Study Finds Disparity Between Consumer, Publisher Expectations for Digital Adoption
Publishers often see the digital content revolution differently from consumers, reflecting contrasting priorities that could in some cases hinder growth, a new survey from The Harrison Group finds.
The survey, which sought to answer the question of what consumers want from devices as compared to what the industry believes they want, was conducted in September and October of 2010. It polled 1,816 U.S. consumers ages 18-64 (with oversamples of 214 tablet users and 279 e-reader users), alongside 476 media industry professionals, including publishers, content providers, marketers and advertisers.
The survey found, for instance, that while publishers believe copyright control is the most dominant management issue, consumers insist on being able to freely share content across platforms. This points to an "inherent conflict" between the subscription-based model of magazines and consumer insistence on multi-media access, the study concludes.
At a webinar held Wednesday to promote the study's release, Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group, and Cheryl Goodman, global director of marketing & publisher relations at Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, Inc., offered an overview of results and their implications for publishers.
Of digital device-owning consumers polled, 75 percent said they desire easy-to-use content formats, 73 percent are looking for enhancements such as multimedia, and 63 percent want shareability, Taylor said. He added that 80 percent of consumer respondents believe if they pay once for a magazine, they should be able to read it digitally for free.
"Consumers expect to pay only once for the publications they buy and have it available on any device they choose to read it on," Taylor said in a statement released after the webinar. "This seems to suggest that devices will converge on a platform solution that enables magazines, books, newspapers and even catalogs and textbooks on a single digital solution."
While 74 percent of publishers prefer the subscription model for content sales, only 13 percent of consumers do, being more interested in a fixed-price unlimited access model (33 percent), single-copy purchases of publications (25 percent), micropayments for individual articles (16 percent) or establishing credit accounts that are drawn down as content is accessed (14 percent).
Goodman cited a portion of the study showing eye fatigue and battery life are common complaints among device-owning consumers, and finding that users desire, in descending order, devices featuring high-resolution screens, substantial storage, readability in the dark, video and multimedia, access to the Internet at any time, an easy-to-use touchscreen, and lightweight design.
Taylor said publishers often miss the mark in identifying consumers' true motivations and barriers to digital adoption. For instance, while 67 percent of publishers believed "it isn't as enriching as holding the actual paper publication in my hand" would be a barrier to device adoption, only 25 percent of consumers did. Similarly, 63 percent of publishers believed emotional attachment to the printed word would be cited, while only 18 percent of consumers actually agreed with this. Fifty-eight percent of publishers believe consumers feel they "don't need another portable electronic device in my life"; only 20 percent of consumers thought so.
On the other hand, "[It's] not the death of print," Taylor said. "[It's] a little more like radio giving way to television. We find people who adopt the devices are reading more newspapers, magazines and books after acquiring the devices compared to non device users."
The main message for publishers, Taylor said in the statement, is that consumers will demand flexibility and openness with their content, "on all devices, all platforms, varying screen sizes, synced between devices, to be shared among friends socially, paid for in micro-payments and accessed via a mobile app."
Publishers currently are "at arm's length from consumer motives," read a webinar powerpoint slide. "Consumers," it warns, "drive the future."