iPad edition breathes new life into British Journal of Photography

By Chris Lee

The British Journal of Photography (BJP) is one of the longest-running print magazines in the UK, launched in 1854. Given the challenging pressures on print media, the magazine looked to expand onto the growing tablet PC market by launching its iPad edition in autumn 2011. Within the first three months and just two editions selling at £7 per issue, the magazine had achieved 100,000 downloads.

By May 2012 this figure had reached 150,000 and the magazine had won “Best Use of Mobile” at the British Media Awards. The print magazine editions received just 7,846 readers, highlighting even further the impact that the transition to a digital format has made to the BJP. This respected, but flagging, niche publication has been transformed into the most popular download in the Apple iTunes photo and video collection. It has also expanded its reach overseas, with download rates in excess of 2,000 per day recorded in the US.

NMK caught up with the people behind the success story.

Completely new digital personality

The BJP’s iPad edition is far from solely a PDF duplicate of the print edition. Created in touch screen publishing platform Mag+, the BJP digital edition is 300 pages long, hosts video and multimedia, social sharing and soundtracks to engage global audiences with photography in new ways, its creators say.

The BJP’s publisher Incisive Media initially designed a complete digital edition in the Adobe publishing suite, but scrapped its prototype after seeing Mag+. Advertisers including Absolut Vodka, Samsung, Nikon and Hasselblad have also joined, leading advertising yields to jump 50 per cent higher than for the print edition. To achieve this success, for a magazine produced four times a year, Incisive grew the BJP team by just two.

Tom Royal is Tablet Development Manager of iPad Publishing at Incisive Media, joining from a background in technology journalism in 2010.

“As news about the arrival of iPad broke, we grew increasingly enthusiastic about the possibilities of putting our magazines on it,” Royal said. “The British Journal of Photography was an obvious choice as our first title to launch, given the gorgeous image quality of the iPad’s screen. But our choices had to fit into an over-arching strategy for the group. Given the flexibility and efficiency offered by Mag+ this was easy to do.”

A growing problem for the BJP was that it did not have enough room for even a fraction of the photographs that the editors wanted to include in each issue. And so, in 2010, the magazine underwent its most radical makeover since inception. It was re-designed as a larger, monthly, glossy magazine.

It was during this re-design phase that its editors and art staff began to plan for an entirely new launch, free from the restrictions of print, Royal explained.

“We set out to create a brand new version of BJP, bringing the heritage and high production values of the print magazine along, while presenting each story in a new way that can’t be achieved on paper – with as much room as we needed for photos, plus a chance to showcase video work,” he said.

New format challenges

The parameters set for the new tablet edition included publishing quarterly, packing each issue with expanded versions of print stories plus entirely new content and obeying the same rules as those for print: never cropping photos, for example, and never covering them with text.

The design team also wanted to make the best possible use of the iPad’s touch screen and to add touchable, interactive controls. Even though a simple ‘page turner’ edition would have been easy to produce, the team believed that iPad readers wouldn’t get any real advantage as a result.

“We took about two months building concept pages, and ended up with a complete dummy issue made with the Adobe publishing suite. We were ready to go ahead and launch but then we saw Mag+,” Royal added.

The main draw of Mag+ was the user experience. The BJP team wanted to be able to move between landscape and portrait on each page, as iPad readers would expect it to work.

The app has almost three times the print readership already and this is growing fast. Since the September launch, the app had more than 150,000 downloads. It is also making money – it costs £6.99/€7.99/$9.99. BJP is selling both subscriptions and one-off extra publications.

Incisive Media has since decided to use Mag+ to create a digital edition of its ComputerActive title.

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