The MAZ Blog

Updates and thoughts about technology, media, apps, and entrepreneurship - written by the MAZ team.

2014 Conversion Rates: Industry vs. MAZ

The 2014 industry average conversion rate for turning free downloads into paid content downloads or issue subscriptions is 5%. We calculated our average conversion rate using data from app downloads, content downloads, subscriptions and revenue.

Data showed that entertainment publications on MAZ regularly log a 20% conversion rate or higher. Within entertainment apps, the conversion rate is 3X better than the industry average, and our highest performing MAZ entertainment app has a 40% conversion rate for 2014!

Interested to know more? Stay tuned for more MAZ 2014 data!


Tags: Access, App, Business, Design, Digital, MAZ, Magazines, Mobile, Publishing, Startup, Storefront, Tablet, Timed, iOS8

Timed Access Is Here!

Following on the heels of our redesigned storefront, we are excited to introduce Timed Access, a revolutionary new feature that allows users to preview paid content free of charge, for a given period of time.

For most publishers, only a small number of free app downlaods ever convert into paid users. Inspired by other app categories like games that leverage the “freemium” model, our intent is to help publishers convert more of their free downloads into paying customers by giving them another option: to browse for free.

Timed Access is the first of its kind in digital publishing: users can browse paid content, unrestricted, for an allotted period of time selected by the publishers. After the time runs out, users are then promopted to purchase the issue or subscribe in order to continue reading.

Imagine a magazine store in the airport to see the same thing happening offline.

For more information, read our full press release, and make sure to update your iOS devices to check out our new features!


Tags: Access, App, Business, Design, Digital, MAZ, Magazines, Mobile, Publishing, Startup, Storefront, Tablet, Timed, iOS8

Register Now for Free Webinar: Driving Conversions and Revenue for Digital Magazines

Register now for a free webinar with Paul Canetti, Founder and CEO of MAZ, and Chris Tarrow, Director of Tablet Publishing at American Media Inc. on Wednesday, November 5th at 2pm ET/11am PT.

They’ll be discussing challenges that many publishers face today: how to convert app downloads to paying customers? How to increase app engagement with push notifications, content hubs, incentives and more? How to measure success of digital magazines?

Speaking from first-hand experience, American Media Inc. will delve into their own experience with these challenges and how they worked together with MAZ to develop new and innovative ways to boost engagement and increase conversions for their publications: OK! Magazine, Star Magazine, National Enquirer, Country Weekly, and Soap Opera Digest.

Sign up to listen to their actionable advice followed by a live Q&A.


Tags: American, Android, App, Canetti, Conversions, Country, Digest, Digital, Enquirer, MAZ, Magazine, Magazines, Media, Mobile, National, OK!, Opera, Paul, Revenue, Soap, Star, Tablet, Webinar, Weekly, iOS

MPA vs. MAZ Brand Audience Report

The MPA recently announced their Brand Audience Report, a detailed study of major magazine brands and a comparison of unique audienceship growth and loss from August 2013 to August 2014 in Print + Digital Editions, Web, Mobile Web, and Video.

We compared the performance of 161 MAZ titles to the 147 MPA titles calculating the average change in growth/loss of unique users per title, as well as the average percent of overall growth across the set of titles for both.

What we found is that growth of unique users across all MPA’s titles amounted to just over 2%* for the year. The total growth of unique users across all MAZ platform apps was a 68% increase over the year. Furthermore, the average change in growth for the MAZ platform apps showed a 374% growth, while the MPA titles resulted in under 2%* growth over that exact same period.

If you’re looking to outperform the average MPA title, go no further! Contact us today for a free demo!

*Note: MPA growth, loss and average calculations includes print circulation. MAZ does not handle print circulation, our statistics only include digital edition circulation numbers.


