While this article is labeled as a comparison of the best flipping pages platforms Vs. Premium Digital Publications by VERTIQUL the two different approaches are not modern day competitor matches and are apples to oranges when compared as same space tools.  Except the common fact that both are tools available to publishers and both are in use by publishers and audiences today.  

I liken this comparison to choosing between using a flip phone in the early 2000’s and the latest iOS or Android device today with an amazing browser display and screen. Both devices make calls, but today the user experience (UX) capabilities across many devices types of a modern day phone is an integral part of both consumer leisure and business application, workflow, and processes throughout the day.  Almost twenty years ago (2002) I was a founding partner in a flip editions software platform company and can reference from an insider view those tools and the history of the toolset class. Both my direct experience as an owner of the flipping page platform and challenges in that content distribution medium led me to found VERTIQUL. Challenges 18 years ago exist today, like lost audience at cover and massive lost engagement after just several clicks haven’t changed. And then bring into the equation that half our audiences are on mobile devices today. 

Overcoming the challenges of displaying paginated page layout content across any device in a simple and scrollable format – just as all other modern content is now displayed for mobile is our foundation for the logical browser based VERTIQUL solution.

VERTIQUL launched in 2016 and has evolved into the premium full service solution produced from publisher InDesign files we offer today.  Every issue is hand designed from foundational design standards (not templates), taking every element of content and placing it in multiple HTML5 formats using the original design and style of the print layout art direction, yet expanding editorial and ad options to take advantage of the medium and rich digital content capabilities.  Comparison from a features, cost, and usability perspective means that flipping page tools are not even in the same class as a modern day approach. That said, let’s highlight key premium advantages of our premium browser based edition solution for production of digital editions or exclusive digital newsletter, publication or brochures.


Customers Approach Orientation: Modern Digital Publications Vs. Flip Editions

Why professionals choose VERTIQUL:  

We find that the selection of VERTIQUL often begins before the publisher internalizes the functional, revenue, and audience growth capability advantages to older print replica tools. The psychology of these leaders is different and they have committed to taking an audience first, digitally optimized approach that will become the backbone of their brand for the core digital deliverable.  Cost is never the first question and while all costs are absolutely relevant, especially in these critical economic recovery times, they typically know that the true cost of a solution exists well beyond the solution’s price. They know that the time their own staff spends tooling and building in a lesser product is more costly not only from a total investment of time and energy of their team perspective, but the opportunity cost reflection on the brand when presenting an archaic delivery tool to the audience.  


Why startups and DIY organizations often choose flip style editions:  

There are dozens of flipping pages software platforms still operating today, some even offering to perform the production; the digital and automated conversion of PDF publications to a page flipping edition that then requires manual highlighting and contents guides.  They are often chosen because of price and because they don’t know that a modern day solutions exists.  

Those two reasons are most commonly given from people we spoke to using other tools.  “We selected X because we didn’t know you existed OR we selected X because their price was half your price.”  

Inherently I’m often tempted to discuss the true cost & value to any publication organization telling me price is why they won’t be upgrading to our full service premium vertical scrolling format, (while also saying they loved it), but I no longer take this step.  The reason is, that if a publishing organization’s leadership isn’t already guided by the objective of making the experience the very best to audience, considering all the time and investment that goes into creating, editing and publishing content, they likely won’t change baked on something I say.  Perhaps they’re just producing a digital edition to say they have it. Most magazine printers offer this as a no cost since they seek to downplay the digital version’s importance because… of course print.  


Print First Strategy Vs The Future: Digitally Designed Publications  

The Internet is full of doom and gloom if print goes away, but really- we’ve heard that about lots of things that are now fully digital.  And the magazine will live on as digital deliverable just fine, especially once we make it easy to read online! That said, I’ll speak to print briefly as it’s certainly not within the scope of this review.  Everyone accepts we are moving quickly toward a fully digital economy and deliverables for content. Yes, print will still be a novelty that way they have labeled digital as a brand extension or feature for decades.  Print has no accountability for actual issue utilization engagement (let’s not get into antiquated circulation audit tactics please) in the same way digital provides a fingerprint on every story read and every reader engaged. I would argue the COVID-19 crisis peak in 2020 is this tipping point. Magazines will still be called magazines and when you subscribe, for those that still offer print, you’ll select that and the triple price that justifies that medium. 

