The Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) has published the results of their 2012 Digital Publishing Survey. The AAM is a nonprofit organization that connects North America’s leading media companies, advertisers and ad agencies. Founded in 1914 as the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the AAM independently verifies print and digital circulation and sets standards for measuring and reporting the reach of print and digital media.
The survey of 210 AAM member media companies shows that publishers have embraced tablets and smartphones as integral parts of their cross-platform publishing strategies. In AAM’s first digital-focused survey in 2009, only 51 percent of the respondents had a mobile presence. In the 2012 survey (conducted in October), this figure reached 90 percent, with the remaining 10 percent expecting to join suit within the next 12 months.
In 2012, the survey also asked about the profitability of digital efforts. Twenty-two percent of publisher respondents report that their smartphone and tablet apps/platforms are currently profitable. More than half expect these platforms to become profitable over the next two years.
Survey results also show that media companies are distributing content on multiple platforms, eager to get in front of readers on their device of choice. Apple products still dominate the market, with 85 percent of publishers having iPhone apps and 87 percent having iPad apps. But Kindle and Nook apps are growing. The number of publishers developing Kindle apps has grown two and a half times, up from 24 percent in 2011 to 67 percent in 2012. Nook apps have increased more than four times, from 14 percent in 2011 to 57 percent in 2012.
“Media companies know that delivering content whenever and wherever consumers want is key,” said Eric John, AAM’s vice president of digital services. “They know digital content, including browser-based editions and mobile apps, is no longer the wave of the future, but table stakes to continue reaching and growing digital readership.”
Key Survey Findings
Not only are media companies distributing content on multiple platforms, they are offering multiple apps on each device. On average, companies are producing 3.4 iPad and iPhone apps, 3 Kindle apps and 2.4 Nook apps.
- Publishers are most likely to charge for content on the iPad (56 percent), followed by the iPhone at 42 percent, Kindle at 38 percent and Nook at 31 percent. But subscriptions are not the only revenue source. The majority of respondents agreed a dual revenue stream from advertising and subscriptions is necessary to make digital platforms profitable.
- Even as the market matures, media companies are still testing and revising their strategies to best provide editorial and advertising content to their consumers. They are nearly split on using native apps designed for specific devices versus Web apps that function across devices. Seventy percent are publishing native apps, while 67 percent are publishing Web apps.
- The impact of HTML5 as a new additional publishing technology is still undecided for most publishers. When asked to think about the next year, 41 percent said they plan to continue using native apps while 31 percent said they plan to try HTML5.
- After years of allowing customers to access free online content, many media companies are charging for their website content. A number of newspapers — 48 percent — have a paywall to charge for some or all of their content. Combined percentages for newspapers, magazines and business publications show 41 percent currently use a paywall. Of those currently without a paywall, 44 percent plan to implement one in the next two years.
- The most popular type of paywall is metered, where customers may access a predetermined number of articles before payment is required. Almost 40 percent use metered paywalls, while 17 percent use a hard paywall where payment is required to read any content. And 33 percent use a combination paywall that restricts access to premium content.
- The million-dollar question is how publishers are monetizing mobile and how that revenue offsets print declines. Seventy-seven percent agreed mobile revenues must stem from both advertising and circulation, up from 52 percent in 2009. Fifty-four percent of respondents said mobile currently represents up to 9 percent of advertising revenue, and 56 percent said it represents up to 9 percent of circulation revenue.
- Despite the promise of mobile publishing, survey respondents are pragmatic about their print publications. Less than 15 percent said they have plans to reduce their print publishing frequency and less than 3 percent think their publication will only be produced digitally in the next five years.
The complete survey summary is available on AAM’s website.