Posted on December 2, 2013 in Archive

Digital magazines are off to a slow estart

02Dec

Deloitte’s 2013 Media Consumer Survey released some interesting statistics that will be of particular interest to those who read this blog, so I thought it would be worth discussing. The main conclusion that the survey came to was this – readers are moving to digital newspapers much more rapidly than they are for tablet magazines.

This came from the Newspapers and Magazines section of the survey, a report heavily laden with insights and statistics about consumer attitudes and feelings towards the media of today. For example – in 2012, 75 percent of survey respondents who regularly get their news from newspapers claimed that print was their favourite format for reading newspapers. This year, it went down to just 39 percent. Such a massive drop in print popularity can clearly be linked to the huge surge in tablets in the market over the last year – that’s a no brainer. Free content is still the overall favourite, though. Laptops and desktop computers rule from that aspect. I imagine most of these survey respondents are thinking along the lines of ‘If you’re just after the big headlines of the day, why pay for premium?’ Digital and mobile are not entirely out of the race, though. Nearly a third of smartphone users said that they read online articles every day or at least once a week. That figure accounts for more than half when considering people who use tablets to access free content.

So clearly, digital newspaper content and readership is on the rise, but not necessarily for paid content. Regardless of these stats though, some traditions remain. Despite a drop in daily print newspaper circulations, the survey claims “there is an enduring appeal to sitting down on a Sunday morning with a copy of a Sunday newspaper.”

Magazines are a slower story, however. 75 percent of people said that they still prefer to read magazines in print over digital. This is down 13 percent in one year – this is definitely a move in the right direction, but is still much slower progress than that of newspapers. Only 18 percent of tablet and 8 percent of smartphone owners say that they access magazine content either daily or weekly. Themediabriefing.com, who wrote an analysis on the survey, claim “nearly half of those accessing free content via a PC said it meant they didn’t need to buy the print version.” This is a problem for magazines who want to have an online (note: online, not just digital or in a magazine application) presence – they have to offer something on a website other than just links to subscriptions or pay options. Perhaps a lack of content optimisation for magazines on devices is to blame. If content isn’t the best it can be in a particular format, why would readers pay to read it on a tablet when they can get the exact same experience on a format they already know and are comfortable with?

Despite what may seem like saddening statistics, there is always hope. A tenth of the survey respondents claimed that they had paid for digital magazine content, a figure that was only 2 percent in 2011. So numbers are growing. They just aren’t skyrocketing – this process may be a marathon more than a race for publishers. People are interested in digital; they just need more motivation to start getting into paid digital magazine content.

My original thoughts surrounding this topic was that social media seems to be having an increasing influence on the distribution of news for Gen Y and younger. Twitter and Facebook often break news for people before news websites, TV channels, newspapers or radio do, which means that people are automatically going to social media for breaking bulletins. In fact, Twitter was the first format used to broadcast the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed (though not by an official source). According to Deloitte though, any declines in circulation for magazines (particularly women’s gossip or celebrity magazines) has nothing to do with social media, and has more to do with the current “cold” economic climate, that classifies such publications as unnecessary luxuries. Just like everything else, even media sales seem to be cyclical.

So the answer for magazine publishers might be to push on through and make sure their content is completely optimised for the digital format. The audience and the technology are ready to receive them – they just have to make sure they are ready to be received.