The digital divide between consumer and business publishers

All publishers are facing the challenge of putting their content on digital channels and working out how to generate revenues, but there are still some stark differences between consumer and business publishers, according to recent results from the 2013 Specialist Media Insights research.  Carolyn Morgan charts the extent of the digital divide.

1. Business publishers lead on paid online content

Almost half (43%) of business publishers already charge for online content, with a further 30% planning to in the next two years.  This contrasts with only 16% of consumer publishers who charge, although interestingly 29% of consumer publishers have this on their medium term plan.    And business publishers can command higher online subs rates – 86% charge over £100pa, while the most popular subs fee for consumer publishers is £20-50pa, closer to a print subscription.

2. Consumer publishers are better at charging for web digital editions

Much of the focus now is on tablet magazines, but web digital editions are still important for many readers, and the good news for consumer publishers is that almost half (48%) charge a separate rate for digital editions, and of these over half (57%) charge the same as print or less than 20% discount to print.

Business publishers are far less likely to charge separately – only 17% make a separate charge, and 45% offer them free, maybe because they have a more ad-driven business model.  The rest offer digital editions bundled free with print subs.

3. Consumer publishers lead on mobile

The tablet and mobile revolution arrived first with consumer publishers: 74% already have at least one mobile app, and 83% plan to have in the next two years.

Business publishers are catching up, although only 58% have at least one mobile app now, within two years this is likely to rise to 72%.

Both business and consumer publishers are focusing on expanding their portfolio of apps over the next two years.

4. B2B publishers are more confident on pricing digital

All publishers are hardening their pricing of digital vs print compared to last year, but B2B publishers are more aggressive:  61% charge the same for digital editions as print, and only 28% discount by more than 20% to print.  However, only 35% of consumer publishers match their print prices for their digital editions, and 31% discount by more than 20%.

5. Consumer publishers are testing more platforms

For both groups, iPhone and iPad dominate, but android is catching up, and consumer publishers are only a short way ahead of consumer.  Kindle Fire is clearly more consumer-oriented, with 48% of consumer publishers on it already compared to just 21% of b2b publishers.

And e-readers are more of a consumer phenomenon.  31% of consumer publishers are on Kindle and 43% plan to; while just 9% of business publishers are on Kindle and 26% plan to.  Newer e-readers Nook and Kobo are even more biased towards consumer publishers.

6. Both experimenting with digital bundles

Consumer and b2b publishers alike have something of a heritage issue with offering digital content free for print subscribers – with 40% of b2b publishers and 36% of consumer publishers having this as their main offer.  Consumer publishers seem to be moving more rapidly to charging separate rates for digital and print editions, with 52% saying this is their main offer.  However, b2b publishers are more likely to opt for a premium sub that covers content in all forms, maybe because business readers like to consume across multiple channels.

Compared to last year, the pattern is still the same, although b2b publishers are now catching up on tablet, and consumer publishers are experimenting with paid online content.  Both though, are toughening up their pricing, which can only be good news.

About Specialist Media Insights:  This research is run by the Specialist Media Show, supported by InPublishing and Brad Insight.  Over 150 publishers completed an online survey powered by Demographix, during February 2013.

Highlights of Specialist Media Insights will be presented at the Specialist Media Conference on 24 April 2013 and delegates will receive a full report.

Read more about the Specialist Media Conference.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan advises specialist publishers on their digital strategy.  She created the Specialist Media Insights research project and programmes the Specialist Media Conference.   If you’d like a confidential discussion about your digital publishing plans, please get in touch