Magazine biz’s attempts to correct digital errors of the past

Technology has played a diverse role for magazines. Where, on the one hand, digital was said to kill the magazine business, the last few years have seen technological developments such as the advent of tablets, create new opportunities for the magazine industry.

e4m by Noor Fathima Warsia
Updated: Oct 12, 2011 8:38 AM
Magazine biz’s attempts to correct digital errors of the past

Digital is in, even for the magazine business. The fact that digital formed a part of most of the conversations at the 38th FIPP World Magazine Congress, reiterated that the magazine business had ceased the digital opportunity. Speakers such as Ralph Buchi, President, Axel Springer International and Peo Strindlund, VP, Sales Europe and Asia, Mag+, observed that tablets allowed the chance to most publishers of correcting the mistake of providing free content, as users were willing to pay for magazine content on tablets. Perhaps the best description came from Strindlund, when he said technology is the evolution, consumption is the revolution

Of technology growth, and willingness to pay
Buchi divulged that for a group like Axel Springer, more than 30 per cent of revenues were coming from digital. He admitted that the recent years put into danger the traditional model, where readers paid to consume magazine’s content, when publishers starter offering the same for free on the digital space. But according to a market study done by the group, technology and the changing market dynamics had made way for encouraging trends in the market.

The penetration of mobile devices was growing at a fast pace and mobile device sales were expected to be at 1.4 billion in 2015. This allowed magazine readers to consume content on the go. The second important trend was that tablets gave access to new user groups. Buchi explained, “We are all able to get new readers. Bild, which is our biggest brand in print, is the biggest in the digital space as well, and we doubled the readership of the umbrella brand by pushing forward digital. The digital platform brought readers who up to that moment did not read newspapers.”
The age group is different too

The tablet device had intensified usage of print content, but most importantly, people are willing to pay for content and services on mobile device. “This was our chance to turn around the strategic mistake of giving out our content for free,” stated Buchi, further informing that global spending on mobile apps had increased. The ads in apps further boosted magazine advertising, as the digital space enabled clients not only to see the real performance, but also push the consumer into transaction.

While these were some of the trends seen in magazine readership, with the coming of digital, Buchi was convinced on the growth of digital audiences itself. But the key still was in the fact that magazines needed to trust their core competency, of generating engaging content, above everything else.

Of the Revolution in Consumption
Peo Strindlund, VP, Sales Europe and Asia, Mag+, highlighted the global market footprint with 2.4 billion internet users and 4.9 billion mobile subscribers, to reassert that we are in a very digital world, where globally when you look at advertising, there was a switch from print being a dominant media to online. He pointed out that there still was a bigger uptake in a market such as India, these were still very positive numbers.

For Strindlund, tablets were one of the most important developments for the magazine industry. He said, “According to a study, there are two people using one device, and with the expectation of 300 million tablets sold by 2015, we will have a market that is more than a half billion users. Looking at demo split, when it comes to tablet usage --- when the iPad was launched, the main user was a ‘guy in the age of 25-35, highly educated living in the big city’ but the demographic is changing significantly now and has allowed various target groups use the tablet.”

When it comes to usage, Strindlund quoted the study to state that readers spent up to two hours on a tablet on emails and movies, further suggesting that the tablet was replacing traditional media. He also said that users spent 35 per cent more time on a page in the tablet such as the iPad; 64 per cent more time was spent on apps and there was 21 per cent more viability.

He compared this to trends seen within publishers, where the industry was seeing streamlined production to curb too much investment for far lower returns. Creativity and Innovation was needed to recreate the product on the digital platform. The digital platform itself had multiple forms in tablets and smart phones. Publishers are able to interact with the readers and actively engage with their offering. Digital was allowing new business models and the integration with subscription systems, hence offering cross promotion.

Monthlies were moving towards bi-weekly or weekly editions on the digital space, publishers were able to add new product add-ons to existing brands. Digital allowed rich media experience, but most importantly it had created a situation where users were paying for content.

Ingredients for the Right App
While Strindlund suggested that there was no wrong or right, for a publisher to recreate his presence in the digital space through apps but Neil Morgan, MD McPheters & Co, had a few points coming from iPad apps tracking service, iMonitor.

A great app for him had to begin with being well-designed, which was easy to navigate, that optimised content for orientation, and had different features that would be useful to reader. Functionality is another very important area and small things such as the ability to begin reading before downloading the whole file was useful. Rich media content typically provides the enhanced version of the print version but that was one area where a magazine had to think through what its app looked like.

He said, “It is still very early days but it would be interesting to see how quickly the Kindle five, which represents the first real opportunity on publishing on Android, picks up and adds to the sector.

The penetration of tablets was forming an interesting story by itself, where according to a study, for every 10 computers, there would be six tablets. Morgan informed that Apple dominated the app market the Android platform was growing. 74 per cent of magazine content on tablet was coming from markets such as Australia and Asia.

While all trends presented by these global leaders at the 38th FIPP World Magazine Congress focussed on the bright picture that technology was painting for the magazine industry, the leaders cautioned that this was being in the first game of the first round of a series that was perhaps a 165 series game.

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