The United States Department of Defense produces magazines for each of its four branches — Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. These promotional publications educate and inform current and former service members and their families about national security and the U.S. armed forces; they also act as valuable recruiting tools.
For decades, Marines Magazine has served active and former U.S. Marines — the earliest recorded staff for the publication dates back to 1919. The official magazine of the United States Marine Corps since 1983, the magazine caters to “Marines who need fun, unique, useful and innovative information on operations, equipment, education and training, sports, entertainment and policy.”
With free distribution and no advertising, the Department of Defense flagship magazine titles rely on government funding. In a March 2011 memorandum, the Secretary of Defense directed immediate support of a Department of Defense Efficiency Initiative. One of the mandates ordered that all service flagship magazines eliminate hard-copy printing and transition to an online-only distribution model by fiscal year 2012.
The Marines Magazine staff had already created an iPad supplement in late 2010. They began to overhaul their website and develop a full iPad version of their print magazine, premiering the official app in February 2011. The initial tablet edition was so successful that the magazine decided to ramp up its digital application presence with the Adobe® Digital Publishing Suite™ (DPS).
The staff received training from MEI in November of 2011 so that editorial and production staff could continue the work of reinventing the historic magazine into an innovative iPad quarterly: “MEI provided us one main round of training that was very helpful in better understanding the complexities and capabilities of the Digital Publishing Suite,” said Production Director Greg Reeder.
“The transition to tablet followed naturally from the magazine’s needs,” said Reeder. “Since we don’t have paid advertisers, the benefits of going digital were absolutely huge. We can streamline the editorial and publishing sides and reduce the overhead cost of printing, storing and shipping.” Six months after the app’s debut, readership was growing at a rate of 2,000 new users per month.
The savings realized by the mandate are an estimated $4,000,000 by the end of the 2012 fiscal year. This drastic overall reduction in overhead for the Department of Defense is due to savings on printing and postage alone. Per the memorandum, in addition to a sizeable cost savings, the Secretary of Defense believed that the electronic distribution model would “increase the magazines’ reach in the target audience (18-24 year old, digitally-oriented demographic), improve the immediacy of content, and provide the capability to update content more frequently.”
All of the service flagship magazines met the online-only requirement by making their content available as webzines. Marines magazine was the first to offer both a website and a tablet edition. The tablet edition presents a multimedia experience that allows readers to see, hear and read about all things Marine. Users can download regular issues and special one-off content such as a recent social-media handbook, a “Marines in Focus” year-in-review issue and a commemorative edition celebrating 100 years of Marine Corps aviation. All content is available at no cost.
Built using Adobe InDesign and the Adobe DPS tools, along with specialized HTML for additional tablet-specific functionality, the quarterly is packed with interactive elements that take full advantage of the iPad’s capabilities. Some regular features include:
- “Sights,” showcasing exceptional Marines photography in high-resolution digital images. Interactive components include photo galleries and pinch-and-zoom images.
- “Scuttlebutt,” providing news and information about weapons and other technologies. Users can rotate images for 360-degree views of the latest equipment.
- “Portrait and Profile,” spotlighting a newsworthy or unique Marine, with accompanying embedded video.
For the special Marines Aviation Centennial edition, the production team created an interactive timeline of Marine Corps milestones, which users can touch at any point to open up a full article complete with images, galleries and video. In another issue a multi-state-object treatment animated a more down-to-earth subject — the proper way to perform a tire flip.
The digital format also makes it easy to share Marines Magazine content on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Social-media updates relevant to each article appear in real time at the top of the screen as users post them.
To measure the site’s impact, the Department of Defense has implemented Adobe SiteCatalyst (Powered by Omniture) to capture reader analytics. SiteCatalyst, integrated within Adobe DPS, provides insightful details about who is downloading the app, where readers are located, when articles are being read and what content is being accessed most often. Charting these factors helps the Marines Magazine editors learn from their audience and plan future issues accordingly.
Reeder says the move to digital is a win-win for his staff and for subscribers: “The benefit to the readers is obvious. They can access the content from wherever they are without having to worry about cost.” Both the production staff and the readers save time and money. For active-duty Marines stationed across the globe, the tablet edition is easier to access and more timely than its print counterpart. It’s also cheaper to deliver.
Above all, Adobe DPS allows the Marines Magazine to cut the required printing costs — and now other branches have begun to implement similar strategies to produce their own tablet editions.
Having made these first steps into the tablet arena, Marines is now undergoing additional in-depth training with MEI’s Adobe DPS experts. The magazine was so satisfied with their initial training experience with MEI that the publication recommended Airman, the official magazine of the Air Force, utilize MEI as well. Airman staff spent two days with an MEI DPS expert reviewing workflow and strategizing their move to tablet publishing. The Airman magazine app is slated to premier on iTunes in November 2012.
Reeder says that Adobe’s publishing tools have provided the flexibility necessary for Marines Magazine to transition into the digital publishing era: “Adobe Digital Publishing Suite allowed us to streamline the design workflow and deliver our application on both the iTunes app store and the Android market. By the time the DOD ruling was made, the Marines were well on our way, leading all the Department of Defense in digital publishing.”