E-Media Strategist: A Controlled-Circ App Strategy
As the popularity and hype of the iPad and other tablet devices grow, many publishers are trying to figure out what their magazine app strategies should be. Much has been written about paid-circulation publications and whether or not their app strategies are successful, but little discussion has taken place about app strategies for controlled-circulation publications.
The business objective must be answered first. Your publications are controlled circulation, and not paid, for a reason—you can make more money through advertising to a specific, controlled audience than you could by charging readers for the content. It is also difficult to charge for a magazine app when your competitors do not charge for similar content, and there is a market history of the content being freely available on the Web and in print. So let's forget about trying to charge readers for a magazine app in a controlled-circulation environment.
If reader revenue is out, then perhaps you can generate additional revenue from advertisers. Maybe you can sell a sponsorship or two, and upcharge for interactive or video ads? Publishers might be able sell the sex appeal of an app to a couple advertisers for a while, but unless we can demonstrate sustainable return on investment (ROI), the newness quickly will wear off and the revenue will disappear. You need a critical mass of circulation to sustain an advertising/sponsorship business model.
A Closer Look at Traffic Potential
Let's get real for a minute. Over 15 million iPads were shipped in 2010, and while that number is impressive and sure to grow, the vast majority of publications simply don't have a significant percentage of their audience using tablets right now. Check out your own website metrics, and look at the percentage of website visits from iPads or other large-format tablet devices. For most, that number will be 1 percent to 2 percent of total Web traffic.