First Folio Free and Digital Blow-ins

Publishers want to use many of the same techniques for digital magazine publishing that they use in their print magazines. With the v25 release, both Professional and Enterprise publishers can take advantage of a few new features that help them market their magazine more effectively.

First, take a look at Colin’s video. Then come back and read the rest of this article for additional details.

Click here to watch Colin Fleming’s video

First Folio Free

Here’s a common experience. Someone wants to check out the new magazine on their iPad, so she downloads the free app from the App Store full of anticipation. When she opens the app, she doesn’t see any content–just a library with issues for sale. So she gives the app a poor rating, deletes it, and goes back to play another level of Angry Birds.

With First Folio Free, publishers can now select an option in the Account Administration tool that entitles the most recently published retail folio to first-time users of an app. That way, when users download the app from the App Store, the most current issue can start downloading, providing a better initial experience for some publications.

Select this option in the Account Admin tool to enable First Folio Free. [Click image to enlarge.]

As a publisher, you’re probably concerned that users will try to abuse the free download privilege by uninstalling and reinstalling the app whenever a new issue is available. It doesn’t work that way. The DPS app gets mapped to the device, so if users uninstall and reinstall the app, they’re entitled only to the original complementary folio, not the most recently published folio.

To see how this works, you can download an app I created called Northwest Scenery. The first few folios are retail ($0.99), but the most recent retail folio is downloaded automatically when you launch the app. (At this time, the entitled retail folio is the Spring 2013 issue with a fox on the cover.) You’ll always be entitled to that issue as well as the other free issues. You would need to pay* for the remaining retail issues.

*Note: Feel free to download the Northwest Scenery app, but don’t bother purchasing content. All the retail content is available elsewhere for free, or will be soon. I set up retail content in this app only to understand the DPS/iOS publishing intricacies, not to supplement my income (I make my extra cash during Friday Night Poker).

Automatic Download Options

The DPS App Builder includes two new options for downloading folios.

Automatic download options for subscription apps. [Click image to enlarge.]

The “Always open background downloaded issue” is great for Newsstand subscription apps, especially frequently published apps. For example, if a publisher selects this option for a daily newspaper, users can launch the app in the morning and instantly view the issue that was downloaded in the background overnight.

The “Auto-download latest entitled issue for new readers” works great for the “First Folio Free” feature we just discussed. When a user installs the app for the first time, the most recent folio starts downloading automatically, letting the users see a cover or table of contents almost immediately. If you don’t make the most recent retail folio free, the most recent free folio is downloaded automatically.

Welcome Message

You want to let your customers know that you’re giving them a free issue. One method is to create a pop-up message on the cover of your most recent issue. For example, you can create a two-state MSO with one blank state and one state with the welcome message. When the user taps the close button, the blank state “appears,” making the message go away. Or, you could do this through HTML. Check out Allure for an example:


Allure tells customers that they’re getting a free issue. (Click to view larger image.)

If you just add that two-state button without doing anything else, all your customers—including your loyal subscribers—will get the same message. That’s where the next feature comes into play.

Conditional HTML

The conditional HTML feature is the digital equivalent of a blow-in card. A blow-in card is what publishers use to encourage anyone who buys a magazine off the rack to fill out the card and purchase a subscription. These are the cards that you see under your coffee table or scattered around an end table of a waiting room.

Here’s how it works in the DPS world. The publisher creates either an HTML article or a Web Content overlay. The source HTML files include ReadingAPI JS code that can look at the folio and determine how it  was downloaded—as a free issue, as a complimentary issue (First Folio Free), as a single purchase, or as part of a subscription. The HTML files include different content for each folio type.

The same Web Content overlay displays different content depending on how the folio was obtained. [Click image to enlarge.]

You can also add a subscription button that displays the app’s subscription options. For my Northwest Scenery app, you can either purchase a 6-month subscription for $0.99 or a 1-year subscription for $0.99. Consult your financial advisor for guidance.

Tapping the Subscribe Today button in the overlay displays subscription options. [Click image to enlarge.]

The process for setting up this digital blow-in card feature requires intermediate HTML coding skills. Follow these general steps:

1. Obtain the Adobe ReadingAPI.js code from the DPS Developer Center.

The DPS Developer Center is a great resource for advanced features. [Click image to enlarge.]

A detailed article about using the AdobeReadingAPI code should be posted soon. I’ll provide a link to the article when it’s available.
The ReadingAPI.js file returns different values for different ways that folios are obtained. [Click image to enlarge.]

2. Create the custom HTML content.

My HTML skills are less than magical, but I was able to repurpose the HTML code and set up a conditional Web Content overlay in the Northwest Scenery app. Here’s what my Ad file structure looks like.

Folder structure for Web Content overlay with conditional HTML.

In most of the Northwest Scenery folios, an Ad displays different HTML content depending on how the folio was obtained. Here are the calls in the index.html file to the AdobeReadingAPI.js file.

The index.html file includes different content for different folio types. [Click image to enlarge.]

You can download the HTML code that I used for the Northwest Scenery app here:


3. Create the HTML article or Web Content overlay.

In Northwest Scenery, I created an overlay, but I could just as easily have created an HTML article.

Select this option in the Overlays panel. [Click to enlarge image.]

For either an article or overlay, it’s important to select an option that allows access to entitlement information. The option is available in the Web Content section of the Overlays panel or in the Folio Producer Editor when an HTML article is selected.

4. Build and test the app.

Use DPS App Builder to build a development app. Use test accounts in the sandbox environment to purchase folios and subscriptions so that you can test the conditional HTML content without actually paying for retail content. Look for instructions in the publishing companion guide that you download from the Help menu in DPS App Builder.

Again, you don’t need to be a DPS Enterprise subscriber to take advantage of these features. You can use all of these features with a Professional subscription.

2 Responses to First Folio Free and Digital Blow-ins

  1. Pingback: tapzat » New Options for DPS Subscription Apps « InDesign Docs

  2. Cheers for the tip Colin.
    I’ve got this working on our Surfing Life app (in the sampler issue).
    Works great!