The new rules of mobile publishing: 10 tips on revenue growth

Mobile is fast reaching the tipping point of being the preferred way to access digital news, so B2B and consumer publishers need to get to grips fast with how people are reading their publications on tablets and phones.  And maybe more importantly, how they can maximize revenues from expensively created digital editions.

One of the most detailed pieces of research I have seen so far has been put together by Stonewash, who have analysed in detail billions of pieces of anonymous reader data from digital magazines published on their platform to track exactly when, where and how people read mobile content.

There are some surprising findings, challenging our assumptions that digital magazines are read just like their print counterparts.  Here’s the highlights from the research and some tips on how to grow revenues…

1.     Still best to start with iPad

Although Android has similar numbers of apps and downloads, and Microsoft and Amazon are courting publishers, the lion’s share of magazine downloads and purchases are on iOs (over 90%) with iPad accounting for 75%.  So for now that is the best focus for magazine publishers.  But device lifecycles are short, so it pays to watch this carefully.

2.     Use your own marketing resources to drive discovery

Publishers do better in Apple Newsstand than outside in the app store, but there are no paid promotional options, so the publishers who have seen the best results have worked hard using their own marketing resources (in-mag, email, social media) to drive readers to their app.

3.     Weekly magazines are read more intensively than monthlies

Only 25% of 200 page monthly magazines are actually read, and readers only visit a few times a month.  However, 50% of shorter, weekly magazines are read and readers return almost every other day.  So in a world where building a frequent habit is crucial,  a more bite-sized, weekly magazine gets more engagement.

4.     Consumer and B2B readers behave similarly everywhere

Analysing data from across the world and across both consumer and b2b titles showed no significant differences.  Trends in reading behaviour were similar regardless of category of content or location.

5.     Premium pricing may be the best way to maximize revenues

Even for free magazines, only 50% of people who download a free container will download an issue.  For paid magazines around the £1.49 mark that rate drops slightly to 35%, but then there is a very gradual drop-off to about 20% even at £9 cover price.  So lower cover prices are unlikely to have a big impact on sales volumes, and a premium pricing strategy can maximize revenue.

6.     Editorial and advertising video drive dwell time

Including video in digital magazines increases dwell time significantly, whether editorial or supplied by advertisers.  As 80% of people are on wifi when reading magazines, it’s perfectly acceptable to stream video rather than embed, and this approach will also keep file sizes manageable.

7.     Coverlines are crucial in driving article reads

67% of readers skip about an issue, and don’t read front to back.  They are strongly influenced by hot links to cover features.  So the most impactful ads are those at the end of a major feature, and the back cover has little value.

8.     Design predominantly for single pages in portrait

79% of readers have their device in portrait, not landscape, so they only see single pages and miss carefully designed editorial spreads – or advertising spreads.  Plus right hand ad pages can get missed.

9.     Pitch the audience to advertisers, not multiple devices

Publishers need to re-focus on their overall audience and help advertisers communicate across a mix of devices, behaving more like a digital agency.

10.  Subscribers are more engaged than single issue buyers

It’s worth putting the emphasis on converting buyers to subscribers to build engagement.   Notifications can be targeted to individual devices or groups even if emails are not known.  And publishers with print and digital bundles can take combined payment on the web and then provide a code to access the mobile edition.

So from this research it seems that the ideal digital magazine is weekly, and portrait format, with cover links to all the features, with plenty of editorial and ad videos streamed, and ad positions at the end of each feature!

Read more about Stonewash’s research here.

About the author:  Carolyn Morgan has launched, grown, acquired and sold media businesses across print, digital and events.  She has programmed several highly regarded conferences on digital publishing and advises publishers on their digital strategy.

If you’d like a chat about how you can reinvent your publishing or media business for the digital age, please get in touch.

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