Adobe Aims to Enable More Efficient Interactive Publication Workflows

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May 17, 2012

Magazine publishers have been experimenting with digital editions for quite some time, typically through the use of PDF replicas of the print edition including varying degrees of interactive enhancement. Before the launch of the iPad and subsequent tablets, reading digital editions was largely relegated to the laptop. For road warriors always on-the-go who wanted to keep with their magazine subscriptions, this model worked well. For most other consumers, the experience wasn’t ideal, and digital edition adoption was limited to a niche audience. Post-iPad launch, however, tablet adoption soared, and publishers started experimenting with delivering their magazines in a format optimized for the native capabilities of tablets, including touch interfaces, powerful processors, and web connectivity.

Time Magazine, Wired, and many others came out with interactive digital publications on the iPad during or closely after its launch. These interactive apps featured print content tailored to fit within the screen resolution of the iPad and other tablets, as well as optimized navigation for touch gestures and the inclusion of rich media and animated components in editorial and advertising content. Even though these types of interactive apps have only been in existence since spring 2010, these features are the gold standard for tablet digital editions, and hundreds of publishers have taken the plunge to make their magazines more interactive. Adobe provides key enabling technology for publishers to generate digital editions with its Digital Publishing Suite (DPS).

DPS has been around for just one year, and can best be described as a technology stack for creating, distributing, monetizing, and tracking interactive digital publications. Yesterday, Adobe held an event at the Morgan Library in New York City to announce a string of updates to the Digital Publishing Suite, directly on the heels of the launch of Creative Suite 6. According to Jim Guerard, Vice President and General Manager for Digital Media Solutions at Adobe, there are over 1,700 DPS-generated apps published today, 25 million issues have been delivered to-date, and 120,000 issues are delivered per day. While these are Adobe-reported numbers, the company is working to add veracity to its digital magazine analytics, as evidenced by an announcement that the Audit Bureau of Circulation’s Interactive division will audit DPS users’ metrics for accuracy. Further, Adobe announced that the DPS integration with its analytics platform, SiteCatalyst, will conform to MPA guidelines for reporting.

Publishers have added interactive digital editions into their repertoire rapidly, and the path, thus far, has been different than the approach many took in building out websites through the early 2000’s. Instead of setting up departments that may end up siloed from traditional editorial and creative, it is the traditional print editors and print creatives that are adopting and using this technology to add interactivity to and optimizing their print layouts. While this is an exciting prospect, the added responsibilities of adding enhanced, interactive content in a print publication workflow can be daunting. Yesterday, Adobe announced new Digital Publishing Suite features to enable more efficient digital publication production, including:

  • Alternate or “liquid” layouts in InDesign CS6: Vertical and horizontal orientations can now be contained within one InDesign file, and objects can be anchored to guidelines that help designers adapt content easily across multiple device screen dimensions (think iPad vs. Kindle Fire vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab).
  • InDesign CS6 integration with Adobe Edge animations: Adobe Edge is a relatively new Adobe tool that lets designers more easily create animations and interfaces with HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript under the hood. With InDesign CS6, Adobe Edge animation files can now be placed directly into an InDesign layout file and subsequently exported to a digital publication. Business publication FastCompany used Edge for an interactive editorial feature in its latest edition, which was demonstrated at the event. While there are plenty of tools to add interactivity within DPS itself, Edge further extends DPS for publishers looking to push the interactive envelope.
  • Integrated social sharing with paywall options: Adobe’s latest content viewer app bundled with DPS includes native social sharing to Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail. When users follow a link generated from DPS, they will get to view the same interactive pages on a browser-based content viewer that they can view on an app. Publishers can set up metered paywalls that let a user view a specified number of free pages before bringing them to a subscription page. This feature aims to help publishers deliver a more cohesive experience for shared content while also driving monetization opportunities.

Other announcements yesterday include a new content viewer app for the iPhone and iPod Touch and relaxed licensing fees on Adobe-owned fonts from its Type Library for digital publications. Consumer magazines are the obvious target for Adobe with Digital Publishing Suite, and publishers continue to innovate with design, content, and business models related to digital editions. Nevertheless, DPS has the potential to gain increased traction with B2B publications, corporate custom publishers, and even catalogs. With tablet ownership growing, publishers of all types need to devise a strategy to reach this mobile audience. Even though DPS has been around a relatively short time, it is well-positioned to serve publishers’ growing digital edition needs.

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