- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On September 14, 2015
- Digital magazines
As other traditional media vehicles decline, magazines—both print and digital—continue to grow steadily. But while everyone knows what to expect when they pick up a print magazine, the experience of reading a digital magazine can vary greatly from one title to the next. The very term digital magazine, in fact, can refer to several different things.
If you’re considering investing in a digital magazine for your hospital or health system, it’s important to know exactly what you—and your readers—are getting, and you probably don’t have time to view demos from dozens of providers offering a wide range of services. Fortunately, most of those offerings fit into one of a few categories, so you can focus your efforts on the one that’s right for you.
Replica print magazines
A replica is the most basic form of digital magazine. In most cases you just upload pages designed for print to a service like Issuu, which then displays them for users in a flipbook format.
There are two big advantages to a replica print magazine:
- There’s no extra work if you already have pages designed for print. Just export pages from InDesign or another design program and upload them as PDFs—that’s it.
- They can be read on any device. Modern replica magazines work with HTML5, not Flash, so you won’t have to worry about them not loading on certain devices.
Because you’re taking content designed for one medium and shoving it onto another, however, replica print magazines can be cumbersome on small screens and don’t offer any extra interactivity for readers.
Feature rich digital magazines
This kind of digital magazine looks a lot like a replica print magazine but lets you add interactive features like audio, video, and slideshows. Instead of telling readers to visit YouTube or your website to watch a video or see more pictures, you can share that extra content with them right there on the page.
Like Issuu, services like Zmags and Blue Toad let you upload PDFs and automatically convert them to HTML5, or you can design content from scratch specifically for digital. In addition to video, audio, and slideshows, you can also build interactive templates or use existing ones that change the way readers consume your content, whether it’s animating transitions or scrolling vertically like a web page.
Responsive magazines, like responsive websites, use HTML and CSS to reformat themselves for any device. They have a leg up on replica and ordinary feature rich magazines because they’re always optimized for each reader’s screen, whether they’re viewing on a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone.
That means that they offer a much more user-friendly reading experience than other platforms do—there’s no pinching or double tapping to zoom in on small text or subsequent scrolling from side-to-side to read paragraphs that are then too wide for small screens. It’s a lot like reading an ebook on a Kindle or a Nook, because text is always readable and images are always the right size for your screen.
Custom designed magazines
The ultimate digital magazine option is an app that’s designed specifically for tablets or smartphones. While such a magazine isn’t as flexible as a responsive design, it offers the best user experience on the right device. It offers at least as much interactivity as other options, and you can be sure that all users will see the same content in the same layout—just like a print magazine.
Of course, you’re not going to get that perfect user experience just by uploading a PDF, so you’re going to need a designer. If you don’t have one, you’ll have to bring in a freelancer designer or an agency with the ability to design such a magazine from scratch or take your print pages and redesign them for a tablet screen. You’ll also have to decide what devices your magazine will be available on and what screen orientation to design for.
Depending on your hospital’s needs, any one of these magazine options could be a great fit. By understanding the different formats available, you’ll be better equipped to evaluate them and choose the perfect one to reach your audience.