It's time for a real tablet strategy
One of the big challenges for publishers in 2012 will involve funding tablet and e-reader product development. As tablet experimentation transitions to full-blown strategy, publishers will need to map out a path for both platform support and the functionality of the digital editions they’re creating for tablets and e-readers.
The market is evolving quickly. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are looking to establish lower-end alternatives to the iPad with the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, respectively. These lower-priced but fully functional tablets could spur a mass market for tablets over the next year.
eMarketer estimates that nearly 34 million Americans will use a tablet device at least monthly by the end of the year, a 159% increase from 2010. By 2014, one out of every three Internet users – nearly 90 million – will use a tablet by 2014, eMarketer predicts.
Consumer expectations are evolving as well. A new study commissioned by the Association of Magazine Media (aka MPA) indicates that consumers’ interest in tablet editions is increasing. The survey – targeting consumers who have downloaded at least one magazine app to their tablet or e-reader device – found that 66% of respondents expect to spend more time reading digital magazines over the next year. In addition, 46% said they are reading more magazine issues (both print and digital) than they were a year ago.
From a content perspective, readers of digital editions are expecting more than what they find in a printed magazine. In the Association of Magazine Media study, 77% said they would like a digital edition to deliver more updated information than the printed copy, 86% said pictures and photo galleries enhance their reading experience, 54% said they would like to see more videos (70% said they prefer short videos of 1 minute or less), and 45% said they would like more music content.
But while users are asking for more, publishers seem to be settling for less. In its latest State of the App report, researcher McPheters cites a growing trend among publishers toward PDF replicas, particularly for new tablet devices such as the Kindle Fire.
To keep early adopters on board, publishers may have to extend beyond minimally enhanced digital replicas of their print editions. This will require additional investments in content development to ensure that editorial and design teams have the skills and the tools to increase their output of video, audio and animated, interactive graphics. Publishers will also have to decide if they can justify developing platform-specific apps that improve the user experience, or whether cross-platform tools such as HTML5 are the more prudent approach.
Publishers should continue to experiment with different approaches to the tablet space, testing various formats, platforms and pricing models to find the right offerings for their target audience. Considering the rapid growth of the market, however, they must be prepared to devote more of their time – and money – to a comprehensive tablet publishing strategy.