Monday, October 7, 2013

Tablets and Magazines - Apps not the solution?

In an article in GigaOm, Jon Lund discusses some not-so-good signs for the long-term viability of tablet magazines: 
I fear the app-based tablet approach to magazines leads straight to oblivion, at least for individual magazine titles.
The problem is that dedicated magazine apps may be getting lost among the multitude of apps on smartphones and tablets.  
Last year, Nielsen estimated the average mobile user has 41 apps on his or her smartphone. In April, a Flurry study showed the average smartphone user opens only eight apps a day, with the most popular being Facebook, YouTube and game apps. And according to a 2012 report from Localytics, 22 percent of all apps are only opened once.
Getting lost in the flood of online information is a problem for all online content - but offset somewhat by the ability to find content through search engines.  But there's a problem with stand-alone magazine apps - search engines don't access apps, so that a magazine's app content isn't indexed, and won't show up on searches.  Similarly, social features within magazine apps are constrained to the app - which really limits connectivity that is at the heart of the social media experience.  And if the app is only updated with new issues, it's up to the reader to remember when to check the app for new content. 

Lund's point is that distributing the magazine online through an app, rather than as a website or other open access platform, lessens its value to online readers.  And that can be reflected in the willingness to pay for a "digital replica" subscription.  Lund looks at the 25 bestselling digital replication editions as measured by the Alliance for Audited Media.  Of the top 25, the digital replication shares of total circulation are in the single digits for 16 titles; the average share of digital replication is 12%.

He also notes that a lot of the reported online reading of magazines is coming from aggregating and curating services like Flipbook and Zite, or from referrals to website content shared through Twitter and Facebook.  Those seem to be the online future for magazines, not as "digital replicas" of print versions.
I believe the future for producing quality content for niches is both bright and promising. But it has to be presented openly, socially, in flow — not in closed tablet apps.
Source -  Why tablet magazines are a failure,  GigaOm

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