Research on regional magazines and their mobile approach

For the final project, my team is working with Tiger Oak Media to develop a mobile strategy. Tiger Oak publishes many local magazines, including Seattle Magazine. They currently do not have a mobile optimized site, although it does render onto the iPhone cleanly. They also do have an iPad app, which is a PDF of the most current issue. As part of my research, I have been actively searching out other regional magazine from across the country. My goal is to get a better feel for how many of the publications are providing mobile users with optimized mobile sites and/or mobile apps. I’ve been surprised to by my findings thus far. It seems as though this is an industry that hasn’t yet embraced the potential increased reach that a mobile strategy can provide if executed well.

The only major metropolitan magazine that automatically redirected me to a mobile optimized site was New York Magazine.  I searched for the magazine from my iPhone and was automatically redirected to m.nymag.com. The layout was clean, with the mobile user context clearly in mind during the design development. The interface provides access to five of the primary blogs – Daily Intel (news), Vulture, Grub Street, The Cut (fashion) and The Sports Section.  The videos played without any problems as well, which is a great feature for the phone. The one obvious function that was missing was a way to share/like articles on Facebook. Social media and mobile really go hand-in-hand, so hopefully that functionality will be built into the site in the future.

San Francisco Magazine offers a free iPhone application. I wasn’t able to find it in my initial search, because I searched for San Francisco Magazine. The iTunes store showed zero matching apps so I searched online and discovered there is no space in the apps name. After searching for SanFrancisco Magazine, I found the app and easily downloaded it to my phone. The app includes the four most current issues at no charge. One feature that I enjoyed was that it gives the option to view the issue you are going to read online or you can download it.  If you are going to have Internet access, it can be viewed online without using up data by downloading the whole issue. However, if you are going to be without connectivity, the download functionality is quite nice. The app is really just a reader and doesn’t provide special search functionality to the consumer. For example, a reader can’t search for recommended boutiques or restaurants, which would be a nice utilitarian feature.

This exercise was quite beneficial as I begin to think about the best approach for Tiger Oak Media. It makes me question why more local publications haven’t created a mobile optimized site or useful utilitarian app. Is the industry just slightly behind the curve or is there a fear that they wont see healthy return on their investment?

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  1. #1 by Kelly McIvor on May 7, 2011 - 7:21 pm

    I’m really surprised that the app couldn’t be found by typing in the actual name of the publication. No spaces? What is that about? Wouldn’t any reasonable person include the spaces? Is this something that’s imposed by iTunes/Apple?

  2. #2 by ssglazer on May 19, 2011 - 12:26 am

    That is a great exercise! It is always surprising to me how hard it is to find apps that exist on the iTunes store. I have had this happen to numerous companies and wonder how to remedy that… Perhaps I will write my next blog on that!

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