One of the biggest debates in digital publishing over the last twelve months has been between native apps vs HTML 5 web apps. The issue’s made all the more pressing now that mobile consumption of media has superseded that of desktop and tablet.
Indeed, a recent 2016 report from comScore shows that mobile is now the growth driver representing 65 percent of all digital media time. With mobile apps dominating that usage, the question of whether a publisher should use HTML 5 web apps or a ring-fenced native app has assumed critical strategic importance.
At WNIP we’ve heard good arguments from both camps (HTML 5 vs native apps) yet the stat that sticks in our minds came earlier this year from Johnston Press who revealed its native app engagement was up to five times higher than mobile web browsing. Yet native apps come with their own slew of downsides including app store visibility, phone incompatibility, third party approval issues and phone memory restrictions.
WNIP was therefore intrigued to learn that one of the world’s most renowned digital publishing platforms, Edition Digital, had developed technology that allows a publisher to combine both native apps and HTML 5 web apps in one single hybrid solution. Too good to be true? It’s certainly a first – most publishers and supply side platforms opt for either/or but certainly not both.
Co-founders Rok Pulevic (CEO) and Vesna Zavrnik (COO).
WNIP: So let’s jump in at the deep end. Tell us about your new Smart Digital Publishing System and why you’ve offered HTML 5 and native apps together. Have you yourselves got a preference for either?
Vesna Zavrnik: The technical answer is that we’ve created a hybrid app. Our core ethos and philosophy is ‘create once, publish anywhere’ and we feel there is a clear gap in publishing for this. We’ve therefore developed a digital publishing solution which works everywhere and uses the same code for both web solutions and apps. Even when showing content through native apps the administration remains the same.
Our latest ‘Smart Digital Publishing System’ uses a common ground layer for all distribution channels. It serves as a central communication point connecting countless end points (native apps, web apps, newsstands, 3rd party etc) as well as our Edition Digital backbone systems.
I need to emphasise that we are output agnostic and our solution is designed in such a way that the final rendering media or distribution channel (app, browser, TV, add your) is flexible and open-ended.
WNIP: What tools do you use? Adobe Indesign? Illustrator?
Rok Pulevic: Our system uses proprietary software we’ve written and developed ourselves over many years, so we are not tied to any third party design tools to deliver our solutions. It allows us to be far more pioneering and innovative – we can also accommodate any new channels that come on to the market without having to worry about whether other companies’ third party solutions can support them.
Vesna Zavrnik: In fact final distribution channels don’t have to be discovered or even invented yet. This marks a huge added value of our system – content synchronisation followed by distribution through any desired channel both now and in the future. We call it a ‘future-proof structure’ which allows us to stay one step ahead. In a market as dynamic as publishing that’s vital.
WNIP: What level of expertise does someone need to use your system?
Vesna Zavrnik: To use our system you don’t need any coding experience whatsoever, certainly no requirement to have a grasp of HTML 5 or anything like that. This makes it very user-friendly for both publishers and corporate marketing departments. Some of our clients, such as Mazda, use our solution for all their worldwide territories because it so intuitive and easy to use.
An inspiration for us is Apple. Their philosophy of combining cutting edge design and state of the art tech with intuitive UI – even kids know how to use it – is something we aspire to and use as a guiding principle.
WNIP: Does your system work best for edition-based publishing or live continuous publishing?
Vesna Zavrnik: Both, It doesn’t matter. We’ve created a solution that works for all different types of publishing. Our latest Articles feature presents a constant stream of content which can be consumed on every device. In fact the continuous publishing model is a strong way to keep readers engaged and returning to apps or web newsstand more frequently.
Rok Pulevic: We’re continually innovating and developing our solution. In April we added a suite of new features – one of our latest updates is the ability to extract images from PDFs and turn these static layouts into high quality animations quickly. We also provide other features you might expect such as image galleries, audio and video, surveys etc to create bespoke highly interactive digital publications. We’re also proud to announce we’ve just launched our own media hub and are getting ready to offer it as a custom solution to publishers and marketers very soon.
Vesna Zavrnik: Can I interrupt a second….
WNIP: Go ahead
Vesna Zavrnik: Having a great solution and features is only one part of the equation. We believe strongly that these features must all contribute in some way to the monetisation of content. Monetisation is absolutely key. Our monetisation options enable publishers to sell their content through web-based branded digital newsstands, branded iOS & Android apps etc We see ourselves as a ‘one stop shop’ for digital publishers and that includes a special focus on monetisation.
WNIP: When we talk to industry professionals or attend conferences, monetisation is the #1 issue. Yet you haven’t mentioned analytics. Surely they’re vital to proper monetisation?
Rok Pulevic: Tools like Google Analytics, as good as they are, only take publishers so far. Our system is far more granular and can drill right down to specific measurements – knowing how long a person watched a video is OK, but when you even know what section of the video is most popular you begin to extract some real value from the analytics. This is what we provide. It’s a 360 degree, all encompassing solution.
WNIP: What about worldwide tech support?
Rok Pulevic: We provide 24/7 year-round support for our publisher and brand clients. We’ve worked with Redwood since our inception in 2007 and they’re a good benchmark for the level and quality of service we provide across the board. They wouldn’t still be with us otherwise. Nine years is a long time in digital publishing. Other longstanding clients include Barclays, Tesco, Boots, Argos, Land Rover, Mazda, Fiat…..there’s a long list.
WNIP: What about the immediate future?
We already have a London office and we’ve got a New York office on the near horizon. Coupled with the recent launch of our Smart Digital Publishing System which is a ‘next generation platform’ it’s a busy but very exciting time for us.
WNIP: Thank you very much your time. We’d be particularly interested to know how the HTML 5 web apps perform vs native apps in due course. That’s a debate that’s going to rumble on for quite a few months yet…..