Ruben Vardanyan, Founder and CEO of digital publishing platform Joomag, shares how the traditional PDF has evolved in a more mobile-focused world and how interactive alternatives benefit both marketers and their customers.

He discusses the increasing requirements marketeers demand from their content, and how thoughtful personalisation leads to higher conversion rates. Find out how to optimise content based on reader behaviour and why we must educate businesses on how the digital world works.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Ruben Vardanyan – Joomag

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Ruben Vardanyan

Mike: Thanks for listening to marketing B2B Tech, the podcast from Napier, where you can find out what really works in B2B marketing today.

Welcome to marketing B2B technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I’m joined by Ruben Vardanyan. Ruben is the founder and CEO of Joomag. Welcome to the podcast.

Ruben: Thanks for hosting Mike.

Mike: So, Ruben I mean, tell me a little bit about how you got to found Joomag. You know, what, what was your career version and what inspired you to start the product?

Ruben: Yeah, that’s an interesting story. So Jumeirah was founded back in 2010, during the ad of blogging, when platforms like Blogger and WordPress, as you recall, were incredibly popular. So our goal at this time was to create a platform that would enable people to create visually stunning authoritative content, essentially, digital magazines. And that’s how we get started. At first, we focused on working with self publishing and small businesses. But over time, we grew to serve a wider range of clients, eventually amassing over 1 million customers. And as we’ve all we discovered that our platform provided the most value to the established companies. So we pivoted to focus more on serving that market. So right now we’re more or less working with a mid market enterprise companies in B2B space.

Mike: So fundamentally moved from that that SME type product into something that’s, you know, much more mid market, maybe, you know, much bigger customers, but perhaps slightly fewer them.

Ruben: Exactly, because we see that the biggest value they’re providing, we have a huge plasma and the biggest failure we’re providing or more for an established brands, where they already know have the strategy, they know what they are doing. Or they have this big initiative, and they just need the right tools and the right expertise to get off the ground. So that’s why we concentrated where we are the best at and as basically the larger companies.

Mike: So you’re you’re creating effectively a magazine type platform. And can you talk about exactly what GMAC does and what problem it solves?

Ruben:  You know, enables companies to effortlessly create, distribute and measure interactive publications that perform. We like to use the term perform because it basically highlights the ultimate goal of grading conducive content. Right. So our approach is twofold. We focus not only on simplifying the publishing process and enhancing the workflow for companies, but also on providing readers with a smooth experience on how they receive and zoom, absorb and interact with content. This is like a crucial point on differentiating for us before, no matter how well crafted the content is on the company side. If it fails to resonate with the audience, it will not achieve its desired results at the end of the day, right.

Mike: That’s interesting. I, you know, I totally appreciate that you’ve got to eventually got to customers, the paying customer, you’re going to help create the content. But if the readers don’t engage with the publication, that that’s gonna be a problem. I mean, how do you find the attitude towards online publications? Because we’re all kind of used to, you know, downloading PDFs in B2B. So how do readers respond to a Joomag? Publication?

Ruben: This interesting question. So Joomag publication is basically a visually immersive publication, right? So it’s like a specific medium. So digital publications or OLAP publication, I’ll recall them, they are not here to replace, let’s say, a website, or they are not here to replace a blog, they are not here to replace any other already creative medium. And nowadays, in this small world, there are a bunch of millions, right from even the Tick Tock movies up to any other minute. So they’re here to stay. And if we compare with PDFs, that’s another equation. So while ease of use and time efficient, reporting the goals you see, but the ultimate objective is to basically ensure that the PDF files remain relevant and perform effectively in today’s diverse digital landscape. Right. So therefore, our focus is not simply on converting these PDF files, to new formats, but on delivering engaging content that resonates with the intended audiences. And whilst the PDF is converted, you can further enhance the content by using our online editor or make updates as needed using our powerful online editor. So basically, we are in that vertical. And that’s how we look at the things and PDF is still there. But I think PDFs became less relevant in today’s mobile first world, as consumers increasingly prefer more user friendly digital mediums for reading. And I’ll say that the show the PDF format was originally designed for offline use, while modern technology has shifted towards more cloud based storage and accessibility.

