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World Magazine Congress: Tablets are re-inventing the future of magazines

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | October 12, 2011
The first session of World Magazine Congress dealt with the current trends in tablet publishing and discussed what the publishers are doing in the e-publishing domain across the globe.

The first session of Day One of the 38th FIPP World Magazine Congress was on how tablets are breathing fresh air into the magazines across the globe. The panel included Ralph Buchi, president, Axel Springer Germany, and Neil Morgan of iMonitor, UK.

Ralph Buchi, Axel Springer

Buchi gave a presentation on 'How to earn money with our core competence -- content -- in the future'. He said that with the sales of global devices such as e-readers, tablets and smartphones expected to grow at a CAGR of 32 per cent (source: PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP; Wilkofsky Gruen Associates), the digital medium will only play a bigger role in helping magazine publishers to increase their revenue.

He gave the example of a study carried out by Axel Springer, called Axel Springer Media Impact iPad Panel, in August 2011, where 68 per cent of the respondents said that they read a few newspapers or magazines on their iPads, of which they hadn't read the printed issue before. Another 52 per cent said that overall, they read more newspapers or magazines since they had the iPad, to re-emphasise the importance of tablets in the coming times.

He further quoted the PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2011-15, according to which the spends on all mobile apps has gone up from three billion Euros in 2009, to eight billion Euros this year; by 2015, it is expected to reach the 25 billion Euro mark. In Germany alone, on an average, a German spends Euro 101 on iPad apps.

He said that the company's premium paid content strategy is paying off, with more than 1,34,000 digital sales happening per issue across all its titles, and around 1,90,000 digital customers paying for Axel Springer content on mobile or stationary internet.

"When Axel Springer started its premium initiative in 2009, we met many sceptics. However, we proved them wrong," he said.

Buchi said that increased willingness to pay for premium content due to diversified and broadened product portfolio and growing penetration of end devices are the two key factors that will lead to a strong growth of digital customers.

Neil Morgan, iMonitor

The second presentation was by Morgan of iMonitor. iMonitor was launched in June, 2010, to allow publishers and agencies to share the cost of monitoring developments in tablet apps.

Morgan spoke about how tablets are re-imagining a medium. He said that the penetration of tablets is expected to triple over the next two years, with 57 per cent of sales coming from outside the US by 2013.

With that in mind, the number of publication-related iPad apps has already started expanding rapidly. While there were 2,121 apps in January, the total number of apps introduced in the Europe market increased to 3,426 apps in September, 2011. "Europe alone accounts for 45 per cent of all the apps that are tracked," he said.

He further mentioned that though Apple dominates the app marketplace, providing yet another reason for the consumers to prefer the iPad, Android is also growing rapidly. While there are one lakh iPad apps available in the market, there are 2.5 lakh Android apps present. However, the Apple iPhone dominates the marketplace, with five lakh apps.

Morgan said that the publishers need to use apps more intensely because right now, a majority of magazine apps are minimally enhanced PDF replicas, with links being the most common form of enhancement, followed by incorporation of social media.

In North America and Europe, publishers are more likely to charge consumers for content than in other parts of the world. In Asia, about 83 per cent of the revenue continues to come from advertising.

Highlighting the constituents of a great app, he said, "A great app provides a significantly enhanced experience." It should be well-designed and have features which make it easy to navigate the app, issue, sections (newspapers), and articles. It should be optimised for orientation and Morgan said he would give extra points for unique features such as those in The Daily (shuffle articles), Elmundo.es (extensive and complex video gallery) and National Geographic Trail Maps (detailed maps on or offline, which can be navigated with compass and GPS).

He said that an app can only be successful when it is highly functional and driven by adherence to evolving a set of best practices related to time and resource conservation, such as reasonable download time, in-app purchase, navigation guide, internal browser, resumable download and reading. Also, it should have rich features such as links, audio, video, animation, social media, live newsfeeds, localisation, interactivity and transactional capabilities.

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