Tags: App, Business, Digital, MAZ, MPA, Magazines, Mobile, Publishing, Startup, Tablet

DuJour Magazine: Bringing Luxury Print to Digital Life

About 2 years ago, I had the privilege of joining a very talented group that was tasked to bring the vision of DuJour Magazine to life. It was a very exciting and fulfilling journey that gave birth to a beautiful, luxury print magazine. Fast forward and here we are marking our 10th issue, which comes out mid-November. As many of you know, start-up environments require employees to wear many, many hats, so the opportunity to create the App version of the print edition, fortuitously fell into my lap. After much consideration and due diligence, the obvious choice was to work with MAZ to host and help optimize the content.

I took it as my personal responsibility and goal to breathe life into the print version, and not just convert it to digital, but make it completely engaging and interactive so that consumers can experience the full capabilities of a digital product. Fortunately, MAZ makes the process quite seamless and turnkey. The conversion starts with the PDF file and working closely with my printer, we established the right balance of resolution and size that would allow for a reasonable download time of each issue.

MAZ helped me establish a presence on the iTunes store where the DuJour Magazine app is a free download, but then the rest was up to me. The powerful and intuitive tools in MAZ have allowed me to single-handedly expand the passive consumption of a magazine and provide an entertaining, and in many cases, a useful experience. Consumers aren’t just reading, they are engaging. Now, they can complete the path to purchase, clip and share with friends, link directly to a featured URL, post on social media and more. And, with every flip of a page, a new adventure is waiting to begin.

As I became more familiar with the process and studied the stats that are available in the MAZ solution, I could easily see what was working, and what was not. Based on the metrics, I am able to adjust and optimize to create a better experience. From strategic use of icon, with no impact to the page design, to the simple press on a page to show the invisible links, consumers are engaging and spending more time with the product. The numbers speak for themselves as we continue to see the App grow in popularity and key engagement numbers – time spent, pages turned, etc.

The App, and all of the interactive elements made possible by the MAZ tools, have allowed me to continually expand the footprint of DuJour and effectively link the print product with our website. For example the “Featured Content” tool allows me to take the readers directly to Dujour.com on a daily or weekly basis. And, the “Notification” tool allows me actually speak directly to the app users, and alert them of new content, or special updates, and links. Both create great sponsorship opportunities for our advertising partners.

There’s so much more that I can say about this new, expanding world that leverages the DuJour assets in such an efficient, turnkey way. But, simply put, the opportunities are endless as we continually collaborate with MAZ to deliver a better user experience, stronger brand awareness, and new revenue streams for DuJour.

Download Dujour Magazine on iOS, Amazon, or Google today!

Shawn Lowe is Vice President of Production for DuJour Media. Follow DuJour @DuJourMedia.


Tags: App, Digital, DuJour, Fashion, Lifestyle, Luxury, MAZ, Magazine, Publishing

Reimagining the Future of Mobile and Tablet Magazines for iOS 8

Following on the heels of the new iOS 8 release, we are excited to announce a complete overhaul of our 1,000s of apps with a complete redesign and reconstruction of the storefront experience!

Reimagined Storefront: The storefront not only looks different, it feels different. With a modern, gesture-based flow, users can now flip through content in the beautiful stack view, mimicking the experience of browsing a pile of magazines on a coffee table. The frosted interface and large play buttons relay a sense of performance, as if interacting with a video or music app.

Cross-Platform Monetization: We’ve also revamped the customer purchasing journey with all new purchase and preview buttons, full page previews, and subscription tear cards, driving more revenue for publishers. All apps offer free content previews with targeted marketing tools aimed to convert more people into paid users.

Ad and Sponsorship Opportunities: There are also amazing new ways to monetize in our apps with our new interactive carousel dynamic ad banners that can be sold as prime inventory to advertisers.

For more information, read our full press release, and make sure to update your iOS devices to iOS 8 to check out our new apps!


