Creating e-papers: What publishers and corporate publishers need to know

Timo Lamour

What are your motivations for creating an ePaper? The motivation for looking for a digital e-paper solution can be manifold. Essentially, however, there are only three concrete scenarios. Firstly, the behavior of your readers or customers is changing. Secondly, your circulation is stagnating or even declining. Or thirdly, your own brand awareness simply demands a professional digital offering.

What are your motivations for creating an e-paper? The motivation to look for a digital e-paper solution can be manifold. However, there are essentially only three specific scenarios. First, the behavior of your readers or customers changes. Second, your circulation stagnates or even declines. Or third, your own brand awareness simply demands a professional digital offering.

In this article you will find out what the popularity and potential of the e-paper really is, what the advantages are compared to your print edition and why you should definitely stay away from page-turning PDFs.

What are e-papers?

The IVW definition is: "An e-paper is [...] the digital edition of a press title that is identical to its print counterpart in terms of content and layout." It is therefore an optimized PDF version of a newspaper or magazine that is made available to readers digitally in parallel with or instead of the print edition. By the way, e-paper (EN: electronic paper) usually refers only to the digital edition of a newspaper. Whereas digital magazines are more commonly called e-magazines.

In Germany, by the way, the digital edition of the FAZ is one of the highest-circulation e-papers. Here, IVW counted just under 57,000 copies sold daily in the second quarter of 2020. That corresponds to almost one-third of the printed edition. Nevertheless, the e-paper is still considered a transition medium from print to online.

Where are e-papers used?

The digital preparation and publication of content is indispensable in numerous industries today. The largest group by far is, of course, newspaper and magazine publishers. Here, everything from small trade magazines and local newspapers to the world's biggest media brands is included. One example is Bauer Media. The publisher is constantly developing new apps. Whether for the food portal or the health platform - all online presences are supplemented by their own e-paper apps.

A second large group that creates e-papers are companies and agencies. These so-called corporate publishers want to reach their customers more digitally in order to improve their service, operate more sustainably or boost sales of their products. Common formats include employee and customer magazines, as well as product catalogs and sales materials. One example of a digital customer magazine is the app-based customer magazine of the chemical company Merck.

Merck's customer magazine app "e-Effekte" contains, among other things, all archive issues since 1991.

A third, much smaller group, consists of clubs, associations and foundations. The large ones among them, such as the German Football Association, use digital editions to reach their members, decision-makers and interested parties.

How popular are e-papers really?

The world's first daily newspaper with a daily e-paper offering was the Rhein-Zeitung in 2001, and now almost all mainstream newspapers and magazines offer an ePaper variant of their print edition on the web and as an app. While many print circulations of newspapers and magazines continue to decline, there is good news for publishers who already produce ePaper. The industry monitor Horizont reports, "Their [e-paper] growth has been unbroken for years." And the newspaper market portal zmg reports in a recent study: "More than three-quarters (77%) of 14- to 29-year-olds consider e-paper a viable alternative to the printed newspaper edition." Statements that speak to the following scenario: The generation that has grown up with the digital world will scroll on their smartphone or tablet at the breakfast table as a matter of course, instead of rustling newsprint like their parents.

From the point of view of regional and local newspaper publishers, too, there is more and more to be said for publishing an e-paper. After all, distribution, including delivery of print media, is significantly more expensive than editing and production. It is therefore hardly surprising that 24% of the circulation of national newspapers is already digital. Regional newspapers, on the other hand, are still lagging behind with a share of 9%. However, their growth rate of 16% is twice as high as that of the national papers. Weekly newspapers, on the other hand, have gained almost 29% in e-paper sales and now sell one in ten copies this way.

What are the advantages of an e-paper compared to the print edition?

Delivering a digital edition is a breeze. That much is clear. However, if you think further outside the box, you may see an even greater potential in creating an e-paper. Here are some of the biggest benefits of e-paper editions:

  1. Easier delivery. Digitizing your print editions makes your distribution many times faster and less complicated.
  2. Cost and resource savings. Digital distribution via app costs significantly less than printed editions.
  3. Higher added value through interactivity. Goodbye letter to the editor! Digital formats offer completely new technical possibilities such as audio and video. They enable a more intensive experience of the brand and a direct exchange with readers.
  4. New target groups and revenue sources. An e-paper app opens up new target groups that you can no longer reach with a print edition.
  5. New marketing options. With an e-paper, you can take advantage of social media, SEO, and other benefits of the online world.
  6. Success becomes measurable. The performance (engagement, user activity, etc.) of your content can be precisely measured in digital formats.

Web reader or interactive e-paper app: Which is better?

If you decide to digitize your content, you have three main options when creating an e-paper:

  1. A web reader version of your printed edition,
  2. a PDF replica app
  3. an interactive e-paper app with additional multimedia content.

Most media companies offer a web reader in addition to a PDF replica or interactive app. After all, the additional effort of a web reader display is manageable. However, making the right decision depends heavily on your own target group. FOCUS, for example, argues as follows for the two variants of its e-paper:

"The FOCUS E-Paper is the PDF of the print magazine, ideal for downloading, reading, saving or printing on PC and Mac. We recommend the FOCUS magazine app [interactive e-paper] for mobile reading on tablet and smartphone. Here, the digital edition is equipped with a reading mode and has additional content such as video, audio and links. As a subscriber, you can log in on up to three mobile devices at the same time. Once downloaded, the issues are also available to you offline."

If you want to create an e-paper, the following comparison will help you choose the right e-paper software:

E-paper in web reader

  • 1:1 image of a print edition
  • Issues readable offline
  • Automatic generation of outputs
  • Read mode possible
  • Embedding of video, audio and links possible with restrictions
  • Integration with Analytics Tools like Google Firebase
  • Included in IVW count
  • Access to the archive
  • Sharing via social media possible

Interactive e-paper app

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

  • Optimized for tablets and smartphones
  • User friendly reading mode
  • Additional content like newsfeed, video, audio and links
  • Individual navigation, e.g. by departments, locations, etc.
  • Possibility to merge e-paper and news app
  • Integration of widgets such as apartment listings or sports scores
  • Paywall concepts are possible


If you produce a lot of content on a regular basis, you should definitely think about an e-paper. After all, this medium is not only becoming increasingly popular. Easy delivery, enormous cost and resource savings, and reaching new target groups are also additional plus points compared to the print edition. Once the decision has been made in favor of an ePaper, you should definitely take a closer look at the publishing option as an interactive ePaper app. Because only in this format can you offer your readers a high-quality reading experience.

Finally, let's summarize the key steps in creating an e-paper:

  • Define specifically what you and your target audience want.
  • Decide which features your e-paper needs based on the different features.
  • Always keep your readers' value in mind and steer clear of flip page PDFs if your brand image is important to you.

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

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Kevin Kallenbach
Head of Sales