Tablet strategies evolve

19 January 2011

NEW YORK: Time Inc, Hearst Magazines and Condé Nast are adapting their approaches to tablets such as Apple's iPad, in recognition of the rapidly-changing media landscape.

Time Inc has introduced iPad apps for Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune, and previously conducted biometric research into the response of consumers to ads featured on this channel.

However, just as reading habits differ when customers view articles via slate appliances, buyer motivations also demonstrate unique characteristics.

"This is not the same kind of impulse sale that's offline at checkout," Steve Sachs, Time Inc's evp, consumer marketing and sales, told the New York Times.

"That's not the purchase behavior that we see in a digital newsstand or an app store. It's not about a particular cover. It's about wanting to read in general. So a subscription model makes sense."

Hearst Magazines boasts dedicated iPad applications representing titles from Esquire to Marie Claire and Popular Mechanics.

It typically charges an equal amount for acquisitions completed in this way as regarding the print alternative, but a willingness to pay is apparently yet to be fully established among tablet users.

"If you look at the Apple store, the most common reason that people give an app a low rating is that it lacks a subscription option," said David Carey, president, Hearst Magazines.

"They want to subscribe, and they don't like the idea of paying $4.99 a month."

To broaden its scope, Hearst has made its content available on a paid-for basis through a tie-up with digital publisher Zinio.

Similarly, the firm has launched apps for handheld offerings using Google's Android operating system, alongside Research in Motion's BlackBerry and Amazon's Kindle e-book reader.

While Apple enjoys a pre-eminent role at present, Carey suggested the expanding choices should prove advantageous going forward.

"I do believe that in the next year, with all the new developments and all the new Android devices, that the industry will have a subscription option," he said.

Condé Nast produces iPad variants of five core publications including Vanity Fair, GQ and The New Yorker.

As with Hearst, it has attempted to diversify its strategy, reaching across Android-powered gadgets, the Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook Color e-reader.

"I think that the new devices and the new Android-based devices will be as good or better than Apple long term," Bob Sauerberg, Condé Nast's president, argued.

"We feel strongly that it's too early to pick a winner. The iPad is a great device with an early lead. We see a lot of other great devices."

Another area being explored by the company is issuing material that is not time-sensitive, like a Condé Nast Traveler application providing detailed coverage about Italy, or a Real Simple recipe tool for quick meals.

"You have a way to monetise your content in an evergreen environment," Andrew Swinand, president of Starcom MediaVest Group, said.

"If I'm a magazine publisher, I have a new vehicle and a new environment which allows me richer content and more consumer friendly interaction."

IDC estimated 17m tablets were shipped in 2010, with the US contributing 40% of the total.

"The media tablet market's rapid evolution will continue to accelerate ... with new product and service introductions, channel expansion, price competition and experimentation," said Susan Kevorkian, IDC's research director, mobile connected devices.

Data sourced from New York Times/IDC; additional content by Warc staff