2012 has seen some major turning points in the publishing industry’s use of digital, and we at MMN have been extremely busy playing our part in that over the past couple of weeks, enabling readers of the Metro Life&Style Christmas Gift Guide to buy instantly from their daily paper.
We have already seen the success that publishers have enjoyed when embracing the use of mobile for editorial content consumption, as shown through the ever-growing number of newspaper-based apps, alongside the increasing use of mobile browsers to access content. An outstanding example of this is Associated Newspapers use of MailOnline, who have turned print news into something much more easily consumable on the move, carving a real niche in the breaking news market and gaining 110m pairs of eyes globally and 30m in the UK alone. Coupled with the focus that various magazines are now placing on the tablet market, readers now have a fourth avenue through which to access content, after print, online and mobile.
The difficulty that publishers now face is in finding ways to monetise these new digital channels. At present, either they don’t charge for online use or for their app and subsequently find themselves running loss-leading platforms, or they adopt paywalls, which have met with mixed receptions. The Times, for example, was an early adopter of the paywall over here in the UK but its success has been limited because the content is not sufficiently exclusive enough to merit paying for it. In contrast, the mix of a slicker user experience and more esoteric content from the likes of The Financial Times and The Economist has led to better conversion rates. Other methods tried by retailers include click-throughs from online content to maximise their affiliate margin, or even taking a more direct route by becoming retailers, or near-retailers, themselves; MailShop is a great example of this, whereby they use space in the paper to sell products to their readers directly. Products are recommended by the editorial team, and are therefore clearly differentiated from more commercially-driven initiatives.
Taking this a step further, there are various innovative ways in which publishers have augmented their content by digital means, enabled by the likes of Aurasma and Blippar; this works well in the DVD market for instance, where a trailer can be activated and played and offer a more compelling reason to click through to a purchase, but so far there has been little evidence of significant adoption or buy-in from consumers themselves. Similarly, one edition of this week’s Times enabled direct click-throughs from luxury shoes, but this promoted the perception that the editorial team were recommending certain products.
In essence, what we are seeing is a narrowing of ‘church and state’; ‘church’ here being the editorial content and the principal reason people go to that publication; ‘state’ being the more directly commercial opportunities. Every publisher that we at MMN have spoken to is increasingly concerned about this overlap, and the ensuing perceived compromise of editorial principles for commercial ends. One of the potential solutions that has been missing from this equation in the past has been the ability to buy simply and conveniently, directly from the page.
2012 has seen some great innovations in this area, including those driven by our own campaigns with MailShop and the Metro Life & Style supplement, which will extend to other publications throughout 2013. Similarly, while profits driven from iPad based offerings remain underwhelming at this stage, the expansion into this area demonstrates a clear understanding from that community of the need to innovate, and these are great examples of that innovation.
2013 will see many of these media businesses helping retailers sell directly from the page. All the things we’ve identified – the multichannel experience of print, online, tablet and mobile – can be turned into retail opportunities, and there are a lot of organisations that either directly or indirectly want to sell things to consumers as a way of monetising these channels, either as a marketplace or directly as a retailer.
MMN will help progress this by identifying who the consumers are and tailoring the content and experience through search, merchandising and checkout. Right now there is (in the main) a patchwork of disparate services and the wrong products in front of a random audience: 2013 will mark a conversion of that patchwork into a new quilt, with a joined up experience, targeted marketing to each consumer with a sophisticated range of products, with the added benefits of a better conduit for advertising revenues and the build-up of a valuable database.
Our next blog post will be in early January. Until then, we’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!