In a recent survey of newspaper and magazine publishers, 87% of them have iPad apps, and virtually all of them see mobile as the future. They are mixed on paywalls and the demise of print, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.
The AAM (Alliance for Audited Media formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations) results covered by both TUAW and paidContent have this to say:
A large annual survey of magazine and newspaper publishers finds that 90 percent have some sort of mobile presence — whether it’s on a tablet, smartphone or e-reader. And while less than a quarter (22 percent) say that their smartphone and tablet apps are profitable, more than half expect they will become profitable in the next two years. Sixty-three percent of publishers surveyed “agree that tablets are the most important digital channel for their publication’s future.”
The most popular distribution platform is the iPad, which overtook the iPhone this year as the platform for which publishers are developing the most content. 87 percent of publishers surveyed have iPad apps, 85 percent have iPhone apps and 75 percent have Android apps. But apps for Kindle and Nook are catching up: 67 percent of publishers have a Kindle app (up from 24 percent in 2011), and 57 percent have a Nook app (up from 14 percent in 2011). (It’s unclear whether this refers to Kindle and Nook tablets or to e-readers; the AAM asked about Nook and Kindle in general and didn’t specify device.) paidContent
You can read the entire PDF of the AAM survey yourself, but what I think is the importance of these results is the recognition that the game has changed. Sure, as TUAW quotes, 97% of the publishers will keep their print editions alive for the foreseeable future (pegged at 5 years) and less than a quarter of the tablet editions are profitable, but this isn’t an overnight change in media publishing. Before newspapers there were town criers, then bulletins posted in central places, then mass printing of newspapers and pamphlets. I rather doubt that the move to print was profitable at first. It was a paradigm shift in how news was disseminated and consumed. You couldn’t move from town criers to print until more people could read. You couldn’t print newspapers cheaply until technology made it possible. You can’t, essentially, kill off the printed newspaper until tablets are so ubiquitous that either everyone has one or they widely available in public libraries for people to borrow (to read the news).
All of this, this sweeping change in publishing, is just a matter of time. Smart publishers, like the Washington Post and New York Times, have been working on this for years. I previously lauded the Postmedia group for their excellent newspaper apps, but they switched to a restrictive paywall system to make money from the content. While I don’t agree with how they made the switch, pragmatically I recognize that they must try new courses before the best options are found.
While publishing is never an easy business to be in, I’m encouraged by these data from the publishers. Maybe there is hope for them pulling it off after all.