A Troubling Sign for Tablet Magazines?
A study that purportedly shows tablet users’ “preference for digital magazines over print magazines” actually suggests that people really don’t like tablet magazines.
“23% of tablet users prefer digital magazines on tablets over print,” says a blog post from Mequoda about its new study “How American Adults Consume Magazines on Tablets.” The blog post and trade-media coverage interpret the data as meaning that tablet magazines are about to enter a boom period.
But here’s the real news: Three-fourths of U.S. tablet users do not prefer digital magazines to print magazines. Read that sentence again: It doesn’t say three-fourths of U.S. Luddites or of adults or of magazine readers; it says three-fourths of tablet users.
Isn’t that a bit like people with Blu-Ray players preferring to watch VHS tapes?
In the same study, 51% of tablet users prefer streaming video to broadcast and 39% prefer e-books to printed books.
Yes, tablet use is growing. Mequoda found that a majority of U.S. internet users have access to a tablet. And yes people are learning to do more and more with them. Tablets are displacing laptops for many people.
But tablet owners apparently haven’t fallen in love with reading magazines on their tablets.That may be why Newsweek has reportedly gone from 1.5 million subscribers to 470,000 less than six months after dropping print to go digital-only.
Despite all the hype about iPads and Kindles, U.S. magazine publishers are making far more money on the web and generally wondering when their tablet investments will pay off.
In fact, though no one seems to talk about it, the real game-changing technology for subscription magazines has been browser-based editions — that is, digital replicas that can be read on any computer. Many a B2B publication has shifted 50% or more of its subscription base to these simple page-flip editions, but few print-and-digital publications get even 10% of their circulation from tablet editions.