Your Audience is the Center of Your Universe

By Debra Bates-Schrott, President
Bates Creative Group

Publishing today means your audience must be at the center of everything you do. This may present a paradigm shift in your thinking as a publication (or maybe it’s old news, if so, good for you!), prompting the question – “Wait, isn’t my content the center of my universe?” Yes and no. Your audience has changed, their media habits have changed, and the way they engage with your content has changed. For instance, a report from the Pew Research Center (“State of the News Media 2012“) shows that “27% of the U.S. adult population now gets their news on smartphones and tablets.” The report also lists that “70% of desktop/laptop owners report getting news on their computers, half of smartphone owners (51%) use their phones for news, and a majority of tablet owners (56%) use their devices for news.”

What does this mean?
Change your thinking and start your strategy with:

  1. Defining whom you’re talking to.
  2. Meeting them where they are.
  3. Giving them the content they want.
  4. Designing it so they can’t put it down.

How can you put this perspective into practice? As creative people we always want to start with the fun part, “design so they can’t put it down.”  But design only gets better if we do the other parts first and embrace a strategic approach. The right strategy starts with questions – Who is the audience? Are they using tablets? What do they want from your content?

The tablet question is THE question now, because the tablet market is undeniably exploding, reaching more and more consumers every day. In fact, Rick Levine, Condé Nast’s director of editorial operations, stated at this year’s South by Southwest Conference that all of the Condé Nast titles from Vogue and Arch Digest to Vanity Fair will have a tablet version by the end of 2012. “We like this technology so much that by the end of the year every magazine will have a digital edition,” he said.

It’s more important than ever to get up to speed on designing your publication for the tablet. At Bates Creative Group, we’ve refined our expertise in transforming publications from a print magazine to various other media platforms, and mastered the process of making a magazine’s tablet app its flagship media piece – all while using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite.

Taken from our experience, here are the top eight considerations (you get the top ten when you hire us) to get your tablet vision and strategy headed in the right direction:

  1. If there is no difference between a PDF and the functionality of your tablet app, you’ve missed the mark.
  2. Your tablet app is not a “small version of your website.”
  3. Whenever possible “show don’t tell.” The tablet is perfect to tell your story through the use of video and interactive graphics. Be considerate of article length. For instance, a story that seems an average read in a printed magazine may be overwhelming on the tablet.
  4. It’s about “user experience” not reader experience. You cannot design apps without considering the tablet user.
  5. Consider the dynamics of the horizontal and vertical formats.
  6. Designing for tablets is a new way of thinking compared to print design.
  7. Let your users make you proud by sharing your work. Social media has the power to grow businesses. Make it cool and get your tablet users talking about it.
  8. During the planning stage, brainstorm how you can add interactivity to your content. Overlays and HTML 5 can make an app come alive.

Getting back to your audience – let’s say you build your tablet app and send it out into the world. How do you know if your design is a success? Measurement. Learn how the analytics work. It’s like a window into your audience. Learn from the data and interpret it so you can design better apps with user preferences as your first consideration. Learn what will drive the user from screen to screen and what drives engagement. This is a huge advantage of the app – real-time feedback on performance of your content, design and user experience. Now you can think of your publication as if it were in continual beta testing. This data should also drive everything from your editorial strategy to your photo selects. If you use this feedback effectively as a tool, you will undoubtedly keep improving your product and see your numbers climb.

This is very exciting time for publishers and designers. The world is open to us to explore and use new tools to deliver our stories as real experiences in amazing, memorable ways. I encourage all publishers and designers out there to keep pushing the envelope and to get your audience talking about your work.

Debbie Bates-Schrott, President, Bates Creative Group
Debbie is the founder and chief communications strategist of Bates Creative Group. For more than 20 years, she has led award-winning teams in creative art direction, branding, magazine design and marketing collateral development. Debbie’s more than 70 design awards recognize her exceptional work for organizations as diverse as Cisco Systems, the American Marketing Association, the Land Trust Alliance, the Pentagon Memorial Fund and the U.S. Marine Corps.

Debbie has a strong understanding of marketing communications and design issues, and is intimately involved with every client project. She has a proven ability to anticipate changing business situations, make a rapid and accurate assessment of the opportunity, and respond with creative communications solutions. Debbie thrives in high-pressure, dynamic situations



  • By BangbangO - 1:37 AM on April 3, 2013  

    While I agree with most of the article, there are two points I find debatable :

    1. It’s about “user experience” not reader experience. You cannot design apps without considering the tablet user.
    2. Consider the dynamics of the horizontal and vertical formats.

    1. In my opinion, it is abouth both. If you are solely focusing on user experience, then you are compromising editorial design. Magazines and books are mainly words, text is an interface but also primarily content. If you don’t focus on reader experience too, then you won’t be able to reach high quality. The same is happening in enhanced books, and solely focusing on user experience is the reason why so many people don’t want to read enhanced books. Just because it goes digital, a reader doesn’t become the average user.

    2. Dynamics of horizontal and vertical formats when suboptimal are becoming parasites.
    The vast majority of publishers using DPS are getting it wrong and that is the reason why digital magazines are actually failing to succeed : their interfaces are insanely complex, so complex that readers need a tutorial to understand how to navigate and use features — which half they will instantly forget.
    You just can’t build a strong language for digital magazines if you need tutorials and readers forget about features. Just grab a magazine and see what happens : clarity, ease of use, obviousness. Those are the three goals digital magazines must achieve, or else it is just about bells and whistles that some readers will never want.

    Anyway, thanks for this great post.

  • By Engineer khan mohammod kamruzzaman - 2:08 PM on December 6, 2012  

    I must be try to download &install AdobeFlash player.

  • By Engineer khan mohammod kamruzzaman - 2:03 PM on December 6, 2012  

    Know where you look
    Adobe Product.
    IT is every where.
    I must be try to download &install AdobeFlash player.

  • By pat taylor - 3:25 PM on September 21, 2012  

    Hello old friend.
    Your website looks great. Very professional.
    Good luck in your future of graphic design. P@