Mike: I mean, that’s interesting. And you know, we’ve had a couple of other guests on the podcast who’ve got other pros arcs that are aiming to provide something that’s really the evolution of the PDF. I think one of the interesting things I’d like to understand is, you know, you do have this automatic conversion, you can basically give Joomag, a PDF and get a, an interactive publication from a couple of clicks. I mean, how would you feel that works? And then how much effort do people have to put in to really get the publication interactive and engaging,

Ruben: It’s pretty much effortless. I mean, when you convert the publications for generic just takes a couple of minutes to get it converted. The biggest thing is that you just don’t care about reading the digital replica, I would call them, your ultimate goal is to make sure that they are mobile first as well, in this mobile first world, right. And it basically means you still have to put more efforts in creating an engaging content at the end of the day, it includes creating even either the adaptive version, so that it works on all devices, or software automatically does it but you still have to tweak it a little bit, because the PDF is not the best format. When it comes to the conversion. At the same time for adding interactivity, as you mentioned, it’s just takes a few clicks. And it’s a no cost solution. So anyone, no matter where we are designer or marketer, or sales rep, you’re able to easily do it effortlessly, just with a few clicks using our online editor. So in sense of that, it’s pretty much easy to use. But I would say that target should be not just by converting PDFs, but just making sure that those are usable. For the end consumers, you will be delivering the ultimate content.

Mike: That’s interesting. So I’m interested, Are there features that people see and Joomag that, you know, they’ll convert a PDF? And then a lot of people say, well, we need to add that is that is there something that that really is the magic to get people engaged when they’re reading?

Ruben: It was yes, like five years ago, like, people were just converting PDF files and just putting videos on top of that. Nowadays, people are more demanding. And I would say they are not just demanding in terms of having more interactivity, like animation. So that kind of stuff is still nice to have, but it’s not a necessity. But they are more interested in having something more personalised, I would say. Because nowadays, consumers have high expectations. It was not like a generic content they used to read before, let’s say five years ago, three years ago, nowadays, they want everything very personalised. So there’s how social media channels social media platform basically change, right? So you follow something, some kinds of topics, some kinds of people just get whatever you subscribe for. So it works the same in this modern economy. And I’d say the expectations of consumers these wish from just nicer actions with this full ethics, just like when iPhones came out, right? So they have multi touch, which was a big surprise for a bunch of consumers. But nowadays, like it’s a regular thing, and everybody has it. Same with these digital publications, I would say they are expecting to have more personalised content, and of course, more visual content, because the idea of publications is not reading, but see. So I would say yeah, having more gamification more visual content. That’s what makes it different. And it has to be personalised.

Mike: That’s really interesting. It sounds like you know, what you’re saying is the online publications of when you’re creating them, that it’s moved from, you know, looking at all the bells and whistles and the clever stuff, and actually trying to understand now, what the audience wants and really customised for the audience. So it sounds like, you know, what people are doing with with these publications has changed a bit over the last few years?

Ruben: Yeah, yeah, that’s correct. And that’s what makes helps publishers with to understand how the sentiments of the consumers are changing. So this is why like, we’re trying to cover the entire lifecycle, not just the creation portion, not just the delivery portion. But also the measurement portion that we have to weigh measurement is not just the analytics, which is get a behind the scenes data on user behaviour, or user engagement with you. We also get direct feedback from the consumers. So we have a feedback tools. And let’s say you can see on page five, a, what do you think about the content on this page? What do you like what you dislike, and the system basically merges all those feedback together along with the analytical data. And that’s what we provide, eventually to the publishers to make the content so that they can show the future content and make it better.

Mike: So that’s really interesting. You’re trying to understand what the readers are actually, you know, enjoying and, and what they find less helpful. I mean, is there then a process that somebody would go through to optimise a publication once I’ve got that data to make it more engaging.

Ruben: Oh yeah, of course. So that’s it for marketers, right? So marketers can leverage this reader behaviour reading variety ways. And one example of this is sending the retailer’s YouTube platform to create catalogues. The ultimate goal of these catalogues, of course, is to sell products to their existing customer base. In the US, we typically see you have this threat email being shipped to our house, right? So that we see hey, like, there is a brand, ABC, they’re selling this stuff, this is the catalogue and they’re still even sending 40 Page printed publications to the recipients based on the zip codes or your targeting for their existing customer base. It basically the ones who sell more, right, so who understand how we are, but we also have to understand the back office, all the processes weren’t there. So team creates a selection of products from the retailer’s inventory, and categorise them in the catalogue. So this is a process when they have a dedicated team dedicated people who are syncing all those items, right?

