Continued from a previous post… Why are digital magazines on the iPad already in decline, after the initial gold rush users are losing interest in the digital versions. Wired, which sold 100K issues of it’s first iPad release, then managed to sell an average of 31K in the following months, with only 23K for October and 22K for November (for comparison they sold 130k printed versions in Oct-Nov).

Why is this happening?

It’s too early to say for sure (this is a very new market space), but general consensus is that Apple’s lack of subscription based payment is a major reason, meaning users have to manually purchase individual magazines rather than automated payments, plus these work out being more expensive. There’s rumours that Apple are about to roll out subscription based payments, hopefully it won’t be too little too late.

But will it be the answer, possibly, but I believe magazines and news networks need to look at the iPad and tablets in an entirely different way, rather than simply a medium for them to spout out digital versions of their print publications.

I’ve read numerous blogs and reports saying print is dead, but there’s new print magazines being released every week, so that doesn’t seem to ring true to me. Consumers still wish to consume, but the way they consume information is different now, it’s available instantaneously from so many sources and with social networks that information is becoming more and more driven by their friends, associates and their own likes and dislikes.

Flipboard on the iPad is a wonderful example of this, never before has my Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds looked so good, and been so engaging. Now if I could subscribe to several news networks, magazines etc all within a single app, and micro pay for each article as I read it, I’d be happy, as I only pay for the articles that grabbed my eye and interested me, and the software would automatically highlight related articles from all my subscribed sources and suggest new ones from other popular sources I may not have heard about and would have never found on my own.

Hands up who has ever read an entire newspaper or magazine, cover to cover? Precisely, so why pay for the whole thing when you only read a fraction of it? So rather than getting what you pay for, how about only paying for what you want? Who wouldn’t pay a penny or a cent or two per news item or magazine article that they read, as long as the payment part was transparent and managed for them, most people would give this a go, especially if they knew they could set a cap, or would have access to the whole issue if they went over a certain percentage of articles. Adverts can still be utilised, they could even be used against payment, watch an ad, get the article for free or at a reduced rate.

The technology is certainly there, the main thing holding it up, is publishers being scared to give it go through fear of losing control of their content and user base, but if they don’t do it soon willingly, then their hands will be forced by market forces, and they’re have less room to negotiate!

Who could pull this off, Apple, Amazon, Google, they could all do it, although I feel Apple is best placed for the micropayments, plus by utilising the iPad and the iOS platform, far more engaging advertising can be achieved than on a Kindle. Google just don’t have the payment side worked out properly. Apple on the other hand do, they have iTunes, ease of use and making micropayments is already there. I’ve read often that micropayments won’t work as users are put off by the fear of accumulating enormous bills at the end of the month, but the success of the App Store squashes that claim, often I’ve purchased apps at £0.59 (the minimum charge), for Apps I know nothing about, or will only use for a day or so.

With rumours of the next iPhone and iPad finally having Near Field chips, Apple are in a prime position to take on the big credit card companies that have been dragging their heels on NF for years.

An application that fuses Flipboard and Apple’s iBook into a magazine / news RSS reader, come social app linked to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, that microcharges you for articles as and when you read them, embedded with iAds, all linked back to your iTunes account, would be a very powerful and profitable application, and would be the perfect way for Apple to build it’s own social network (which it’s hungry to do), and utilise it’s new cloud data centre.

Just how good are the Times and the Sunday Times online figures? Here’s what’s on offer Online access at £1 for a single day or £2 for a week, £10 for a month using the iPad app, if you’re a weekly paper subscriber you get online access for free.

Going by the figures released, 100k users are already weekly paper subscribers that have signed up for the free online offer, with 105k additional users, 50k of which have an online subscription.

In all honesty you can ignore the first 100k as who wouldn’t take advantage of the online version when it’s free with your paper subscription. Of the remaining 105k only 50% of them are subscribers with the remainder buying daily access. They also state that their unique monthly visitors dropped from 21m before the pay wall to 2.7m last month. But what does 2.7m unique visitors actually mean?

After all there can only be a maximum of 205k unique visitors, as that’s the maximum paying customers, so let’s divide 2.7m / 30 days = 90k per day. Compare that to their height of 21m / 30 days and you get 700k per day

Advertisers would rather have 700k pairs of eyeballs a day compared to 90k, but I guess the Times would rather have loyal paying subscribers than be at the mercy of advertisers.

As to revenues, I’m making huge assumptions here, but allowing a 50% split of weekly subscribers and daily users, that’s £2x50k (subscribers) + £1x50k (daily) = £150k a week, so not much for an organisation the size of the Times, plus how that would stack up against advertising revenues for a site with 700k visitors is anyones guess

That’s Brevity With An i

October 26, 2010

Today, the publisher of the national newspaper The Independent launched a newspaper named “i”, retailing for a mere 20p (The Independent costs £1). This is the first national newspaper to launch in the UK in 24 years (the last being The Independent in 1986).

What’s interesting is how the marketing and PR reiterates that the i is a “concise, quality daily paper”, it’s also aimed squarely at lapsed readers, and readers in their 20’s. Readership of The Independent, and all newspapers for that matter have been in decline for years, with the % age of readers increasing. On paper (sorry couldn’t resist that) this is a good idea, as I don’t know anyone that could serious read everything that’s in a quality daily newspaper, they’re too big, they’re aimed at too broad a demographic, they’re expensive, and no one has time to read them from cover to cover. So the customer feels they’re not getting value for money, they’re paying too much for a bloated oversized daily of which they only read a small percentage.

The answer is to be more niche, but newspaper have a problem, they’re in the physical world, they’re made out of paper, so they’ll never be able to compete with niche blogs, websites or newsfeeds. It’s no longer a case of quality either, online material can be very high quality, it’s very current and up to date plus you can share it with others and expand the network to colleagues and friends at the touch of a button… another drawback of printed papers is that you can’t archive them (not in a practical way), online stories are always available, if you’ve missed a story develop you can quickly be brought up to spread by reading related articles and links. That would be a great thing for printed papers to emulate, start archiving their own back catalogues and offer them online, what a wealth of information they must be sitting on!

So will the i work? depends where and how, in London, with the Evening Standard (from the same publisher) becoming a free daily a year ago, it virtually wiped out the competition of free dailies, with the Metro being the only one that still has a large readership. So the i will be competing with it’s own free newspaper! Not to mention it’s big brother The Independent, which at £1 a pop, that 5 i readers!?!

Do those in their 20’s read newspapers anyway, ones they have to pay for that is… why would they, when they already get all the latest information they need online in an instant? I’m not so sure about this, I’m in my 40’s and I’ve never bought a newspaper in my life! I admit I’m a rarity in my demographic, but within the 20 something demographic, there’s a greater number that would go online before they’d purchase anything in print, especially as it suffers the same problem every printed newspaper has, it’s yesterday’s news!

I know I’m a little biased, I’m not that enamoured seeing another newspaper in print, but one possible saving grace, is if for every additional i reader there is one less Independent reader that will be a good thing, as the i is half the size of the Independent, so uses far less paper!