Tablet metrics: What's new, what's missing
Publishers are making strides with tablet-specific readership metrics, for themselves and for their advertisers. Metrics that define the digital audience and provide deep insights into their behaviors, activities and preferences regarding tablet editions are a critical piece of the digital publisher’s tool kit.
Hearst and Conde Nast have separately announced plans to share tablet readership metrics with advertisers, while the MPA has introduced new guidelines for tablet measurement. Here’s how the new generation of metrics for tablets is shaping up, and why each is needed to build a robust tablet publishing business:
Paid digital copies
This metric is used for tracking single-issue buyers as well as digital subscribers. Adobe says that subscriptions for publications created with its Digital Publishing Suite – which includes all Conde Nast tablet editions – are outselling single-issue sales by a margin of 2-1.
Hearst says it has sold more than 500,000 paid digital subscriptions across its portfolio, with a forecast of at least 1 million paid digital subscriptions by the end of this year. Cosmopolitan was the first Hearst title to surpass 100,000 paid digital subscriptions.
These numbers are impressive, but to gain traction with advertisers, publishers will require some independent verification of their digital readership, just as they do for print sales. For consumer publishers, the Audit Bureau of Circulations this week endorsed new rules for reporting digital publications. The new Publisher’s Statement prototype provides media buyers with greater detail on print and digital magazine subscriptions and single-copy sales and requires publishers to begin reporting key activity metrics for tablet- or browser-based digital magazines, including unique browsers or devices, total visits, and average visit duration. The ABC board of directors expects to formally approve the new rules at its July meeting, although the new reporting format is not expected until July 2013.
Net new subscribers
This metric will show how manysubscribers are exclusively digital. Publishers such as Conde and Hearst, which separate their digital and print subscriptions, may find this metric easier to track than companies such as Time Inc., whose “all access” plan provides print subscribers with free access to digital editions on any device.
Adobe, whose Digital Publishing Suite powers more than 1,500 digital editions, says net-new subscribers comprise 40% of subscription sales for DPS-based publications, while 27% of DPS-based content is consumed by a publication’s print subscribers.
Time spent per reader per issue
How engaging are individual issues, and how do those numbers compare with print readership? Adobe’s time spent metrics for DPS-based publications break down like this: 35% of readers spend 5 minutes or fewer with a digital edition per visit; 27% spend 5-10 minutes each time they open the issue; 29% spend between 10-30 minutes per visit; and 9% spend between 30 minutes and 1 hour with each session. Average time spent has increased 70% over the past six months, according to Lynly Schambers-Lenox, group product marketing manager for digital publishing at Adobe.
Sessions per reader per issue
How often a reader returns to an issue on their tablet is another measure of engagement. Adobe saysreaders open a DPS-based digital edition an average of five times per month, which bumps those average time spent numbers to between 25 minutes and 5 hours for 65% of the audience. Print magazine readers, by comparison, spend about 42 minutes with each issue, according to the MPA’s Magazine Media Factbook.
“People are spending more time and coming back frequently,” said Schambers-Lenox. “We think that’s because of the interactivity being offered.” Speaking of which …
How many times a reader plays a video, opens a web view or taps through an interactive graphic will provide important insights about the type of amount of rich media enhancements to include in a digital edition. Adobe says nearly half (48%) of the interactive elements in its DPS-based publications are selected at least once, with web views and video as the most popular types of overlays.
“Publishers are being smarter about how they’re using interactivity,” said Schambers-Lenox. “They’re not just publishing gratuitous spinning widgets – they’re using it to add value to their stories.”
These metrics just scratch the surface of what publishers can and should be measuring, for advertisers but also to inform the editorial direction of their digital publications. Here are three key metrics publishers have yet to fully address:
Social sharing: There’s a general lack of social widgets in digital editions as publishes search for ways to incorporate social into the walled garden of an app. But the ability to share articles, rich media, and even advertisements – and then measure the impact of social sharing on app discovery and downloads – is a critical piece of the metrics puzzle for digital editions.
Ad views: There’s an opportunity to dramatically improve existing methods for tracking ad impressions in digital editions. Common definitions will be critical here. Does a simple swipe past an ad count as an impression, or does the reader need to pause for some pre-set amount of time?
Ad engagement: As advertisers build more in-app functionality into their digital ads, analytics will need to become more sophisticated. Time spent, video views, and other interactivity metrics will need to address specific ads. Defining engagement for tablet advertising is one of the MPA Tablet Metrics Task Force’s next steps, MPA President and CEO Nina Link told Folio.