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Breaking the monthly publishing cycle: Top Gear’s story

Simon Carrington, publishing director of Top Gear magazine spoke of the magazine’s journey from a monthly print publication to a constantly updating, interactive app at the FIPP World Congress in Toronto yesterday.

Top Gear magazine is published in 32 different countries and has 12 websites across the world. The magazine’s first foray into the digital world saw them publish PDFs of the print edition online. Although they saw moderate success in terms of downloads, the team at Top Gear knew they could better attract and engage readers with a more interactive approach.

In December 2012, the magazine partnered with Adobe to launch its first interactive online edition. This new edition of Top Gear got tremendous engagement from readers and pushed the editorial team to consider the kinds of extra content they could produce.

The interactive edition was largely a success and won several awards. Top Gear incorporated a successful ad model into the edition and saw a 255 per cent increase in paid downloads. The interactive edition was 12 per cent of total UK circulation. It was the fourth biggest selling interactive magazine in the UK, which was particularly exciting for a specialist title.

But despite its initial success, it was a static business with no real growth over the course of the year, said Carrington. The interactive edition also did not keep up with Top Gear’s 24/7 publishing cycle as it only updated once a month.

About three or four per cent of people who downloaded the app made in-app purchases and in that remaining percentage, Carrington saw a huge opportunity to figure out how to convince readers to spend money.

Next comes Top Gear Magazine Extra. There were seven main objectives in mind when creating the Extra app with Adobe:

1.       Break the monthly publishing cycle

2.       Increase user engagement

3.       Create a dynamic mobile product

4.       Create new commercial and revenue opportunities

5.       Explore production efficiencies

6.       Explore new content types

7.       Harness customer feedback and test new ideas

So far, the Top Gear Magazine Extra app has broken the monthly publishing cycle with the creation of a newsfeed that updates as new content is created. Their statistics show an increase in user engagement, and they believe that they have been successful in creating a dynamic mobile product. In terms of productions efficiencies, they have a team that creates HTML content for the app. Top Gear has also been successful in harnessing customer feedback and they have tested some new ideas.

Carrington said that in the future, Top Gear Magazine Extra would like to further explore the creation of new commercial and revenue opportunities and expand the types of content offered beyond just news.

To conclude, the app will eventually have a consumer launch and a price will be determined for users to pay as it is now free.

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