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Panpa Bulletin : March 2011
Jim Chisholm is an independent media consultant, based in France. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org www.panpa.org.au The PANPA Bulletin | MARCH 2011 | 23 Apps short-change paying punters THE iPad is now one Christmas old and with the benefit of more devices in more hands, publishers are read- justing projections and re-evaluating success metrics. The weight of expectation of a whole industry is a lot for one small device to bear. So how is it holding up? The iPad is doing just fine, thank you very much. But it doesn’t look like it is going to singlehandedly save the media publishing industry. To get a feel for how apps are being received by consumers, I did a small, informal holiday survey of recent iPad converts, including a few longer term users. Of the 10 people I canvassed, all are high consumers of news in other formats, and range in age from 20s to 70s The verdict, unsurprisingly, is that everyone loves their iPad. Some use it more than others, but each said they were spending more time online. But they remain underwhelmed by the available news apps and the device hasn’t made any real differ- ence to their media consumption habits yet, nor has it convinced them to pay for news where they had pre- viously not been doing so. There appears to be two elements at work here. One is that the iPad provides an adequate web browsing experience. It’s not perfect – for ex- ample, there are plenty of sites that use Flash extensively and therefore don’t work properly on the iPad’s browser. But by and large it is a sat- isfactory news-browsing experience. The other element is that news apps just aren’t up to scratch. Most of the survey had tried but had dropped their subscription, making do with the available free versions. The complaints were fairly con- sistent. All felt that while they were will- ing to pay for news, they resented having to pay for something they felt was sub-standard. The complaints ranged from “it doesn’t have everything that’s in the paper” to “it’s too slow, the news is out of date” to “it looks too much like a paper”. Breadth and timeliness of news delivery was the most important element. The web has taught consumers to expect instant breaking news, and the expectation is that the app will deliver the same, as well as being a luxurious reading experience. The app is seen as potentially combin- ing the best attributes of print and online. Early iPad news app usage data pointed to early morning and late evening activity. I expect we will see that change as the tablet finds its way into the routine of people’s lives. The expectation follows that we should see increased audience numbers and more frequent session times. That puts a spotlight back on the real motivation of publishers in pro- ducing iPad apps. Are publishers still defending print circulations, or are we honestly trying to build new audiences with our iPad apps? My small survey group felt the publishers really want them to go back to buying the newspaper. Why else, they argue, would an app look and feel so much like a print prod- uct, or even in one case look exactly like a replica of a newspaper? And why would it be so slow with the news? Queensland’s flood and cyclone disasters were a case in point. Major rolling news stories were not avail- able on some news apps as fast as they were on news web sites. Paying customers were right to feel ripped off. Much was written in 2010 about publishers’ embracing the tablet as a way of reviving the habit of paying for news. At the same time the consensus was that the new offering needed to be compelling enough to encourage the habit. With a little bit of time and plenty of apps in the app store, it is painfully obvious that few, if any, of the news apps currently available are compelling enough to attract and keep paying readers. The message from the market is - Yes, we’ll pay for it, but it had better be good. Still, it is early days. There are new product launches imminent and upgraded versions of existing apps are being planned by all the major players. No one is standing still. Expect 2011 to be a good year for creatives as consumer expectation drives ever greater demand for sophisticated, resource rich apps. The Daily has hit the iPad platform. It has taken a more creative approach to newspaper apps but will anyone pay for it in the long run? Hugh Martin is a media consultant based in Australia Hugh Martin Opinion Upgraded versions of existing apps are being planned by all the major players. No one is standing still” “ The great experiment is in play AS with every news industry innovation, new iPad app The Daily has been met with short-term derision, and criticism. To me, the whole situation is really very interesting. It’s a new product built for a new medium. Rupert Murdoch has a habit of getting things right; eventually but not always immediately. And unlike so many modern media companies he is willing to innovate, invest and take risks. There are plenty of gloaters pointing to MySpace, but these pundits become forgetful when it comes to Sky. Mr Murdoch bet his shirt, and the shirt won; big style. He is the world master at managing what we consultants call the “Boston Matrix”, the process of managing cashflow and investment through a company’s range of products. And this is one reason why he can afford to invest a relatively small US$30 million on entering the iPad frenzy. What is fun about the current criticism is that it is completely inconsistent. One report talks of great technology, while lacking good stories. Another bemoans that great content is being let down by slow technology. This says to me that the jury is out. A great experiment is in play. So let’s analyse the potential. First of all, just under 15 million iPads were sold in 2010, a figure expected to reach 40 million a year over the next four years. Judging by the 5,000-plus apps that are now available, a lot of people have high expectations. Many publishers are reporting positive results, with newspapers in the US claiming higher levels of conversion and retention for their tablet-based subscriptions than those in print. French publishers have told me their research shows tablet readers read the digital service for nearly as long as the print product, compared with only five minutes for the internet service. Amazon reported some time ago that if a book is available in tablet form, then one in three sales are electronic. My enthusiasm is tempered by a number of references to the fact that the initial explosion in adoption has slowed, particularly in magazine tablet downloads, but to some extent that is inevitable, as the market relies less on servicing a large pool of early adopters and increasingly has to rely on the expansion into the mass market. Turning now to The Daily’s strategy, much of it is in line with three trends that will increasingly dominate our industry. The first is inevitably technology. I’ve complained regularly that, sadly, print is being ignored and that it will continue to provide the majority of profits for many years, because Internet audiences are thin and fickle. The tablet concept offers a bridge between the two worlds, and is interesting because of that. The second trend is toward magazine presentation. The world’s greatest newspaper is arguably The Economist. France and Spain’s most successful free daily is 20 minutes, a picture heavy A4 publication. This is a demonstration of this trend. The third trend, which surprisingly to date News Corp has not played, is that of content aggregation. Apparently 100 staff are working on The Daily. This is not a large number, but much of the content looks agency sourced. Given the cacophony surrounding Mr Murdoch’s attempts to buy the UK Sky Satellite broadcast outright, aggregation is probably not a card to play today, but the product concept and technology is wide open to aggregation and cross-promotion. This will then open up a range of marketing, production diversification, and internationalisation opportunities from Australia, through the USA and UK and beyond... But we’d probably best keep that a secret for now. Jim Chisholm The tablet concept offers a bridge between two worlds, and is interesting because of that” “ JOHN HUGHES, editor of the Tully Times, reflects on Cyclone Yasi THE Cyclone came through on Febru- ary 2-3 and my next edition had to hit the streets on February 10. By then the story had gone around the world. All the early reports concentrated on destruction and grief. At the Tully Times, we decided to con- centrate on the recovery, which to date has been extraordinary. Our policy is to emphasise the posi- tive and it was vital we looked for the good in what had happened. Hence the photo of the four blokes who were part of a much larger group of volunteers who worked on placing tarps on roofs and other essential work straight after Yasi. The Times intends running a series of articles promoting community activities for the recovery. Basically our job is to be positive. Tully Times beats cyclone