The Rise of the Tablet
When Steve Jobs first unveiled the iPad in 2010 few could have predicted the huge amount of change this single product would bring to mobile marketing and digital media. Initially the iPad was met with mixed to negative reviews. The most common criticisms were that it was “just a big iPod touch” and didn’t support Adobe Flash. Hours after the launch the phrase “iPad a disappointment” became a “spicy” trending topic as ranked by Google and bloggers queued up all over the web to offer top ten lists of “reasons not to buy” the iPad. Many journalists jumped on the bandwagon and enthusiastically predicted a fall in Apple’s profits. Such predictions could not have been more wrong; the iPad is currently the most popular tablet device in the world with 100 million sales in October 2012 since the product’s release. It has faced a marginal amount of competition from Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Google’s Nexus 7 and Barnes & Nobles’ Nook but continues to dominate market shares by a formidable 46.4 percent. It was Apple’s strong marketing position and prominence in popular culture that ensured it led the way in defining the tablet as a new type of consumer device. Sales of tablets have increased year-by-year since the release of the iPad. There is currently an estimated 70 million tablet users in the USA and 20 million in the UK. Worldwide shipments are also up by 106.1 percent from a year ago according to research firm Canalys.
What this means for Digital Magazines
The media market’s transition to a digital first model was initially damaging for magazine circulation as many publishers were unsure of how to replicate the reading experience of print in a digital format. Magazine reading is about immersive engagement between a reader and content, it’s a “lean back” media consumption experience. The usage of desktops and laptops is a “lean-forward” user-controlled experience, their form factor and user interface are unsuited for replicating the high engagement nature of magazines. The introduction of the iPad in 2010 gave publishers a device that could not only replicate, but also enhance through features like videos and animation, the tactile and immersive nature of magazines. A rise in tablet ownership means a rise in digital magazine readership as demonstrated in a recent study by Adobe. By collecting data from the many publishers that use their Digital Publishing Suite, Adobe have found that digital readership has gone up by 30 percent in the last year across all publishers, with some individuals seeing that figure rise by as much as 150 percent. Adobe itself has benefited greatly from the increasing demand for tablet magazines; the Digital Publishing Suite has gone from publishing 170,000 digital issues a week in May 2011 to 1.8 million by the end of February, whilst magazine downloads (for editions using DPS) now stand at 75 million. Adobe believe that tablets are driving this rapid growth; the recent release of the more affordable iPad Mini is the main contributing factor for increasing ownership but their statistics have also detected a movement around the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7. A survey by digital publishing consultancy Mequoda Group that examined the habits and content consumption of 1,293 tablet owners is also telling of the link between tablet ownership and magazine readership. Thirteen percent of those surveyed said that they had purchased a subscription or magazine in the last thirty days. Twenty-six percent also said that they prefer reading the tablet version of a magazine to its print counterpart. Mequoda Group’s CEO, Don Nicholas, expects this figure to rise to 65 percent by 2020 and said of the results; “The rapid consumer adoption of tablets, and an early preference for digital magazines over print magazines by their users, leads us to conclude that a long-range digital publishing strategy is imperative to the survival and prosperity of every magazine publisher”.
How to Capitalise on Tablet Ownership
Despite the correlation between increasing tablet ownership and increased digital magazine readership many publishers have been slow to optimise their content for cross platform publication. A report by Brand Perfect analysed one hundred online magazines and found that only a quarter were effectively optimised for tablet display despite all of them publishing on iPads. The majority of the magazines simply served a scaled down version of their desktop site and although these were fairly readable on a standard iPad, the report stated that they were very difficult to view on a 7 inch Nexus tablet. Adapting content for effective cross-platform publication is the first step in capitalising on tablet ownership. Using HTML5 as a publishing technology is a good start as it works across all major digital platforms and allows a flexible cross-platform publication process. Tablet users are highly engaged and expect a digital format to offer more than a printed magazine would. In order to capitalise on tablet ownership digital magazines must therefore surpass the limitations of print and incorporate an interactive layout that differentiates itself from traditional editorial. Magazines like Dream, #5 and Dare use the digifi.it™ platform to enhance their editorial content with various interactive multi-media features. The usage of HTML5 has opened up new, inventive ways of integrating animation, audio, embedded videos and live social media updates alongside articles to lift the reading experience. By leveraging interactivity and other digital features there are many great examples from household brand names who have used the digifi.it platform to produce content that is as live and as relevant as a website whilst retaining the immersive nature of articles. Here are just a few innvoative uses of digital functionality on the digifi.it platform: Dynamic Twitter Feeds In page social media sharing Video Scrollable regions Popups Animation