Archive for the ‘Research’ Category
There’s been a lot of coverage of a research report by the Pew Research Center and The Economist. One of the key findings from the survey of American news consumers was that 60% of readers under the age of 40 prefer a “traditional, print-like” reading experience on tablets.
I get this in relation to news; readers want to access information quickly without the distractions of interactive elements like animation, audio and video. But is the same true for digital magazine readers?
More than newspapers, magazines have to entertain readers as much as inform them and immediate access to information doesn’t always trump design. I’m no designer, but magazine pages in print can be every bit as complex as on the tablet. Print doesn’t move or talk, but a sophisticated page layout can pack a mindbending array of graphic and text elements.
Thinking about magazines, the term “print like” isn’t really helpful. I’m not sure what the right term is – accessible, intuitive, legible?
Having just finished judging the 2012 Digital Magazine Awards, I have first hand experience of publishers that have overused interactive elements in their iPad publications: Spinning stuff just sometimes gets in the way.
I suppose the mesage for magazine publishers from this element of the Pew/Economist study is that technology has to be used appropriately. If your readers want information quickly, you need to design to that. Simple layouts, clear typography, job done. But if they want an enhanced media experience, video, audio, animation can really add value.
The bottom line in all of this is that we are still in the very early days of digital magazine design. As one of the winning editors at the DMAs put it to me, digital magazine publishers are experimenting in public and they don’t always get it right. But playing it safe and reverting to print formats just won’t cut it. Readers need a reason to buy tablet magazines and giving them print products on a digital substrate isn’t likely to cut it long-term.
Reporting on a deal between Hearst and Amazon this week, Adweek asked, “Is it a magazine—or catalog?”
What’s the difference? Well there are a few, but the biggest is editorial independence. Catalogues are put out there with the sole purpose of selling product; magazines, traditionally at least, try to tell a story. Link magazine content directly to e-commerce facilites, especially where the publisher can look forward to a revenue share, and the lines all of a sudden get blurry.
Is this about giving magazine readers what they want? 70 percent of tablet owners say they would like to be able to buy items by clicking on the ads in a digital magazine, according to a survey by GfK MRI. Or is it more insidious, risking the very independence of magazine content as publishers push product to gain affiliat revenue? Hearst says shopping links are added after editors are done so there is no interference with the editorial process. Other see it as the thin end of the wedge.
What do you think? Will e-commerce deals in digital magazines kill editorial integrity? Yes or no? Vote on Quipol.
Read Adweek’s report on Hearst Linking its Digital Editions With Amazon.
Variety might be the spice of life for digital magazine designers, but maybe not for readers. Data from GfK MRI’s iPanel points to some reader frustration when it comes to digital magazine formats. A recent survey showed that 72% of tablet owners who read digital magazines on their devices said they would prefer all digital magazines to be formatted in the same way.
Other negatives: 48% of tablet magazine readers say electronic magazines take too long to download; 46% said they consider video be “just a gimmick”; 43% said it is too difficult to find the magazines they want to read on their devices.
Better news for publishers is that the same survey found substantial interest in e-commerce via digital magazines; 70% of tablet owners who read digital magazines on their devices said they would like to be able to buy items simply by clicking on ads.
The third annual Publishing Futures benchmarking survey is underway. This unique industry research provides an invaluable snapshot of the publishing industry. As we run into 2012, likely to be a big year for publishing whatever way you look at it, this type of insight is more important than ever. The project is run by Wessenden Marketing in partnership with the PPA and InPublishing magazine.
Responses are confidential and all respondents will get access to the project results sometime in December. Complete the survey here; it takes around 10-15 minutes to complete.
I was asked to predict the future of digital publishing this week. No, not really, but I was asked to answer a few questions about publishing in the digital era by an MA Publishing student working on a research study about the future of digital publishing. His emphasis is on the iPad and the replication of print periodical business models and values and how art direction can be used on the web.
Being as focused on re-purposing content as I am these days, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share my responses on the blog. If you have any thoughts about what I’ve said, please chime in, I’m sure my interviewer would welcome the input.
1. How do you think information consumption habits will change in the future?
The big issue for media consumption is fragmentation, both in terms of devices used and information sources. Consumers can access information on an ever growing list of platforms, from phones to tablets to TVs. This means information is more accessible, more places, than ever.