Tags: App, Business, Design, Digital, MAZ, Magazines, Mobile, Publishing, Startup, Storefront, Tablet, iOS8

Building a Visual Language for iOS 8

MAZ – Building a Visual Language for iOS 8

Over the last year, the app marketplace has had time to mature. During that time, we took note of emerging trends. After a lot of work, we are very proud to present our new visual language — a system of communication using visual elements. The new 5.0 apps now have a well balanced design that communicates simply while being aesthetically pleasing. The three guiding words we choose to keep our designs on track are: lightness, simplicity and elegance.

iOS 8

The launch of iOS 7 sent tremors through the design community. Not only had Apple radically redesigned their user interface by removing skeuomorphic (real world elements and textures) from their design language, they had also set the standard that the world would use to define the modern mobile user interface experience.

The Flat Design style first started to gain momentum with the introduction of Swiss Design in the 1950’s. This design trend emphasized cleanliness, readability and objectivity which relied on grids and geometry to solve their size, position and layout challenges. The basic idea that propelled Swiss Design was the emphasis that artwork communicates with design rather than embellishment. The Swiss Design movement migrated aesthetic beauty to functionality design.

The seeds of flat design in the digital age first germinated with Microsoft’s Metro design and Palm webOS (both from 2008). As with everything Apple, they reworked the trend into a cohesive set of design rules for the modern age.

MAZ Storefront Design

In 2013, MAZ redesigned the storefront when Apple released iOS 7. That redesign focused on brining a new look to the apps, with the emphasis on the publisher’s content and up weighting the prominence of the covers and the social network icons. Wherever possible, we included the latest research in sales psychology in the design to help the user make a purchasing decision.

Now in 2014 with the introduction of iOS 8, we had the opportunity to further simplify the app’s user interface. We have completely redesigned our storefront and introduced a few new elements to the apps. At first glance you can see that we have changed the color scheme from dark to light and added transparency to some of the elements. The newest addition to the user interface is the large “Play button” that has multiple uses that will be explained further down. We moved the publisher’s social networking icons, Stream icon, subscriptions and settings buttons to the bottom menu. This menu is now easily accessible for a user while holding the device and navigating with a single hand. All of the major functions can be accessed on this easy-to-use menu.

The Social Icons

MAZ has the ability to connect 10 of the publisher’s social networks. Historically these icons have been placed on the side of the screen next to the issue’s cover image, taking up valuable screen real estate. They have been moved into the bottom menu to make more space for larger covers.

The icons are now also scrollable from side to side if there are more then 6 icons presented. A scrolling boundary was added to the left and right of the icon set for cases where the publication has more then 6 icons. This enabled us to use a finite amount of space for the icons and still keep the design balanced.

The Stack and Grid Views

With this update we took inspiration from the living room coffee table with a stack of magazines on it. A digital stack of magazines is a new take on this metaphor whereby the user can flick the stack to reorder the issues. The left flick gesture moves the top issue to the bottom, and the right flick gesture moves the bottom issue to the top. We broke from the traditional approach of presenting the stack as a neat collection of magazines and chose instead to mess them up a little. The randomness of covers behind the top cover helps to convey that there are other items below the top one. All covers below the top one are presented slightly transparent in an effort to help the user look ‘through’ the stack to identify the cover they are looking.

In cases where the user needs to get to a specific cover quickly they can use the ‘pinch in’ gesture to change from stack view to the grid view.

Adaptive Backgrounds

The background image of the app is a blurred version of the top issue of the stack. This helps to theme the app with the colors found in the publisher’s cover photographs. A subtle animation that cross-fades between the background images can be seen when the stack covers are reorganized. The addition of this very subtle effect to the app changes the overall look of the app. This means that every app looks different even though it is running on the same software.

The Banner

Banners have been one of the most requested additions to our platform. We were faced with the challenge of creating a banner system that was easy to create content for and upload. Currently MAZ needs to support a total of 13 iOS devices with a mix of both portrait and landscape orientations. A traditional approach would call for the publisher to create one banner for each device width and orientation – something that is not feasible if you want to get a banner onto these platforms quickly.