By analysing the behavioural data insights provided by Joomag platform, retailers can start to identify patterns in how different cohorts of customers engage with the catalogue, and which product categories resonate with them. So basically, this allows retailers to personalise the content catalogues for different customer groups tailoring the content to better meet their needs, and interests. So the end result of this personalization to produce higher conversion rates, of course, as customers are more likely to engage with, and purchase products that are relevant and interesting to them. Right. And this is just one example of ultimately platform can help marketers to better understand your audience and optimise that content search for maximum results. And we have many other examples in corporate communication we have for many other examples in training and development, we have a bunch of other examples in lead generation, lead nurturing silver, so he’s basically ever because there’s a person who are we spreading on you’re spending time spending resources on creating the content, right. And in traditional obligation is not just tax, it’s everything, to lay out the photos, the photography, you have to create the videos, you have to hire photographer to do the photo shooting get right the writer to pay this tax, so bunch of pupil and bunch of voice and bunch of resources spent on just trading one piece or a few pieces of content. So that’s why our ultimate goal is to make sure that those resources are efficiently span, and at the same time supporting these with the reader engagement.

Mike: I mean, that sounds really good. It sounds like you know, there’s so much opportunity to to build this personalization around different personas or groups of audience. When you see customers doing that. I mean, how much uplift you see in terms of personalised version versus a generic one. Is there a rule of thumb? Or is it something that varies from customer to customer?

Ruben: With question varies from customer to customer, but the rule of thumb is the following. First, big compliment, let’s say they just want to move from claim to digital, just the initial the first baby step they’re doing. And the biggest difference is that when they were in print to process, the print lifecycle manager is completely different stuff. You have an internal team who is doing design and they have to produce the print ready publication, then to send it to the printers along with the customer details with the shipping addresses. Then you have the production team who’s making sure that quality assurance to make sure that the prints are being with the right quality with the right papers and stuff like that, then you’re sending these information to the FedEx or whatever shipping company these who get the chips. And then you’re done.

Yeah, you just get the confirmation of receipt, the end user received the publication to print publication. And that’s right. When they move this through digital, like we call it digital transformation from print to digital, right. It’s a completely different beast. And the way the team the structure the team you had it completely changes, right? It completely changes everything.

And the first step is to educate companies. How the digital world works, right? What do you have to keep track so that you know like before, you just had a few metrics, number of recipients, number of deliveries, and that’s it. And then the ultimate result let’s say they have some coupons with the QR codes they can track how many people are scanning the QR codes that is nowadays in the digital area. You can track everything and then say delivery is replaced with something else delivery equals sending emails, sharing on social media and utilising as many channels where your readers are is not just using one channel because you know like especially when people are switching from print to digital, there are various age groups involved. And some of the age groups they prefer, let’s say email channels, other Millennials are channels that they prefer even Tik Tok, you know, so you have to make sure that you distribute the content with those relevant channels. And then when it comes to content that will just start reading the content, and then cause the measurement. Right. So the first thing is that basically, the rule of thumb is number one, we help them to just transition from free to digital, that’s number one. At that stage, the, they have these big expectation, but they don’t know what you’re looking for. They’re just getting used to. The next step is professional bass probably think of recorded, we already were into this for a year at least, and didn’t really know what they want to measure and what they want to make it better, or they want to make it better. And typically, that’s when they start personalising the content.

And it’s very natural process, you know, like in data science are the same, right? You have this big data, you have this analytics. And let’s say hypothetically, you have three minutes reading time for the publication, right? Let’s say you want to make sure that it goes to six minutes, because the more they read, the more engaged they are, the more engaged they are, the more as they see, the more as they see, the more money you make, or the more engaged they are, the more clicks they click. So whatever it is, so the the ultimate result, the performance equals, the more the engagement with the publication rate, it means the more time they spend on the publication, and how data analysts do it. So first, they start breaking down based on the course and see, is there a target audience? Let’s say Is there a cohort who spent 90 minutes on the publications? And typically the answer is yes, that, that three minutes average time equals, like us small cohort, which is spending seven minutes on the publication and another board, which expenditures, one into the publication, and the average of those two segments comes up to three minutes, let’s say.

So you try to figure out hey, for those people who spend just one minute, how could they do it better? What could I have done differently so that they spent also seven minutes rather than one minutes, right? And if you change the entire content, typically keeping one universal content to basically make all of the cores happy, it’s almost impossible. So what do you do you branch out your content, you keep the same content for the cohort, which has seven engagement, and you create another version of the publication for just the adult cohort, which has 1.5 million, the same engagement. And you do this evening experiments, and the more you drill down further, the more personalization versions you create. So it doesn’t necessarily has to be personalization doesn’t equal the number of recipients you have equals the number of publications you should have.