For those that take a look toward the future of their brands as digital publications, we offer a path that doesn’t look anything like what most digital replica platforms are moving toward.  Our solution is branded to the publication and the publisher delivers audience to the issue via their existing email system or from other online or social channels.


Specific Comparison Factors of Flipping Page Print Replicas Vs. Responsive Premium Digital Publications

Key differences in the digital approach from print replica flip editions instead of the modern alternative upgrade to a full service digital publication solution.


Digital Publication Branding

FLIP TOOLS: While some ebook or flipping page tools are branded to the publisher, many are not and use a generic domain by the magazine printer setup for their reseller usage of one of the core main flip editions tools.  The negative implication is that the reader is confused when being sent to a URL they don’t recognize.  

VERTIQUL: Allows the publisher or association customer to choose any domain and we typically recommend using a sub domain such as publications.PUBLISHERDOMAIN.com


Digital Access & Issue Visibility

FLIP TOOLS: Digital platforms that also control user authentication databases and/or integration based on sync or even a separate subscription management do provide a strong security doorway to content. Unfortunately, users often feel that having to login to a system that already just sent them an issue URL link is redundant.  Subscribers could easily share their access but this firm login and access wall provides a false sense of security to publishers concerned someone is getting access to content without subscribing. 

VERTIQUL: Our approach is to allow the publisher to use existing tools to perform all notification and digital issue delivery unless they ask for us to perform that email delivery as an additional web team service.  If further monitoring is required for too many access issue attempts from multiple IP addresses causes any concern we deal with that later and keep a simple and immediate access link to subscribers using private URLs so there’s no need to reset password or use clunky log-in just to read the latest issue. Let’s make it simple for the 99% of our audience not trying to abuse their content access privilege.


Digital Publication Presentation & Marketing

FLIP TOOLS: Typical third party tools embed a digital edition player on the publisher website page.  They are recognizable because they look like the website intentionally made the content difficult to read inside a small window.  A full screen button often allows the reader to have the publication take over their full screen and it’s typically the only way to read the issue without finding magnifying tools or pinching and zooming to try and read text.  

VERTIQUL: Fully responsive editions designed to utilize the appropriate viewport desktop of mobile with same content for a consistent experience even when users resize their issue browser.  Oue editions live on a fully hosted publisher branded domain and are not stuffed into the publication existing website theme or template.


Digital Onboarding Audience Experience 

FLIP TOOLS: We counted over 10 instructions steps on several of the traditional digital edition page flipper tools just to orient the user to how to find page edges and flip the page.  Then a ton of non-critical persistent navigation presence features to promote sharing and configuration of the reader interface that really just confuse 99% of the new users. Because the flipping page digital magazine tools produce such a poor mobile experience, the publisher must also buy other Apps and multi-channel publishing approach tools so the new subscriber is confronted with a number of options they must choose and install if selecting a mobile access.  Some vendors offer to create these separate disparate tools as part of their platform service. A popular flip edition request is thumbnail page view which actually encourages users to quickly skip the readable content experience. This defeats the intended issue linear content and storytelling experience.

VERTIQUL: Instruction to a new user: Just scroll. 

Digital Revenue and Growth Capabilities

FLIP-TOOLS: Issue sponsor and limited ad upgrades can sometimes be performed on flip software tools.  But there’s a big difference between placement and design of a multimedia element widget box on a flip page vs designing it into a full html page and browser experience.  

VERTIQUL: Our goal is to offer immediate ad upgrade options and to provide a strategy with the knowledge that all advertisers and agency ad placement entities seek an upgraded digital advertising experience and many of these advertisers are reducing their budgets for print ads.  We seek to leverage existing print ad programs to always increase revenue and to maintain ad rates with new benefits for publishers. And when the time comes to completely switch to a digital publication first strategy, the premium digital publication is already performing and a preferred delivery medium.  In terms of promotion, preview editions allow for mass exposure to the core ads and category openers in every issue with many customizable ways to then gain controlled audience new subscribers, opt-in to newsletters, or to create a conversion path for new memberships – all of which allow the user to instantly view the full issue after subscribing or joining.  


