PPA 2011: The recipe for BBC Good Food's iPad app
BBC Good Food's iPad app is already profitable, but what would really take sales to the next level is resolving the subscriptions issue with Apple, according to Alfie Lewis, publishing director of BBC Magazines Good Food Group.
Alfie Lewis: publishing director of BBC Magazines Good Food Group
The app, which was only launched three months ago at an initial price of £1.79, rising to £2.99, was demonstrated live to the PPA Conference crowd today in a brave step by Lewis.
After his presentation, he was pressed on the issue of digital subscriptions by session moderator Lee Baker, director of the Association of Online Publishers.
Lewis answered: "If the industry could come to an accommodation with Apple that suits both sides – our requirements around data and their legal requirements – then that would be when sales would [get to] the next level.
"Clearly, the next stage would be to get people to commit to six or 12 issues of the app instead."
But in the absence of that boost, the app was still profitable, he stressed.
He said: "We’re making a profit from the sales if you include the incremental ad revenue, which we’ve started to be able to exploit."
Advertisers, he said, needed to be helped into advertising in the app with production resources, as they were typically not set up for it and some were "quite suspicious".
Clearly proud of the work from his in-house team and partners Mobile IQ and PressRoom, Lewis offered several insights into how it was developed, including the fact that just a 10% increase was budgeted in staffing and resources to do it.
He also revealed how the app’s user base compared to BBC Good Food magazine readers – 95% of the latter did not have an iPad.
But there were some people "who absolutely love their iPad who will start to read the magazine on their iPad rather than in print. It seems like we should be there for those people."
In addition, the app was helping the brand make money from overseas – 17% of sales are from outside the UK and 10% from the US.
Another revenue boost was from back issues, which accounted for 25% of app sales. Lewis offered publishers a tip here, advising them to describe back issues not by date, but by theme.
He also suggested a number of ideas to take into account when developing an app, based on his team’s experience.
These included intensive testing before launch ("and keep testing"), putting just one person in charge; making friends with Apple to avoid being in the dark on when the app would go live (the app went live three weeks later they thought), and "don’t be tight with iPads", by which he meant each team within the company should have one.
Adding another idea – dealing immediately with questions and feedback – Lewis brought up one niggle with Apple’s platform, which was that it was frustrating not being able to contact users who were leaving negative feedback on the App Store after having problems, when he knew sometimes what they were doing wrong.
Apple's relationship with publishers cropped up in a separate conference session, with Richard Stephenson, the chief executive of Yudu Media, claiming the technology company had extended an "olive branch" to the industry.
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk
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