Digital magazine service Next Issue has been rebranded as Texture by Next Issue, adding new functionality including curated and personal collections, trending stories, as well as a new user interface.
It is also introducing a first-access feature that enables users to read exclusive content before it appears on newsstands.
Steve Maich, senior vice-president of publishing for Rogers Media, which owns Texture with the U.S. publishing groups Condé Nast, Hearst Magazines, Meredith and News Corp., and the investment firm KKR, said the revamp reflects the product’s “natural evolution” from a digital newsstand for replica magazines into a comprehensive database where users can access the best magazine stories.
He said the general feeling among Texture’s principals was that the “Next Issue” name was no longer representative of the product.
Texture’s new features include curated collections that pull together related content from multiple titles, housed under themes like Strong Women Wednesdays or best fall pumpkin recipes; cross-title search functionality; the ability for users to group stories into personal collections, and a new and noteworthy section that reflects stories making news and trending across social media.
While acknowledging that Rogers has made a “significant investment” in driving awareness of the Next Issue brand in Canada, Maich said internal research suggested consumers would adapt quickly to the name change.
“Any time you’re changing a name or logo, you understand you’re going into it with work to do to make sure you are clearly articulating the why and how for your existing audience, and doing all the hard work to make sure you’re not alienating [a] group that is already loyal to what you’ve built,” he said. “The more we dug into it, the more confident we became that we could do that work and set ourselves up for the next phase of growth.”
Heather Clark, senior director of marketing, publishing at Rogers Media, said several names were considered for the rebrand, but Texture tested “very positively,” reinforcing new brand features like personalization and discoverability.
While Texture is operating in a crowded field, Maich said its offering of 160 titles – including 15,000 back issues and an archive of 500,000 stories – is what sets it apart.
Though Rogers has been reluctant to provide user numbers for Texture, Maich said the service currently boasts “well north” of 100,000 users, the vast majority of which are fully paid.
Texture offers two subscription tiers: An unlimited basic subscription featuring 177 titles for $9.99 a month, and an unlimited premium subscription featuring 191 titles including People, Hello Canada, The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated for $14.99 a month.
Maich said Texture is seeing “print-like” engagement levels, making it more akin to print than the web experience. More importantly, he said, it hasn’t cannibalized the company’s existing print audience.
“We went into this wondering how much of Next Issue’s growth would come from people deciding to leave behind their print subscriptions, but the vast majority of people on the service are people who never subscribed to our magazines and did not appear in our customer database or were lapsed subscribers,” he said.
There seems to be little doubt that print brands will ultimately transition to digital, however. The shift is already occurring within the daily newspaper industry, with Quebec daily La Presse announcing its intention to adopt a digital-only format on weekdays.
Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank recently told Marketing its new tablet product Star Touch will be at the centre of its operation, while a recent report from Winnipeg-based Communic@tions Management said there would be few if any printed daily newspapers in Canada within 10 years.
Maich said print still has a “long runway” ahead, with marquee titles like Chatelaine and Maclean’s continuing to attract both large audiences and advertiser investment.
“I don’t anticipate that changing in any huge way in the next little while, but this is an investment in our future,” he said. “There’s no question we’re seeing huge growth on the digital side of our business. The print business, while still large and very profitable, is not growing in the same way.”
The new opportunity for Texture, he said, is in engaging “digital natives” who have grown up consuming content on a screen instead of a page.
While Texture was conceived as a tablet-based product, Maich said it is “extremely flexible” in terms of adapting to new devices. “The changing of the device landscape is something we’ve talked about a lot,” he said. “We don’t want to be making a bet on any particular device or form factor. We want to make sure we’re building a product that works in the digital space no matter what device you’re reading it on.”
The re-launch will be supported by a national print, digital and out-of-home campaign. While previous marketing for Next Issue focused on the service’s ability to put more than a hundred magazines at users’ fingertips, Clark said the new campaign is focusing on the storytelling aspect that is the backbone of Texture.
A three-week launch campaign introducing the new product will give way to a broader campaign highlighting Texture’s ability to connect readers with the right content through its new functionality, said Clark.
Marketing and MarketingMag.ca are also owned by Rogers.