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Correction: This story inadvertently downplayed the interest in tablet users willing to pay for newspaper, magazine or TV content. While an…

Tablet magazines montage

Correction: This story inadvertently downplayed the interest in tablet users willing to pay for newspaper, magazine or TV content. While an average of 20 percent preferred some sort of online/offline bundle, in actuality, the OPA’s research showed that two-thirds of tablet owners were interested in paying for either the bundled option, a one-time purchase or a standalone subscription.

Most major publishers have acceded to Apple’s terms, to one degree or another, for selling subscriptions to app versions of their titles — in part because the iPad is likely to remain the dominant tablet. In return, these publishers are betting that they’ll be able to make enough advertising and subscription revenue to ease the pain of forking over 30 cents from each dollar of revenue. A study (pdf) by the Online Publishers Association shows that publishers still have some very heavy lifting to do before they can realize those goals.

The study, prepared by consultancy Frank N. Magid Associates, finds that 93 percent of tablet owners have downloaded apps (I can’t imagine what the other seven percent are using it for — just web browsing and e-mail?) and the average user owns about 20 apps. That show that the appetite for apps is pretty limited, making it difficult for magazines and newspapers to compete with the likes of Angry Birds and Ultimate Mortal Kombat.

Other findings:

– The most popular kinds of apps are in categories for weather (41 percent of current tablet owners have downloaded such an app). That’s followed by entertainment (40 percent), news (34 percent), sports (27 percent).

– Newspaper apps have been downloaded by 26 percent of tablet owners, while only 20 percent have downloaded a magazine app.

– Nearly half of tablet users say they’d rather pay for apps as long as it guarantees little or no advertising in exchange.

– Paid apps account for 26 percent of all apps downloaded; 79 percent of those who have downloaded an app have paid for them.

– On average, users spent $53 on apps in the past year.

As publishers like to remind observers, these are still “early days.” The thinking is that as tablet adoption rises — today, tablet users represent 12 percent of the US internet population and that number is projected to grow to 23 percent by early next year-a group that represents an estimated 54 million people — consumers will get more used to paying for content and accepting ads, just like in the good old days when the traditional print model was the only game in town.

It also helps to note that these are still “early days” numbers based on consumers who are also considered more affluent, sophisticated and media savvy than the rest of the population. The sense is, as the corrected version of this post shows, perhaps publishers have been able to get traction in spurring consumers to pay for digital content just as they did with print.

  1. Wow. Stunningly low figures for magazine app adoption by tablet users. Weren’t tablet magazines supposed to revolutionize media consumption when Apple debuted the iPad? I seriously wonder whether tablets are going to come anywhere close to living up to the hype that has surrounded them since their arrival on the market. Magazine publishers are investing millions in trying to sell their digital editions to readers, but so far — especially in light of this study — it seems to me to be a technology in search of a purpose. The digital mag app revolution doesn’t seem to be materializing, certainly nowhere near as fast as publishers would hope, so I hope pubs have a Plan C lined up — because Plan B isn’t working out so well thus far. I personally don’t think magazines need another outlet — at least that shouldn’t be their first priority. They should be focusing on making their publications irresistible to their target audiences by developing superior content that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s all about content these days, and a magazine with underwhelming content is going to have a rough road ahead — no matter how many formats, platforms or devices it’s available on.

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