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Does My Magazine Need Native iOS and Google Play Apps?

November 14, 2023

Question: Does my magazine need native apps for iOS and Android?

Short answer: If you have one and it’s profitable, yes. If you don’t have one, or you have one and it’s not profitable, you may want to consider whether or not you need native apps.

Keep reading for all the important considerations that will help you make the final call.

In this article I’d like to explore the pros and cons of publishers having an iOS and Google Play app. Just because eMagazines offer both services, it doesn’t mean we blindly tell each publisher they need apps in addition to our digital services. Each publisher, and their readers needs are very specific. We dig down and ask the tough questions, and then give our knowledgeable recommendation.

It should also be noted that our Digital Edition Platform is web-based. We send emails to notify your readers of new issues, and at subscription. These emails contain a link that takes a reader directly to their library, with no sign-in required.  This premium service we provide gives your readers the most streamlined way of accessing their subscription digitally.

Also, we do create native apps for many publishers that contain all the modern elements and layout you would expect in iOS and Google Play apps.

Two different kinds of publishers

Let’s first differentiate between the two different kinds of publishers we see: new and existing.

For existing publishers, who have been around since the inception of the first iPad, there was this feeling (that seems to be fading) that every magazine needed to have an iOS and a Google Play app.


For new publishers, a magazine app seems a novelty. If you don’t have a proven brand yet, the cost of having these apps doesn’t seem to justify producing them, if you don’t have a built-in audience to flock to an app to cover it’s cost. I would recommend a using our Digital Edition Platform as a starting point as a best practice.


Weighing the options…

I can tell you first-hand, that you don’t need a Google Play app. Let’s just address that elephant in the room right away. We’ve seen the numbers for years, and the readership on that platform is dismal, to put it mildly.


The reality to having an iOS magazine app comes with many caveats. However, as I said at the beginning, I’ll say again now. If you have an iOS app, and it pays for itself, or better yet, is profitable, you may want to keep it running. Let’s take a deeper dive into the challenges you face when having an app.


Challenge 1: What do your readers expect?

First, I would say you have a contingency of readers that have been getting your magazine in the mail since time began. They don’t read it digitally. To solve that, just give them digital for free with print. They will receive the email each month, and when their physical magazine is at home, and they aren’t, they may just start reading it digitally. Why deny this group access?


Secondly, I would say that readers expect all-access. It’s frustrating to have to pay for print, digital, website access, and access to the native apps separately. Publishers should provide and “All-Access” subscription.


However, having that all-access subscription does create another pain-point for publishers: the login. In the worst cases, you have a separate login for the website, the native app, and the web based app. You’ve now created yourself a customer service issue.


We address this issue at eMagazines in several ways. Your customers can sign in and subscribe through your fulfillment house, or your own in-house solution on your website. This same login can also unlock the website access. The email generated from eMagazines requires no login (though it is a log-in link), and finally, we can let the user sign into the iOS app with their subscriber account number located on the cover.


Challenge 2: The customer journey

Our Digital Edition Platform keeps things simple, and you see this email notification trend with most major publishers.


Explaining how to get access to the app has proven to be a challenge.


No one wants to have to read an entire paragraph of directions to start reading their magazine.

Asking a customer to click a link, download an app, find the login, and successfully login creates customer service churn. It’s really asking a lot from the reader.


Challenge 3: The reality

Apple takes 15% percentage of your sale. Not great.

You never know who your own readers are. You never get their email address.


Devil’s advocate: That other group of readers

For Challenge 3 above, this is a special group of your readers, and the reason you would want to keep your app up and running. These are readers, who like (love) your brand, found the app, installed it, purchased a subscription within the app, and read exclusively in the app. If there are enough of these readers, that actually make your app profitable, then yeah, keep up the good work!


What have we seen as an industry trend?

  • Publishers who only make iOS apps. This one has been going for a while. They just make an iOS app and don’t bother with Google Play.
  • Publishers sending the email notification and not promoting the apps. There have been a lot of publishers who have native apps, and readers can actually access their content in them. However, they don’t promote it in any way. Should a reader find the app, download it, and figure out they have access, fine. But they don’t invite that headache by telling them about it at subscription. They have the app up to address the group of readers who actually love using apps, as mentioned above.
  • Publishers who have (or have plans to) sunset their apps. Many publishers are now just picking up their toys and going home. We’ve seen this happening more and more recently. The amount of readers, and sales, just don’t add up. And by pulling the apps, they can contact the readers via a banner and actually collect their email and get them setup on their other digital services.
  • Publishers are leaving print, and opting for digital only. A lot of publishers are seeing the cost of actually printing the magazine, is no longer worth it. This is making them reexamine their digital offering to make it more robust and easy to access.
  • Publishers who are on Apple News + are actually making money. For those select few publishers that were invited to the Apple News + platform, they are seeing more revenue there than they ever made in their iOS app. Clearly this is the Apple platform that every publisher should strive for.


In Conclusion:

If you are an existing publisher that has an iOS or Google Play app, it is time to take inventory. How many people are using that app? What kind of revenue is it generating?

Publishers should also take a hard look at the customer journey. Is it an easy process for your readers to access your digital content?

And finally how do I bundle access to all of my content without making it a pain-point for the customer to get access?

Here at eMagazines, we solve publisher concerns like this everyday. We love helping you take a look at the bigger picture, and our solutions are catered to all the challenges and collective knowledge we’ve gained over the years.

Learn more about our native app development services for magazine publishers and reach out to us if you have any questions.