Our solution is the MAZ One Banner. We adopted a new standard that both Apple (featured apps) and Youtube (channel banners) are using whereby only one piece of high resolution artwork is created and uploaded. The app then crops and resizes this banner live according to the device’s screen width and orientation. The main graphic content is placed in the center safe area of the banner and the edges can be cropped as needed.

One more challenge is the multiple resolution artwork needed as Apple increases their pixel per inch (PPI) screen density. The web standards for banner artwork set out by the IAB are all measured at 72 PPI which would not work for Apple’s modern devices. Apple’s Retina uses a screen density of 326 PPI and the new iPhone 6 Plus of 401 PPI. The MAZ One Banner caters for all of these different screen densities with a single high resolution file – so you can design and deploy faster without worrying about any reduction in quality regardless of your readers choice of device.

Subscriptions

The 5.0 update gave us the opportunity to rethink the subscriptions work flow. Our main intention was to refine the storefront and contain all of the buttons in a single menu at the bottom of the app. All of the subscriptions options are now located in a single second level menu which is also where users can unlock their existing purchases.

Subscriptions Options and Existing Subscribers

The subscription options been totally rethought and redesigned. A lot of time went into finding a good balance between purchasing psychology and design. We believe that these changes will help publishers to get more subscription conversions.

Ergonomics – Including your hand in the design

The idea of measuring the human form and its relationship to design is central to the field of ergonomics — using numbers to inform design solutions is considered the hallmark of functional design. This can be seen in products that fit your body comfortably, like a well designed chair that reshapes itself to fit the contours of your body for example. Apple pays a lot of attention to the ergonomics when they create devices that fit into your hand and pocket seamlessly. All of the physical styling on their devices have been painstakingly designed and redesigned to best fit the average person’s hand comfortably. Every physical element on their devices: the screen, the buttons, the speakers, power jack etc, is large enough to be useful while staying small enough and well positioned enough to remain unobtrusive.

Ergonomics crosses from the physical device into user interface design when we consider how people interface with a flat screen. The designer’s role is to fill that flat screen with elements that the user can touch and manipulate. So often user interface designers lack the ergonomic training to create a truly useful interface – this is not the same as a pretty interface. The interface’s main elements should be easily accessible with a single hand or finger. Successfully designing within these limitations is a challenge that helps the end user to better connect with the software, which in turn makes the software more useful. At every step of the way we make sure that the interfaces that we are designing are easy to use — regardless of the device’s screen size.

We conducted many tests with multiple devices to see if the average person’s fingers could comfortably reach the primary elements and iterate based on that feedback.

The Play Button

While working on the design of the new app it became evident that we needed to combine multiple feedback messages into a single graphic — this was done in an effort to clean the use interface up. The new ‘Play Button’ contains two elements, the first is the large circle that shows feedback on the current state of the app. The second is the Call To Action (CTA) button which offers the user purchasing options that change depending on the type of content being offered.

The Tear Card

We took inspiration for the digital Tear Card directly from paper magazines. The Tear Card offers readers the ability to purchase or subscribe when they are reading a free preview of the magazine. We explored many options to sell the issue/subscription from inside the magazine, but none of them suited the format better then this one. The page below is frosted to place the readers focus on the Tear Card. They can be dismissed either by dragging the card downwards, tapping on the card or the background. We added a tearing sound to bring it all to life.

A lot of hardwork and thought has gone into this update, and we’re so excited to share it with you. Download a MAZ publication today to see our new visual language on your iPad or iPhone!

Mark Carroll is the Lead UX/UI Designer in the MAZ New York office. Follow him on Twitter @markcmaz


Tags: Design, Digital, MAZ, Magazines, Publishing, Startup, iOS, iPad, iPhone

Interview With QA

Interview with Yogesh Khatri: Yogesh Khatri does Quality Assurance in Noida, India for MAZ. He has been with the company for a year, and previously worked at Adobe Systems. Follow him on Twitter @ykhatri.

