Lesson for print: How to earn monies from the mobile platform?

By Raushni Bhagia , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | November 01, 2012
The digital innovation summit organised by INMA gave an opportunity to understand the subscription models of digital content.

The country is witnessing a huge transformation into the digital era. The journey began with printed material being converted for the digitised network, internet and now, moving ahead towards mobile and tablet devices. Amidst all this, the INMA Digital Innovation Summit 2012 held in Delhi brought together various case study presentations from different media companies in Europe, North America and Latin America. Panels of Indian media executives were also present to relate the case studies back to the practicalities of the home turf.

Yasmin Namini

One of the case studies portrayed 'How the New York Times launched digital subscriptions', presented by Yasmin Namini, senior vice-president, marketing and circulation, and general manager, reader applications, The New York Times, United States. She discussed the various aspects used to tweak the print format into the digital version, with substantial subscription money attached to it.

Another interesting session was about the Telegraph Media Group and how it is 'preparing for the biggest mobile year for news publishers in history', presented by Mark Challinor, director, mobile platforms, Telegraph Media Group, London, United Kingdom. Challinor discussed the various innovations of the publication for the mobile platform, which earned it both subscription and advertising revenues.

While explaining the metered model approach for digital subscription adopted by NYT, Namini said that readers were offered 20 free articles per month in the initial year, which was later reduced to 10 articles per year. For unlimited access, subscription was made mandatory. She added that for this formula to work, it was imperative that the navigation was made easy and the definition, simple and consistent.

She then spoke about bundling or package deal offers for web subscribers. For example, content for web and smartphone was offered at 15 USD per month, while web and tablet together came at about 20 USD per month. However, all three put together, along with the print version, cost the reader about 35 USD.

Namini explained how the communication to the customer changed with time, too. Initially, the focus of NYT was to sell the subscription at a rate of 99 cents a month, emphasising the importance of unlimited access to content. The communication after a year expressed how one should subscribe to the experience and not merely the content. Later, the communication moved on from relationships, to innovation and creativity to politics.

For further promotion, a college student-faculty programme and corporate digital subscription was also launched with discounts.

Namini claimed that the digital subscription has doubled between the second quarter of 2011 (281, 000 subscribers) to third quarter of 2012 (566, 000 subscribers).

In terms of the revenues, Namini stated that the digital model contributes about 50 per cent of the subscription revenues. She added that there isn't a dedicated team to work for the digital platform but the look and feel of content is definitely different. It is customised as per the digital experience of the users.

Challinor of The Telegraph started on a positive note, figuring out the readership numbers of the publication and the closest competitors. He mentioned a study that showed 'double the 2-5 year olds can play with a smartphone app (19 per cent) than can tie their shoe laces (9 per cent)'. He then mentioned that all the content on all the platforms - mobile, print, tablet and internet - is shared by each other.

He then described the transition in the use of mobile phones from 2007 to 2012, and projected to 2017. In 2007, he said that though mobile phone apps were available, the app store concept as it is today was nowhere in sight. Today, however, the industry has seen a great transition from keypad to touchscreen, 2G to 3G/4G and social networking as the basic use of mobile phones.

Moving ahead five years, he predicted that 2017 will be the era of personalised and tailored experiences and portable wireless devices. He cited another study to predict that the tablet market will reach 7.3 million units by 2015, while it currently stands at 1.6 million units.

Challinor described a strategy for mobile and tablets that includes building customer interaction, data collection opportunity, generating new revenue, facilitating content collection and distribution, giving added value to advertisers, providing bridge to younger audiences and associating the brand with new technology.

He then explained the patterns of content consumption on the digital platforms of The Telegraph. As per Webtrends, the week day peak time is set at 7 am, while the weekend peak time stretched from 8 to 9 am.

Challinor then shared some innovative augmented reality examples launched by The Telegraph for its mobile platform. In one, when the mobile's camera is moved over the printed copy, the advertisements look magnified and the product can be seen in various angles by clicking on the screen. As for the content, each story, when scanned through the camera, pops up a little box, which enables the reader to read the article on the mobile screen on clicking.

Speaking on monetisation, he said that mobile payments, in-app payments, QR codes, augmented reality (AR), location-based services, mobile social and SMS/text messaging were possible options.

When questioned whether the mobile will be a threat to internet as internet was initially considered as a threat to print, Challinor explained that people want to consume content differently at different times of the day. He pointed out that subscribers to digital content are reflected more in the areas where the newspaper is doing good.

Concluding his presentation, he said that one should not be afraid to experiment. He said, "Understand what your customers need, focus on mobile optimisations and start dominating the market now, with relevant apps and content."

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