The Saturday Evening Post has a prominent spot in the history of American magazines. It’s where artist Norman Rockwell made a name for himself, and it has published classic American authors like Edgar Allan Poe and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But if you had no idea that it was still around, you’re not alone — the magazine’s technology director Steve Harman said that many people “are surprised we’re still publishing.”
Yes, it is still putting out a magazine every two months, with a circulation of about 350,000. Subscribers are mostly in their 50s, but The Post is trying to reach younger readers and adapt to the digital world, as recounted in a couple of stories earlier this year. Now it’s taking the next step in that direction with the release of its iPad and iPhone app, which was built by digital publishing company Yudu.
“Lately, there’s been a lot of commitment convert the post into a 21st century media company,” Harman said.
He added that this isn’t The Post’s first move onto tablets and e-readers. It’s already available on the Nook and in Google Play — he said that wasn’t a conscious strategy, but rather a response to overtures from Barnes & Noble and Google. The Post knew it was important to get onto Apple devices too, but it needed to find the right partner to make it happen.
The app itself includes digitized versions of The Post’s issues going back to November/December 2012 — you can enter your existing subscription information, buy a subscription, or purchase individual issues for $3.99 each. The issues themselves are a pretty straightforward PDFs of The Post’s print publication, without additional interactivity or media. Harman said that if Wired represents the cutting edge of what a magazine can do on the iPad, “we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum.”
He doesn’t want to stay that way for long, however — he said The Post chose to work with Yudu because of the promise of adding videos and interactivity. One unique opportunity: The Post already tries to highlight aspects of its long history in the magazine, but the digital versions (which don’t have limited space) provide an opportunity to do that much more of that.
The Post’s broader challenge is trying to court a younger audience without making it seem like it doesn’t value its existing, older readers. I could see that in the May/June table of contents — putting actor Alan Alda‘s face on the cover probably won’t persuade many folks younger than 40 to buy the issue, but there are also stories on Star Trek, Mad Men, and the speed of WiFi in America. And Harman said the magazine’s digital strategy is particularly important for reaching a broader audience. That strategy covers tablet, smartphone, and e-reader editions, and it also includes The Post’s website, which is supposed to be overhauled next month.