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ePaper Software: What Media Publishers Need to Know

Timo Lamour

Timo Lamour

Why create an ePaper? There can be many different motives behind the search for an ePaper software. However, it essentially comes down to just three specific scenarios. The first is that the behaviour of your readers or customers is changing. The second is that your print run sales are stagnating or are even in decline. The third is that you simply require a professional digital presence in order to increase awareness of your brand.

In this article, you will find out precisely where things stand regarding the popularity and potential of ePapers, the benefits over print editions and why you should steer clear of PDFs with page flip functions.

What are ePapers?

The German Audit Bureau of Circulation (IVW) defines ePapers as: ‘The digital edition of a press publication which is identical to its print counterpart in terms of content and layout.’ These are optimised PDF versions of a newspaper or magazine which are made available digitally to readers as well as or in place of the print edition. However, ePapers (electronic papers) are generally only the digital edition of a newspaper. Digital magazines, on the other hand, tend to be called eMagazines.

In Germany, the digital edition of the FAZ is one of the most widely circulated ePapers. The IVW recorded just under 57,000 daily copies sold in the second quarter of 2020. This corresponds to almost one third of print issues. Nevertheless, the ePaper is still seen as a transitional medium from print to online.

Where are ePapers used?

In many industries these days, the digital editing and publishing of content has become essential. Newspaper and magazine publishers are of course the largest group by far. This includes small trade journals, local newspapers and the largest media brands in the world. One example is Bauer Media, which is constantly developing new apps. All of its websites have their own ePaper apps, such as car magazine CAR or fashion platform Grazia.

Another large group responsible for creating ePapers is companies and agencies. These so-called corporate publishers seek to reach their customers with an increased digital presence, so they can improve their service, become more sustainable or boost sales of their products. The most commonly used formats include employee and customer magazines, as well as product catalogues and sales material. One example of a digital customer magazine is the app-based customer magazine of pharmaceutical company Merck.

Merck’s customer magazine app “e-Effekte” includes all archived editions since 1991.

A third, significantly smaller, group consists of societies, associations and foundations. The largest of these, such as the Football Association, use ePaper software to reach their members, decision makers and interested parties with digital content.

Are ePapers really that popular?

The world’s first newspaper to release a daily ePaper edition was the Rhein-Zeitung in 2001. Now almost all established newspapers and magazines offer an ePaper version of their print edition on the internet and as an app. While many print editions of newspapers and magazines continue to decline, there are great innovations for publishers who already create ePapers. Industry monitor Horizont reports that ‘The growth [of ePapers] has been steady for years.’ And newspaper market portal zmg reports in one of its latest studies that ‘More than three quarters (77%) of 14 to 29-year-olds see ePapers as a practical alternative to printed newspapers.’ These statements are true when considering the following situation. The generation that has grown up with the digital world will quite naturally sit and scroll through their smartphone or tablet while eating breakfast, as opposed to their parents who will leaf through the physical newspaper.

It also makes increasing sense for regional and local newspaper publishers to publish ePapers. Selling, and delivering, print media is much more expensive than editing and production. So it is hardly a surprise that 24% of circulated national newspapers are digital. Regional newspapers, on the other hand, are somewhat lagging behind here at 9%. However, their growth rate, at 16%, is twice as high as that of national papers. E-versions of weekly newspapers have also increased by almost 29%, with one in ten of these papers being sold in digital format.

What are the advantages of ePapers compared to print editions?

Delivering a digital edition is child’s play – that much is obvious. However, if you look at it in more detail, you will perhaps see that there is even more potential in ePapers. Here are some of their main benefits:

  1. Easier to deliver. Digitising your print edition makes distribution so much quicker and more straightforward.
  2. Save costs and resources. It costs much less to distribute a digital app than a print edition.
  3. Interaction creates greater added value. So long, letters to the editor! Digital formats offer completely new technical possibilities like audio and video. They create an even more intense brand experience and enable direct communication with readers.
  4. New target groups and sources of revenue. An ePaper app opens up new target groups you would no longer reach with a print edition.
  5. New marketing options. With an ePaper, you can take advantage of social media, SEO and other benefits of the online world.
  6. You can measure your success. With digital formats, you can precisely measure the performance of your content (engagement, user activity etc.).

Web readers or interactive ePaper apps – which is better?

If you decide to go digital with your content, you have three main options when looking for a proper ePaper software:

  1. A web reader version of your print edition
  2. A PDF replica app
  3. An interactive ePaper app with additional multimedia content

Most media companies offer a web reader in addition to a PDF replica or interactive app. The extra work involved with displaying content on a web reader is ultimately manageable. However, choosing the right option heavily depends on your target group. FOCUS has the following reasoning behind its two ePaper versions:

‘The FOCUS e-paper is the PDF version of the print magazine and is perfect for downloading, reading, saving and printing on PCs and Macs. We recommend the FOCUS magazine app [interactive e-paper] for reading on tablets and smartphones. This digital version is equipped with reading mode and includes additional content such as video, audio and links. Subscribers can sign in on up to three mobile devices at the same time. Once downloaded, the issues are also available offline.’

If you want to create an ePaper, you can use the following comparison to help you choose the right ePaper software:

ePapers on web readers

  • 1:1 display of a print edition
  • Can be read offline
  • Editions generated automatically
  • Reading mode available
  • Limited embedding of video, audio and links possible
  • Integration with analytics tools such as Google Firebase
  • Access to archive
  • Sharing via social media possible

Interactive ePaper app

All the features of the web reader version, as well as the following extras:

  • Optimised for tablets and smartphones
  • User-friendly reading mode
  • Additional content such as newsfeeds, video, audio and links
  • Individual navigation, for example by section, location etc.
  • ePaper and news app can be merged
  • Integrate widgets such as property search, local sport results
  • Paywall concepts possible


If you decide to go for ePapers, you should consider more closely the option to publish as an interactive ePaper app, because this is the only format that can offer your readers a high-quality reading experience.

To finish, I will once again summarise the key steps to creating an ePaper:

  • Define precisely what you and your target group want.
  • Decide which functions your ePaper needs based on the different features.
  • Always bear in mind the added value for your readers and steer clear of PDFs with page flip function if your brand image is important to you.

Are you considering creating an ePaper or are you looking for the right ePaper software? Then arrange an initial consultation with one of our experts today.

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