And personalization is always confused with just a customising the name or the company name in the publication. This is not the case of personalization, personalization means that the end recipient receives the content, they desire to engage with the desire to read. That means personalization for us. And so that’s why like, the more proficient with the platform, the companies become, the more they start branching out the company, the more they stop, crystallise it so this will be so and the more years they are with you make the more personalised versions we see.

Mike: That’s fascinating. I think. Personalization is definitely something that people are realising makes a huge difference in terms of engagement, whether it’s a publication or response rate, or whatever. And it’s interesting to hear how you’re, you’re looking at not from an individual point of view, but from a cohort point of view. So you’re grouping people together. And I think that’s, that’s something a lot of marketers might be quite keen to hear. Because it’s less challenging than trying to think I’ve got to create completely custom versions for every single recipient.

Ruben: That’s right. Yeah, that’s right. And so we pride ourselves on our ability to provide deep insight into the reader behaviour offering this unparallel granularity and analysis. So that that’s why like, this level of detail is one of our biggest selling points, actually.

Mike: I mean, that’s great. I’d like to jump almost to something completely different. I mean, you’ve talked about a lot of applications here from lead generation to lead nurturing to to catalogues. But also, I mean, you have you have an ability and Joomag to actually sell publications. I mean, do you have independent publishers using the platform? And are they using the platform because they can get better results or better revenue than other forms of distribution?

Ruben: That’s right. Yeah. So we have individual publisher, like, we will not have small publishing houses working with us. The rule of thumb is that you have to be serious about that. So it’s not just something you’re doing as a side project, but it has to be your primary project. Because small companies are doing this as a side project or just doing this in a hybrid model of say they have print and digital or just doing this digital bit like a small initiative, they are not willing to aid and invest money in this kind of solution. On the other hand, like work with us, it requires investment not in the sense of the funds, because we’re not that expensive, but in the sense of like spending time working and using the data which we provide to make the content better. And this is something they have to do on their own. Like, we’re not in the position of changing the content or writing the content, we’re producing the content, because that’s their job, not ours. But our job is to just provide with the writing sites, right recommendations and situations based on the industry, the use case in the vertical area. But yeah, we have many associations using us for various purposes, those who are making money out of the ads, or those who are just gaining more subscribers, have many brilliant, good use cases, who brought with us, let’s say they grew from just 5000 subscribers to over 100,000 subscribers. We have very good use cases here. And yeah,

Mike: That sounds great. I mean, the yet another use case for Joomag. I feel I have to move on. And I don’t think we’re allowed to do a podcast about anything to do with content without asking about AI. So I have to ask you have you? Have you seen customers using AI to generate content on Joomag? And if you have, you know, have you been able to determine a difference in results versus using humans?

Ruben: Good question. Yeah, we’ve seen customers use engage, we also started experimenting with AI power content generation ourselves. I’d say while AI does not completely replace human input in the content creation process, we have found that it can significantly expedite the process, like more efficient content creation and faster time to mark types. So we recognise that the EMR content generation is still in the early stages, and there is much to learn and exploring the result is potential application limitations. But yeah, it’s definitely there. It’s going to revolutionise everything, the way we create the way we consume content, and it will be part of our daily life. We must soon

Mike: So it’s interesting. So if we’re writers, we definitely need to up our game because the competition’s there from the machines?

Ruben: Oh, yeah, it is. It is. And it’s not just for the writers for everyone. Marketers sales, like literally, the support reps, I know, are all in danger. Elon Musk said, Well,

Mike: I really appreciate your time. I mean, there’s so many other things I could ask, but is there anything else you feel we should have covered or anything you feel people should know about the product?

Ruben: I believe we try to car things. So hopefully, people are you happy with our podcast? Oh, that’s that’s all? That’s great.

Mike: I mean, obviously, Joomag is a relatively low cost product to try. Particularly if you’re in a you know, midsize company or an enterprise. Presumably, they just go to if they want to try the product.

Ruben: Exactly. Yeah, you really love comm they can request the demo and give you the site.

Mike: That’s fantastic. And if people have got any questions about what you’ve said, and you know, things you’ve talked about today, what would be the best way for them to actually get in contact with you? Oh,

Ruben: feel free to send me an email

Mike: I mean, Ruben, thank you very much. It’s been been very interesting, very insightful. And I love all our discussion about personalization. I think that’s going to be really helpful to people. Thank you so much for your time.

Ruben: Thanks, Mike. Thanks to Thanks for hosting.

Mike: Thanks so much for listening to marketing B2B Tech. We hope you enjoyed the episode. And if you did, please make sure you subscribe on iTunes, or on your favourite podcast application. If you’d like to know more, please visit our website at Napier B2B dot com or contact me directly on LinkedIn.