Fast Company Reimagines the Digital Magazine for Big Phones


Digital magazines on tablets haven’t work. So one company is setting its sights on the new bigger-screen phone as a platform for magazine content.

“What could make the small screen more appealing than the large for consuming magazine content? In a word, availability,” writes Anthony Wing Kosner in Forbes.

“People have their phones with them all day long, and there are many interstitial moments in which they might want a quick dip into a high-quality story from a trusted brand. The rhythm of the phone, like the web, involves many touches a day. So unlike the issue model of traditional publishing, phone usage patterns are story-based and thrive on daily updates,” Kosner continues.

He gives a good summary of the challenges inherent in formatting magazines for easy consumption on digital and the industry’s lack of success so far. Then he gets into the details of the Fast Company app.

“What’s different is that the native app contains more navigation options and far more content,” Kosner explains. Those options include a series of splash screens; a feed of latest stories; and the mobile version of the print magazine issue.

That third option, he notes, has its problems.

“Although it receives somewhat privileged treatment compared to the ‘feed’ content, it is still highly formatted. There is some hierarchy created by the full-page splash screens that introduce each feature and more prominent typography of the magazine departments compared to the online-only stories. Mainly, though, the print content is distinguished by its length. In this case, the feed paradigm is not clearly better than the paged paradigm of previous digital magazines.”

The technology sounds good – fast loads, easy reads – and the marketing tie-in is strong with Big Data all over it. But as Kosner himself notes, there’s still a big challenge for digital publishers.

“Some readers will find this new Adobe app experience enjoyable enough to pay for, but many will want free, ad-supported, content.”

And with digital magazine ad revenues tepid, this might be a tough road.

“Ultimately, it’s about the quality of the content on the publisher side and the engagement that can be captured on the marketing side that determine success.”