Case Study Lesson: Browser-Based Mobile Publications – An Alternative to Subscription Apps

Apps aren’t the only game in town when it comes to mobile publishing. And if the prospect of developing unique apps for multiple platforms seems too daunting, you might consider creating browser-based mobile publications instead.That’s one of the big takeaways from this week’s Subscription Site Insider Case Study on Nomad Editions, the new mobile publishing venture launched by media industry veteran Mark Edmiston.Nomad has created five subscription-based weekly magazines designed to be viewed on any mobile device — iPhones, iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, etc. The system works because the publications are NOT apps.They are browser-based publications that rely on a custom content management system that automatically formats the pages for optimal viewing on whichever device a subscriber is using.Developing unique apps for all the mobile platforms out there (iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, etc.) can present a huge challenge for some publishers. You need some way to make your content look good and work properly on all those systems – and if you don’t have the expertise in-house, you’ll have to hire developers experienced with those programming languages to help you. But while apps have captured a lot of attention recently, they are not the only way to deliver content to mobile devices.HTML5, the newest version of the Web programming language, contains many features that allow websites to work well on any device with a browser, whether it’s a PC, a smartphone, or a tablet like the iPad. For example, Nomad Editions’ publications work like regular websites, where subscribers log in to access the content of each week’s magazine. But the team is using an open-source HTML5 platform called Treesaver (http://treesaver.net) that detects which device the subscriber is using and then automatically adjusts the text and photos on those pages for the size of the user’s screen.While a system like this still requires design and development work to create mobile templates and link your content management system to the automatic formatting platform, it allows you to focus on one development project — not two or three or more.Of course, you may decide that creating a native app for, say, the iPad, makes more sense for your publication. Consumers may be more aware of apps than of mobile browser publications, making the marketing of your mobile app easier than trying to explain a browser-based option. But it’s an important reminder to explore all your options before launching a mobile publishing strategy.

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