The Valley Business FRONT magazine is the preferred business and news source for the Roanoke Valley, New River Valley, Lynchburg and greater western region of Virginia. The FRONT contains regional articles on business, legal, technology, etiquette, and other professional topics.
The FRONT has a subscription of over 136,000 readers with 33% of subscribers reading the print version and 67% reading the online version of the magazine. The print version of the magazine is distributed via mail and is also available at various pick up points throughout the region. The online version is accessible from the FRONT's web site and is presented via Flash viewer that presents the magazine in a book-like format.
The ever increasing online subscriber base (67%) was a clear indication that Valley Business FRONT's readers were moving from traditional hardcopy to online access. While the current Flash-based viewer supported the on-line viewing of an issue, it was limited in its ability to support subscribers who may not have limited or no internet access or subscribers whose access to on-line resources was via mobile devices such as iPhone,iPad or Android.
In addition, Valley Business FRONT had a long-standing process where content was created and formatted to support print and web-based access. Any mobile strategy needed to minimize the impact on the current process, and thus minimizing the amount of content re-work, as well as ensure that the back-end infrastructure could support the volume of traffic that a mobile application would demand.
During the product definition phase, the New River Mobile team met with Tom Fields to discuss expanding the FRONT's on-line strategy to include an iPad application. The idea being that the application could provide a mechanism for the local storage and viewing of issues. Users of the application would be able to download issues and read them off-line at their leisure.
The cover of each FRONT's issue contains a visually stunning image of a local personality. The covers are the hallmark of the FRONT's brand and it was very clear that any solution needed to emphasize the cover.
Our investigation also determined that each issues content was accessible via the web along with a supporting manifest file. The manifest file contained the number of pages for the issue, the file name for each page and the table of contents. Each issue's page was available in both a small and large format and the issues followed a well-defined storage structure.
The Valley Business FRONT identified the following key requirements for building a scalable, long-term mobile strategy:
Create the best possible user experience
The Valley Business FRONT is in the business of delivering the best-quality in each issue; their mobile experience should meet that same high quality standards. The use of the application needed to be intuitive with little to no learning curve. Readers must be able to easily download issues and then be able to quickly view them. Given the importance of the cover to the brand, readers should be presented with a high-quality version of the cover which is presented in the largest format possible in the iPad.
Leverage the existing in-house infrastructure
The current on-line issues had a deployment environment and structure that was engrained into the FRONT's creation process. As best possible, this environment and its content should be leveraged to the fullest extent possible.
Moving forward, New River Mobile plans to continue to work with the FRONT to expand its mobile strategy into the following areas:
Future releases of the iPad will include the capability to gather and report application usage metrics. Metrics such as overall reader viewing time, the viewing time for each page, and which issues are viewed will be gathered and reported to New River Mobile on a periodic basis. In addition, basic device data such as model and OS version will be gathered. At no point will data that identifies the individual user be gathered.
Future releases will incorporate such features are click through ads, vector-based content such as HTML, and audio and video media.