Cost of Flip Editions Compared to Premium Digital

FLIP TOOLS: As we mentioned above, the ‘price’ of a digital tool is very different from the ultimate direct and opportunity ‘cost’ of selecting a key publication digital issue and content delivery medium.  The pricing for digital editions from a magazine printer might be zero or a HTML5 flip software might be under $50, but there’s still an internal cost of the publishing team facilitating the ultimate digital issue production and to perform the embeds and adjust graphics and website promotion.  Many 3rd party flip page tools don’t perform any production beyond support for DIY and thee SAAS (software as a solution) platforms are moving toward promoting their tools as a digital publishing or content experience tools. These tools do allow for micro publication development. For typical publications designed in InDesign, it’s a self service production process to convert the PDF to a web-based or embedded hosted digital edition.  Publishing staff fully prepare the publication unless the vendor package includes having the service provider perform some of the more tedious story linking and highlighting inside the issue or even the InDesign to PDF to online edition conversion.  

Reference from publishing consulting work and current publishers migrating to our vertical scrolling platform from existing digital content creator platforms is that these solutions set pricing ranges of $200 and up per month for the digital publishing tools and various features.  Those publishers operating from this toolset typically set a 2-5 days internal workflow with 1-2 staff to perform production and other conversion actions.  Startup and smaller accounts with limited features may be offered as trial or no-cost accounts.

Often not considered is the opportunity cost of selecting an older publishing technology format.  As audiences are exposed to ever more premium digital and mobile optimized content in this modern era, an undetermined brand value loss occurs due to a frustrating or truncated visit experience by the audience when seeking published content.  How many potential subscribers looked at the antiquated delivery format and formed an opinion about the overall deliverable of the ‘issue’ content. Just as we see negative perceptions when apps or downloads are required to access content, since other forms of communication are so easily accessed, it’s a shame to see the most valuable content both consumer and business users seek to acquire from publishers they trust come in a delivery format that’s hard to read.  

That said, it might be better to just provide a downloadable PDF instead of all the work to use a tool that degrades the publication audience experience. The user will still need to pinch and manually zoom and may have challenges on mobile devices, but the publisher will have a version of the publication they can still label as their digital option and save all the time and energy of displaying the newsletter or magazine in a poor digital platform. Once the publication has several advertisers or investors that seek to elevate the brand the upgrade to the VERTIQUL premium browser based solution becomes a profitable and logical choice.

VERTIQUL: Vertiqul takes the uploaded master issue InDesign file and in typically 5 days has completely converted and performed enhancements to the issue plus provides all marketing and social graphics to the publisher.

Again, not calculated into the cost compare evaluation is that a premium solution offers a much greater ROI.  VERTIQUL not only leverages advertising revenue with dynamic ad options but has publication preview editions and marketing capabilities that align with a wonderful brand experience meaning better maximum revenue and audience growth capabilities.  When estimating the total cost of the entire publishing organization including the cost to print (if also printed) the difference between a premium solution cost and over using an older flipping book tool is minimal and certainly worth the additional investment.

I compare this to putting together a world class industry conference attended by your best audience and for the keynote address, replacing the convention hall’s best padded seats with plastic folding chairs to hear the keynote address.  I know, that seems like an over the top comparison. But to demonstrate the difference in experience, we ask publishers to give their current flip edition to their own staff and ask them to read the issue cover to cover on a (or their existing) flip tool using all 3 devices: desktop, mobile phone, and tablet. Then go do the same for one of the VERTIQUL addition examples. The reality is that the premium VERTIQUL edition is easily read and the other is not.

Ultimately, the best comparison is to put yourself in the place of the audience that will read your weekly or monthly or other periodic schedule digital publications and test the solution on both mobile and desktop.  Mobile phone and tablet users are up to 40%-50% of the audience and growing each year.