The economics of print publishing (magazines, newspaper and books) meant that control of what got published was reasonably centralized; digital publishing options have brought the barriers to publication down and the number of content producers has risen exponentially.
This is largely positive for consumers, the one problem it creates is how do people know what information to trust. This is the biggest single factor that commercial publishers need to hold on to and exploit when they are trying to figure out how to complete with startup websites, blogs and social media.
2. Do you think the iPad is capable of replicating the design, economics and experience of the print world?
Yes on design and reading experience – I think this is already happening with magazines like the New Yorker. But to be really successful the iPad needs to do more than replicate the print reading experience, otherwise what’s the benefit from the reader’s perspective? Readers might as well stick with print and not spend $400 for a reading device.
The economics of iPad publishing is a mess at the moment; the medium is still too new for the rules of the game to have been agreed. Advertisers, who fund most print publishing activities, are still wary of digital magazine formats. Readers are not paying for content in big enough numbers (look at recent coverage of the Daily), and publishers are struggling with Apple’s 30% subscription levy – do they eat it, or leave as the FT did and gamble on their own audience development efforts.
3. Looking at the figures for iPad magazines, it’s largely true that they haven’t resonated with the iPad’s user base. Why do you think this is?
Many things. One has been price – single copy prices have been too high and until recently have represented a double charge for the most loyal readers who already have print subscriptions. Also, many magazines haven’t figured out what they want to be on the iPad yet. I mentioned the New Yorker, which does a great job of transferring a much loved magazine format to the iPad. But if I could buy it on the newsstand, why would I read it on the iPad.
Popular Mechanics on the other hand does an incredible job of layering text, photography, video, animation and audio, but sometimes it gets just a little too complicated and overwhelming. People are still experimenting. Once they find the mix of bells and whistles that’s right for their audience and once the pricing/subscription issues get sorted out, I think take up will grow steadily.
4. With advancements in web typography and new web standards capable of achieving a richer user experience, do you agree with Khoi Vinh’s assertion that most content on the web will eventually return to it’s natural home – the browser?
I don’t know the answer to this and I actually don’t think it really matters too much. So long as readers can access content conveniently through an interface that makes sense to them, they won’t care. It’s a bit like arguing over whether perfect binding or saddle stitch is better for a print magazine. The reader doesn’t care so long as the pages stay together. This is really an issue for publishers and ultimately it will probably come down to which is most economical to produce and easiest to distribute.
5. Have you seen anything (apps or otherwise) that you feel is advancing the dialogue between digital publishing and the publishing industry? e.g. Flipboard?
I like the Flipboard and Zite concept, but the implementation is still a long way away from where it needs to be to truly add value. At the moment, Flipboard has maybe 20 publication integrated; it needs 20,000 for people to really feel that this is truly a personalized media platform and not just a funky Facebook viewer. Zinio, has this kind of volume, primarily because they plugged into the publisher’s existing production cycle. Long-term they will need to do more to help publishers optimize for multimedia, but I’m really interested to see where they end up.
6. If you were going to start a magazine or newspaper from scratch, what things would you take into account today? (In addition to anything mentioned above).
Same as it ever was, good content, strong audience need and a decent revenue stream. What’s different now is the content needs to be multi-platform and it’s crucial to find out what the most important platforms are for your audience. We did some research recently in the Scientific community and we were a little surprised to discover that the iPad just isn’t there yet.
Those ever so nice people at NXTBook Media are running their State of the Digital Edition Industry survey again, mainly because they really enjoyed doing it last year. Marcus Grimm says the 2010 survey was a “ground-breaker” for NXTbook asking publishers awkward questions like, “How’s your circulation?” and “Are you making any money?”.
Expect the same this year – 20 multiple choice questions focused on how happy you are with your digital edition projects. There’s an iPad in it for one lucky respondent, which is nice, but I’m actually more excited about seeing if things have changed since last year.
You can take the survey here.
The runaway reality of a new day job has a terrible way of crushing the best intentions for extracurricular blogging. Witness the gap in postings on Flipping Pages (what do you mean you didn’t notice?).
What finally spurred me into action was an email from Carolyn Morgan at the Specialist Media show asking for an updated bio ahead of this year’s event – taking place in 56 days, 21 hours, 20 minutes and 56… 55… 54 seconds according to Carolyn’s countdown clock. I enjoyed the show and conference last year and will be making the journey to Peterborough again May 25th.
