You know the story. A struggling publication creates its own App, submits it to Apple's iTunes Store, gets accepted, receives some free publicity, consumers read it, like it, and subscribe. And the publication is saved!
That's a great story. But it's not our story.
No, this is the story of a 30 year old travel industry publication that has gone through multiple juggling acts in its time to survive, but came to what everyone agreed was the end with the most recent recession. As its advertisers abandoned ship in a struggling economy, it could no longer pay the printing bill, or the mailing and distribution costs necessary to continue.
"Byways magazine has gone through several transformations in its lifetime," says editor and publisher Stephen M. Kirchner. "We always managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat at the last minute to keep going, but this recession should have been the end."
The demise of Byways would have been a shame. While other publications focused on the travel destinations of the rich and famous, Byways had built a niche covering the destinations in North America located along the highways and byways of the United States and Canada. Places like Branson and Pigeon Forge, and great American roads like Rt. 66 and the Lincoln Highway, where people drove on vacations, traveled in RVs, rode on motorcycles, or took motorcoach tours.
As the bills mounted, and the advertising disappeared, Kirchner, like so many others in publishing, was desperate.
"We were ready to grasp at any straws," he says, "and the most logical were the many solicitations we had received for turn-key on-line publishing." Kirchner decided to give it one last shot, and choose a vendor to put up one turn-key issue and hope for the best.
Byways uses Quark for layout and design, and when it realized it could produce the issue in the same fashion as it had produced the printed version, Byways decided to go for it, Kirchner says.
But Kirchner made one last decision which, in his view, was his most important.
"We killed the print version," he says. "We saw many others trying to sustain their print overhead by giving away their digital versions".
"We realized that digital was the future. If you give away your future to try and sustain your past, the game is over."
So in January of 2010 Byways magazine relaunched as an all digital, turn-key magazine on the internet. Its life as a print publication ended after 27 years. Byways only had a few of its advertisers remaining, but it retained those by cutting its advertising rates by 50 percent and promising an expanded email distribution on-line.
While Byways had always been a half-size 4-color publication, the larger screen size allowed Byways to create new, full-size spreads on-line that were never possible in print.
"When we first saw Byways in turn-key format on line, it was beautiful," Kirchner says. "It gave us the determination to keep going."
When Byways launched in January of 2010, there was no such thing as an iPad. There were only rumors of some new device coming from Apple that could possibly change the magazine business.
So Byways slowly built its turn-key business, targeting its primary audience of tour operators and group tour travel planners, retail travel agencies and the travel trade.
At the same time, Byways became more interested in the iPad and what it could do as a new distribution platform.
"We were intrigued, but also aware that the cost of building an App was way beyond our limited means," he says.
"But we also knew the iPad could become the new standard for digital publishing, and somehow we needed to be involved," Kirchner says.
He knew he needed to jumpstart advertising to have any chance of involvement with the iPad, and then an idea hit him.
"If we were going to risk our future on the iPad, we needed to educate our current and new advertisers about the iPad. You can't expect to sell an advertisement on an iPad to someone who has never used an iPad."
So in January 2011 Byways announced it would start bundling 16GB WiFi Apple iPad 2s with all new advertising contracts. As Kirchner looks back, that was the decision that saved Byways.
The program took off quickly, and there was great interest from advertisers.
By the end of the year Byways had distributed more than $20,000 in iPads to its new advertisers, and gained a loyalty and following that continues today.
It continues to bundle the new iPad with Retina display.
"Our goal in 2012 is to provide 100 iPads to Byways advertisers," Kirchner says.
But with the advertising problem easing, there was still the problem of how to produce an App for the App Store and get issues onto it.
That solution came from Quark, and the new Quark App Studio Publishing Portal announced in late 2011.
"We have stuck with Quark for nearly 25 years," Kirchner says, "and at the time we needed their help and support most, they came through with an affordable alternative for us, one which allowed us to use the layout and design tools we already know, and to build not only issues readable on an iPad, but the App to host them as well."
Byways includes slide shows, sounds, videos, scrolling and as much interactivity as possible, that was never available in print, and does not work well in the turn-key version.
"We built our app to encourage the consumer to explore the live links in both editorial and advertising. Unlike the web, the reader can never leave the magazine page they are on as the close button takes the reader right back to the Byways page on which they started," Kirchner says. "When advertisers see this, they get very excited."
"The support we have received from Quark, starting with Matthias Guenther in Germany and continuing with Trevor Alyn in Colorado, has been outstanding, and far more than we could have hoped to receive," Kirchner says.
The Byways App - bywaysapp 1.1 - is now in its second version, having been approved by Apple in January 2012, with the update approved in March, 2012. It is a free app to download. It includes a free issue for the reader to review before deciding if they want to read more issues.
The latest upgrade provides the option to purchase a single issue - for 99 cents - or to subscribe for 6 months, for the same 99 cents. In addition, all back issues remain available for new subscribers, so they not only get the new issue but past issues as well.
Byways is still producing the turn-key version, and has no plans to stop. The turn-key version is still targeted at the trade, while the App Store version is available to consumers who love to travel in the USA and Canada.
All advertising is contained in both versions - at no additional cost to the advertiser --and they still receive the bundled iPad.
When advertisers use their iPads to show their advertisements in Byways to their customers, you know how powerful this ecosystem is becoming, Kirchner says.
Kirchner hopes that with a little publicity, Byways will generate a following of iPad users who love to travel on the highways and byways of North America.
"Perhaps one day we can say that it was not only the iPad which saved Byways, but a band of loyal iPad users who love to read travel magazines as well."
bywaysapp 1.1 is Free and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Travel category.
via PR Mac