by Tara Knight
1 May 2013
Familiarity with Digital Publishing Suite
User level: All
Publishers using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to offer retail content have been asking for ways to improve reader onboarding. A new digital user who sees their favorite publication offered on the virtual newsstand can feel frustrated after downloading the app for the first time. They’re excited to see that it’s free to download, they tap the button to install, open the app, and then they’re faced with no content. At least, no immediate content is displayed, and the customer must first decide what to buy. There are multiple folios, or issues, available for purchase, and there might be a sample or back issue available to download for free. But that freebie doesn’t represent the latest, greatest content they saw advertised in the app store. They could purchase a single issue or a subscription… but the commitment scares them away.
To address this possibility of a missed customer, Adobe Digital Publishing Suite offers a number of ways to get free, premium content into the hands of a new or returning reader at the earliest point of entry. This extends the best marketing tool a publisher has to endear their reader—the content itself.
As of the January 2013 update, you can enable the First Folio Free feature so that for any new user launching your app for the first time, the most recent retail folio is available for download. You can also change settings in the DPS App Builder to allow the content to start downloading and open right away, which means that within seconds of downloading your app, your new readers are checking out your current issue.
For most if not all publishers, the goal is not to give something away for free just to be giving. You really want to capture a new audience and keep them as long-term subscribers. First Folio Free, when used alone, could result in a lot of free issues handed out and very few return customers, unless you have a way to target messaging and offers to your new, first-issue-free-entitled readers. There is a fantastic DPS offering that presents a call to subscribe within a folio—we’re calling it a Digital Blow-In—and when used in concert with the First Folio Free feature, you have the opportunity to market your subscription offerings to the new reader looking at your content for the first time.
When a new reader installs and launches an app that has First Folio Free enabled, as they’re browsing their free issue, the Digital Blow-In could be dispersed within the free issue much like the subscription-offer postcards (blow-ins) in a physical publication. You can insert this blow-in as a web overlay or HTML article in your folio that messages the reader based on their user status. So if your reader is brand new, just received their First Folio Free, is not a subscriber, and they come upon this blow-in, they’ll see a message that might read “Enjoying your free preview issue?” along with a button to subscribe that calls up the iTunes subscription dialog box for purchase completion.
Figure 1: The same web overlay displays different messages depending on how users obtain the folio.
But if they’re already subscribers, you don’t want to keep asking them to subscribe. Instead, your web overlay or HTML article could offer a different message.
Publishers can implement a Free Trial subscription via iTunes, set to the duration of the publisher’s choosing. When the reader accepts a free trial, by default that free trial will auto-renew and an associated retail subscription will be activated. That is, unless the reader changes their device settings and turns off auto-renewal. Additionally, some publishers have an offer in place via iTunes that gives subscribers one month free (or other duration at publisher’s choosing) added to the length of the purchased subscription. This is an incentive-based exchange in which the reader agrees to share their email and zip code, and in return the publisher grants the reader an extension to their subscription for opting in to share their contact info.
Figure 2: You can offer potential subscribers a free trial through Apple iTunes Connect.
These offers differ greatly from the First Folio Free feature in that the control of choice is given to the reader: there is no dependency on the user status (new, existing, returning); likewise, there is no dependency on which content is included in the offering, as the offers are duration-based and can be accepted by any reader at any time. If you choose to enable First Folio Free in addition to one of the iTunes offerings, make sure you think through the user expectation and experience. For example: a new reader downloads your app and is granted their first issue free. If they decide to subscribe right away, that reader may not understand that the subscription begins with the latest issue, which they've already received. Clear communication in the marketing of your subscription offers will help educate your readers in this instance.
Beginning with the May 2013 DPS update, Free Article Preview is a new feature offering for iPad only. A publisher can designate individual articles within folios as free for all—reaching those users who are simply browsing a publication and would be more apt to make a purchase if they have an opportunity to sample content first.
Being able to drill down to the article level has value for publishers who are hesitant to give away a whole issue for free using the First Folio Free feature. It also gives more freedom of choice in selecting the very best content you have to engage a new reader. Furthermore, you don’t have to be tied to offering only select articles from one issue. You can select multiple articles from multiple issues, and have flexibility to change what you offer as free article previews, turning this off and on at your whim.
If a publisher enables this feature, when a reader is in the library view and taps any cover of a retail issue that contains free articles, in addition to the purchase button there will be a 'Preview' button. Tapping 'Preview' will take the reader to the familiar issue browse mode, but only the free articles will be loaded in entirety. Partial preview images will be generated for articles that aren't free, with a payment pane obfuscating the protected article content.
Figure 3: A Preview button appears on the preview pane when a retail folio includes free articles.
Whether in browse mode or navigating article to article, the reader will see a payment pane for any protected article. This pane displays the cover image, issue date (folio number), folio description, and buttons to buy the issue or subscribe. Therein lies another marketing boon of Free Article Preview: for every protected (not free) article, the reader gets a glimpse of what they're missing out on in the issue and is prompted to buy or subscribe to get access.
Figure 4: A paywall pane appears over the preview image of a protected article.
Choosing to implement First Folio Free or Free Article Preview is not a matter of either/or. They are independent functions and it is up to a publisher to decide what makes the most sense for marketing their content. There’s nothing to stop you from implementing both of these features, as well taking advantage of the Digital Blow-In.
You can always publish any of your folios as free to all by not making them retail issues and indicating the folio status as Free and Public when publishing to the Distribution Service. These folios do not have a corresponding in-app purchase for the developer marketplace in which your publication is distributed. You'll see that a lot of publishers do this, but often these free folios contain minimal sample content not representative of the publication as a whole, or contain outdated archival content. Alternatively, you could offer a selection of pre-interactive replica publications to the public for free, and only publish your enhanced, interactive content as retail folios. If you have a folio that you'd like to publish as free in this manner, you can control its prominence in the displayed order by changing the Publication Date setting. To keep the free folio on top, set a future date. To bury it at the bottom, pre-date the folio.
Given the variety of options to promote free content in efforts to increase new reader onboarding, this article is meant to address all offers in one place. To learn how to implement any of the features covered, check out the below articles and tutorials.
For a video demo, watch New First Folio Free and Digital Blow-In Features.
For a blog post detailing how to implement, read First Folio Free and Digital Blow-ins.
Enterprise publishers can now use the custom library API to configure the subscription banner to display messaging depending on whether the reader is a subscriber and can appropriately provide messaging that supports the latest free retail issue feature. For details, see the custom library SDK documentation in the DPS Developer Center.
For a video demo, watch the Free Article Preview video.
For an article about this feature, read Free Article Preview.
See help documentation on Publishing folios to the Distribution Service.
Learn to leverage the direct entitlement feature to give users free access to a single folio within your DPS app via a promotional offer, such as in exchange for a consumer’s confirmed email address. Using the approach described in this article, a publisher can allow a consumer to select one free folio from the entire library, or, for example, from only back issues.