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Dennis Publishing, publishers of 70 print and online titles including Maxim, Men’s Fitness and the adult comic Viz, has not been shy to dip…

Dennis Auto Express App

Dennis Publishing, publishers of 70 print and online titles including Maxim, Men’s Fitness and the adult comic Viz, has not been shy to dip its toes into the world of apps, with six dedicated tablet and smartphone products representing its mass market magazines. This week, it announced a deal that will see that number rise significantly: it’s signed an agreement with the app platform company Toura to develop 20 further apps for tablets and smartphones, based around content from its stable of publications.

First up will be a smartphone app, How To Add Value To Your Car, available for both the iOS and Android platforms, selling for $0.99 (£0.69) (link to both here).

The app, which draws on content from the magazine Auto Express, is a kind of how-to guide for being one’s own modern-day car valet, offering a “full range of methods for improving and enhancing their car to make it a better drive, and to improve its resale value… [including] sections on exterior and interior care and general vehicle maintenance [and] products to help you achieve a better sale price on your car, such as the best bumper shine, scratch remover, and roof bars.”

It’s these kinds of apps — “one-shot content”, in the words of Alex Watson, Dennis’ head of app development — that Dennis hopes to publish via Toura.

In contrast, the publisher’s in-house app team, Dennis Media Factory, will continue to develop more tablet and smartphone over time, but these will be specifically looking at “flagship” apps for Dennis magazines.

The Toura apps are part of Dennis’ strategy to get more mileage out of that magazine content, by repackaging that content in a way that might be more usable for specific purposes — such as fixing up your car.

“At the start of the year I built a mobile team from scratch,” says Watson, who adds that while his team uses platforms like Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite to develop apps for the bigger brands, at the moment that kind of resource cannot be extended to the whole of Dennis’ publication stable. “The problem is that it is time intensive and costs a lot [to make an app]. It’s very difficult to get to scale in a sensible way.”

Toura falls into that category of self-service app creation platforms that let publishers use cloud-based tools and templates to create mobile apps: competitors that offer similar services include Mobile Roadie and AppMakr.

If the app is relatively simple and information-based, going with a clould-based platform like Toura’s like this can mean significant cost savings over coding apps in-house or turning to an agency to run them. Some have speculated it can cost as much as ten times less to publish an app via a self-service platform compared to going to an agency.

Watson says that traditional publishing companies, his included, may be looking to digital as a way of driving revenues in the future, but they are still trying to figure out how to move fast in the space, and to figure out what works best on smartphones and tablets.

“It still takes a long time for media brands to get digital content out the door,” he admits. “Something like Toura is nice if you have specific content that you think would be good for the app store.”

That also means that Dennis can try out new forms of content to see how well they do in the app market, without too much financial hardship if they don’t do well. “For Auto Express, they can come back and see the sales figures on this app we’re launching now. That will help us figure out if we should do a more fully-fledged iPad app.”

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