Aerial panorama of mountains and scenic road in Iceland

Solving The Digital Dilemma

Since its inception nearly 130 years ago, the core purpose of National Geographic has been to further the knowledge and awareness of our world. Its Maps Division was established in 1915 and has been producing maps for National Geographic magazine and other Society media for more than 100 years. National Geographic Maps publishes a large collection of wall maps, outdoor recreation maps, travel maps, interactive maps, atlases and globes that inspire people to care about and explore their world.

Map pin icon
45,000 maps downloaded
Map icon
More than 800 maps available to a global audience and market
Chart icon
5 years of steady sales increases
Washington, DC, USA & Evergreen, CO, USA
"It provides a unique and effective platform to sell digital versions of our large and varied map collection in a global marketplace, with limited effort on our part."
Author photo
Frank Biasi
Program Director

Growing demand for paper and digital

National Geographic Maps maintains a large collection of printed trail, travel, and reference maps that is well-distributed in North American retail outlets, and has sales that continue to grow. While the demand for their print maps is still alive and well, the organization recognizes the growing need for digital maps coinciding with the proliferation of free digital mapping applications for smartphone and tablets. "Print is certainly not dead—but consumers recognize the advantages of print over digital maps in terms of readability, aesthetics, and power independence—but they also appreciate the ability to instantly see their location on a map, as provided by mobile mapping apps and the GPS receivers in their devices," says Frank Biasi, Program Director at National Geographic Maps.

Mountain silhouette

Easy map navigation, route planning, and track recording are powerful features that consumers rely on today. National Geographic Maps wanted to help its customers take advantage of those capabilities, while continuing to provide the kind of detailed and authoritative content consumers have come to expect from its maps.

Digital Challenges

In the past, National Geographic has worked with partners and developed its own digital solutions for its Trails Illustrated maps. But with a catalog of more than 800 different print maps of various scales, themes, and regional extents, it needed a flexible and simple solution to distribute most, if not all of its maps digitally, with minimal pre-processing, file manipulation, and software development and maintenance. "We decided that the effort, costs, and risks were higher than we were ready to pursue at that point," says Biasi.

National Geographic product page on Avenza Maps website
A backpacker using her phone facing mountains

An easy to implement solution

National Geographic then looked to Avenza Maps for a solution to distribute its georeferenced digital maps that was simple to implement and required minimal effort to maintain. Using the Avenza Maps platform, National Geographic could provide very high-quality digital maps, supported by a widely available mapping app with navigation features, and an a la carte e-commerce solution that could meet consumers' one-off needs.

"Initially, there were some challenges to convert and reformat files designed for offset printing into files optimized for screen display, but the Avenza Maps team provided support and guidance to help with this, and it's been smooth ever since," says Biasi.

The results

National Geographic has made its entire catalog over over 800 digital maps available on the Avenza Map Store—the app's digital marketplace for maps, effectively creating an additional channel on which to get its products to consumers. "It provides a unique and effective platform to sell digital versions of our large and varied map collection in a global marketplace, with limited effort on our part," adds Biasi.

"We've been able to implement a digital distribution solution for our entire map catalog, and give our customers an alternative way to obtain and use our products."

On the Avenza Maps platform, National Geographic has experienced a steady growth in sales of digital maps. Digital sales are still considered a fraction of its print sales, but National Geographic believes that the project has been a worthwhile endeavor considering the ease of implementation and the small amount of resources needed to maintain it. With the Avenza Maps app, consumers are able to purchase and download their favourite National Geographic maps—including historical and specialty maps previously included in its magazine—and use their device's GPS and to locate themselves, navigate trails and reach points of interest along the way. As a partner, Avenza is committed to it's community of Map Store vendors to to continuously develop, innovate, and grow the presence of the Map Store as a viable means of distributing their products to the public.