Ahead of the event, Carolyn has been running a survey looking at the future for Specialist Media. Unfortunately, I’ve only just got round to filling it in and it’s closed. Never mind, I’ll get to see the results in May and next year’s survey will be here before you know it.
NXTBook Media is running a digital magazine survey and, a man of conviction, Mr Marcus Grimm has made sure there isn’t a single question in there about click-through rates, page views or engagement times. NXTBook are more interested in how happy you are with the key elements of the publishing process: How do you feel about the size of your audience? Are you ready for mobile? Revenue generation?
The survey, “Where Do Digital Magazines Fit into the Mix?”, will take you a couple of minutes to complete and the results could help highlight the common concerns publishers have about the medium. If you leave your email address, NXTBook will send you a copy of the results.
UPDATE| Participants in the survey who provide their email addresses get not only the results of the survey, but they are also automatically entered in a drawing for an iPod Touch. (Those who have already taken the survey are also included in this drawing.)
Early last month the publication of the annual Qmags digital magazine survey prompted Marcus Grimm at NXTBook Media to revisit an old bugbear – digital magazine publishers’ use of reader survey data over real traffic data.
After reading a slightly tetchy blog post that he wrote contrasting the 45-minutes reader engagement claimed by the survey and the cast-iron 8-minute average he has analysed from real data on 2 million NXTbook views a month, I asked Marcus to explain exactly what was bugging him and why?
MG: The survey reported that readers said they spent 45 minutes or more reading digital editions. This isn’t real; readers always overstate their engagement with media and this leads publishers and advertiser to unrealistic expectations. There is no good reason to ask readers what they do – any digital magazine platform ‘worth it’s weight in pixels’ will show you.
FP: So you think publishers should be using real data?
MG: When you tell the truth with real data, you can easily build a case for digital magazines. But when you simply ask people what they do, you get incorrect data that does little other than to align yourself with the type of research studies we’ve learn to distrust about other forms of offline media consumption. You look foolish and rather than get readers excited about digital magazines, you end up disappointing them (with engagement numbers way better than their website).
FP: Publishers have always used survey data as a way of “proving” the value of advertising in their publications. Are you suggesting it’s time for this to stop?
MG: We should be asking why publishers have always used survey data? When you ask that question, you quickly realize that because real print data is impossible to come by, survey data is the next best thing; although it’s never been that good and has always been questioned by advertisers. Now, we have the ability to be completely transparent with advertisers, and when we promote survey answers when digital data is readily available, I think it makes us look foolish at best and slightly dishonest at worst.
Can you imagine a truly 100% digital publisher releasing survey data instead of traffic data? It would never happen and yet because publishers have survey data as part of their legacy, they seem inclined to continue to support the usage of it.
FP: Most publishers can’t see past visits and page views. Do you think part of the problem is that publishers don’t know how to interpret their traffic data? What should they be looking for?
MG: Great question. Publishers need to learn the real benefits of each of their products and sell off of their real strengths. For example, websites always generate more page views than digital magazines and digital magazines always trounce websites for engagement time and click-through rates, yet publishers think that since both are digital mediums they should sell the same metrics. Generally speaking, all of our products have (or should have) a reason to be and that reason to be should be obvious in the performance of the products.
FP: You point to the problem of unrealistic expectations. How do publishers manage advertisers expectations? Do organisations like BPA have a responsibility here?
MG: Actually, this is where survey data completely contributes to the problem, rather than helping it. Consider that many B-to-B websites have an average engagement time of three minutes with a CTR of 0.25%. In this scenario, I’d expect their corresponding digital magazine to have about a nine minute engagement time with a CTR of 1.5%. What we have is a definite reason to be for the digital magazine, until somebody releases a report saying that readers claim to spend 30 minutes in the book and half of them say they’ve clicked on an ad.
What happens is predictable; the advertisers quickly stops seeing how much the digital magazine is outperforming the website. Instead, they complain that they’re not seeing near the metrics reported by the survey.
As far as BPA goes, they certainly share a responsibility for helping publishers provide the right data. Unfortunately, as of yet they haven’t seemed to take much of a leadership role in situations like this. From my vantage point, they seem to want to serve their clients more than they want to help guide them to the right place, long-term. I’d like to think that makes Nxtbook a little different. We’re not really interested in promoting thirty minutes of engagement when it isn’t true and will certainly come back to disappoint advertisers and publishers alike down the road.
Disclosure: NXTBook Media is a supplier to my employer.