in the Newsstand, and the smaller (i.e. non-promoted) titles face a tough row to hoe.

Like Hebbard, we hope to see another digital newsstand platform that operates more democratically, where titles and apps are discovered based on their true merits, not the big-dollar marketing budgets that back them.