Apps for Digital Publishing: There are only 5 rules (Part 1)

Dean Johnson

The app business can be as cut-throat as any other. When Brandwidth launched our first Guinness World Records app in April 2010, we were accused of jumping on the bandwagon as many other developers had either been creating apps for the iPhone or publicly immersed in the publishing world for years.

To put the facts straight, Brandwidth has been developing mobile applications for about eight years, long before the launch of the first iPhone, until 2010 we had operated below the radar, producing content and distributing direct to clients rather than building a public folio.

As we released our GWR app (a publishing client for more than six years) to coincide with the launch of the iPad, we’re proud to lay claim to our position at the head of the pack. Our collective backgrounds cover editing, publishing, writing and production so it’s nice to be back.

We’re occasionally accused of ‘selling’ our services as if this is a dirty word. I make no apologies for this as we’re a design and marketing agency, a production house and now a publisher in our own right. All the incredible app development projects we’re working on didn’t fall into our laps – we had to work damn hard to get them, go the extra mile and prove our worth. We don’t just do the technical production in the middle, we get the apps sold as well. If you can’t, or won’t, sell yourself then why should a client believe you’ll be able to shift their product.

There are five rules you should apply to the production of a successful app. Follow these (all of them) and you’ll discover there’s life and profit beyond ebooks.

RULE ONE: Choose wisely

Choose the right content, title and author. If you haven’t selected the right content to develop in the first place, then the number books you sold in print is irrelevant.

Don’t expect your most successful title to automatically translate to an app best-seller. If your existing audience doesn’t own a mobile device for download or the content just doesn’t need enhancing or re-imagining – then you won’t sell any.

You’ll need to focus on your new app-savvy audience instead. They may not have picked up a book for years but a niche title may resonate with a mobile market in a way it never could in print. Your new ‘readers’ also want more for less so don’t just price for print, be flexible and reactive but have a strict pricing plan that doesn’t involve erratic reduction as you’ll struggle to regain profitability with a knee-jerk 59p/99c drop.

RULE TWO: Promote it

We hear a lot about how bad the App Store is for visibility. Use this to your advantage – lay claim to the 5% tip of the iceberg. If your app disappears without trace, it’s because you (and your developer) haven’t promoted it in the right places, had the right contacts or used the correct channels.

  • Think digital and think social.
  • You need a unique permanent online presence to house all the information that sits outside the
    App Store, preview the app before launch and post launch for those without a device or unwilling
    to commit to an immediate download. This can live on a section of your main website or a separate microsite with a unique url
  • Your YouTube channel should house a promotional video to demonstrate the app in action then stream to your website
  • Each app needs an active Twitter account for promotion, conversation and technical help
  • Online reviews and features are essential for credibility and a vital conduit to a wider relevant audience – their existing social networks are invaluable.


Dean Johnson is Creative Director at Brandwidth. Check back this Wednesday for Part 2.

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