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Interactive Content Apps for Tablets, Smart Phones Create Revenue Opportunities

April 2014 By John Parsons
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Printing industry executives often lament the loss of print business to new media. Digital content, from Websites and e-books to smartphones and tablets, has eroded public demand for traditional print, with no foreseeable change in sight. EP and inkjet digital printing has helped stem the tide, but many printing and graphic service companies are still seeking new ways to help their bottom line.

For printers that already offer layout and design services, an unexpected revenue source (or at least a way to retain customer loyalty) may be digital media itself, in the form of interactive apps for tablets and smartphones. Unlike Websites, apps can be created with the same tools used to produce printed pages. With a modest software investment, plus incremental training of existing staff, printers can offer their clients supplemental interactive collateral—to complement their printed products.

Some printers—especially those that serve the print needs of publishers—are already offering these services. Columbia, MD-based Cenveo Publisher Services recently added tablet and smartphone apps to their list of services. (See sidebar)

Program Apps vs. Content Apps

When most people talk about tablet or smartphone apps, they're usually thinking of programs like Angry Birds, Email, YouTube or mobile browsers. Such programs are the domain of software developers, however. A different class of app, focusing on content more than specialized computing tasks, is rapidly gaining the attention of book and magazine publishers. These content apps are more than just glorified print facsimiles. They offer an array of interactive media designed to engage the reader—ideally as an additional or supplemental experience for subscribers.

Content apps appeal to more than just magazine publishers. Businesses are beginning to experiment with digital brochures and catalogs designed for tablet devices. Rather than hire dedicated programmers, these businesses are looking to common desktop publishing environments—enhanced to produce tablet content.

Printers' unique window of opportunity is their understanding of how print pages are designed and produced, especially if they are already taking customers' page layout files and making them "print-ready." App creation from InDesign or QuarkXPress is a similar process, one that many customers would rather leave to a professional. Proactive printers, with the right adjustments, could offer that service, with the appeal of the "one-stop shop" for graphic communication.


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