Dwell magazine and the AHAlife app
Look, I know that the Internet made a hash of media publishers business plans, but that’s no excuse for not applying some serious thinking and strategy to the problem. Currently here’s why – this post from Rishad Tobaccowala on LinkedIn says it all: “In the first half of 2012 Google’s total ad revenue exceeded that of all US newspapers and magazines. Source: statista.” And today the end of The Daily came about.
I subscribe to Dwell magazine, and I’m happy with it. Yes it’s slimmed down considerably since I first started getting it many moons ago, as brand advertisers moved along to where their customers hang out – the Internet, and of course on mobile devices. Clearly they won’t be coming back anytime soon, so like all media publishers Dwell has to come up with a new business strategy for a new market.
It does a good job of keeping content fresh on its website but of course that just gives Dwell-lovers the chance to access that content for free. Dwell has an iOS app that I don’t use, as I have no reason to. It also has a digital subscription plan that appears to be the same price as the print subscription. When you break all of this down to the basics the print magazine seems to offer more convenient value than the mobile apps or the paid digital version. As I said above, the website comes free so one presumes that it is syphoning off the chance for Dwell’s publishers to get more paying customers.
My interest in what Dwell is up to is two-fold; I like the magazine and would like to see it continue, and I wonder what its owners digital strategy is. Also, this month’s print edition arrived at my door with an extra print piece – a collaboration between Dwell and AHAlife. It involves an app.
Before digging in to my experience with the app I mention there, we should remind ourselves of the shift amongst TV viewers who watch with that second screen mobile device at their sides. I think it’s safe to say that many of us also use the second screen when reading print magazines or newspapers. I often find myself typing in a url or opening an app on my iPhone or iPad when I’m reading. It’s a simple act and intuitive.
Reading Dwell recently I had my iPhone handy, so when I picked up the Dwell + AHAlife print piece and saw that it included an app experience I thought I’d give it a try. Things didn’t go well. Dwell has partnered with AHAlife and printed up a slim companion edition that includes product ads. Within the pages are symbols that let you know that you can use the app to hover over the page and receive more information of a product. The view from the iPhone perspective is a bit ugly to put it mildly:
It didn’t help that it took multiple attempts to get the app to find the content. The app comes with instructions which is the first red flag, but still, I know how to scan a page with my iPhone. This was the result way too often:
Yes, I am scanning an edition of Dwell+ Ahalife, thank you. After four attempts I got to this:
Basically an in-app e-commerce site. So on one hand, mobile e-commerce equals good strategy. On the other, was it really necessary to have me jump through multiple hoops to get to that screen? I don’t think so.
Remarkably, the Dwell+AHAlife app makes the QR code look good.
Perhaps Dwell’s management should check out Instagram founder, Mike Krieger’s 8 Principles for Building Products People Want.