1) What are the challenges for a QA team in the app industry?

In a fast paced industry like Mobile IT, QA has many challenges. With such a variety of mobile devices like iPad, iPhone, Android, Amazon and different OS versions, QA has to ensure timely updates in conjunction with a stable release. Often changes are made up until the day of a release, and QA must cater for all these aspects and try out all user scenarios to find any issues.

2) Why did you move from Adobe to MAZ? What kind of differences do you observe from a large company to a startup?

I worked with Adobe since the beginning of my career. It’s a great company, but I moved to MAZ to contribute in the startup sector and work on mobile technology. We are able to experiment, innovate, and release products at a fast pace, which keeps me engaged and always learning.

3) What differences are there to look for when you test on iOS versus Amazon and Android?

There are many differences, and trust me on Amazon-testing is no fun. Android is very different as it is activity based implementation. On Android, we have to certify it for many different devices with all possible resolution supported like ldpi,mdpi,hdpi and xhdpi. That is definitely a big challenge. On iOS, as we have complete different code base and completely different experience, so testing has to happen while keeping those core iOS concepts in mind.

4) What changes did you see testing for iOS 8? What was interesting about working with a new OS?

For iOS8, there was major impact of rotation issues as xCode6 changed its interpretation of X, Y positioning. Hence, we had to do lot of testing around device rotation and make the product stable. Otherwise, there were no major changes incorporated as of now, and it was smoother. Here is a glimpse of one such bug which was observed with stable SW build on iOS8 and we addressed such issue and made specific release for iOS8.


Tags: Android, Assurance, Developer, Digital, Google, MAZ, Magazines, Publishing, QA, Quality, Startup, iOS

Starting at a Start-Up

I’m not someone who experiments starting at startups. A year ago, I was a college graduate fighting amidst the lot to get through somewhere after being delayed to join one of the leading MNC’s of India. So, I ended up at MAZ and now am one of those who crave to be at startups.

In retrospect, I now understand the importance and benefits of the extreme exposure that I have had with MAZ. Only very recently did I begin to witness the two prominent commonalities between both MAZ and I. While, MAZ can’t speak about my growth, I can speak about MAZ’s growth. Just a year back, which is a short stint of time, I have actually seen a nonliving thing grow, expand and flourish. I did not realize how raw things were when I joined and how strong and robust these have become in front of me.

Getting the opportunity to work closely with the billionaire publishers of the world was bewildering at first, but now it has just become another thing to be done in a day. I do not want to sound stereotypical by repeating the lines that “you learn a lot in a startup”, but at the same time I can’t tell you enough how true it is.

Today MAZ uses an amazing product by the name of “Stream”. It started as a concept to create a semi social forum where people connect through images that are web links. Now, it is a versatile and flexible product, highlighted by the fact that it can be used in almost any app in the form of an SDK. From our MAZ apps to Stream Web, we can showcase dynamic content through what we see, not what is in an address bar. For instance, 5 years back I would have shared www.nba.com/playerfile/lebron_james, but today I can share this:

Surprisingly, Lebron’s number and team have stayed the same, but sharing has come a long way. The result from idea to product is astonishing. This brings me to the other quality that MAZ has: innovation.

I read somewhere that “Being an entrepreneur does not necessarily mean being the CEO”. That is exactly what I’ve learned here. Ranging from freshers to experienced, everyone is expected and encouraged to innovate.

Interacting with masters of QA, iOS, Android and Web is a learning curve that not only reflects their perspectives but also helps me to understand how a product lives its life.In India, the lack of tech startups is the result of inadequate market. For instance, magazines still lie on shelves, but hopefully with time, MAZ will put them in the digital newsstands.

Prateik Mahendra does Quality Assurance in Noida, India. Follow him on Twitter @prateikm


Tags: Android, Assurance, Developer, Digital, Google, MAZ, Magazines, Publishing, QA, Quality, Startup, iOS