Katarzyna Petruk: The Global Mobile Survey 2014 (IDG) tells us that 33 percent of smartphone users prefer to read digital magazines to their printed versions. Are there many other reports showing similar, or even stronger trends? When making similar research here in Poland, should we look at the United States, where the choice of digital magazines among readers is clearly visible?
Łukasz Kawęcki: Strong data from various countries (such as those published on netnewscheck, Guardian, marketingweek or fipp.com) show a growth in the sales of digital publications for tablets and smartphones. The trends on other markets are a good reference point for what is happening in Poland – of course, different markets have different specificities, such as the speed of adopting technologies, online payment trend, prosperity of the society etc, but today the great majority of the publishing market in Poland is present on tablets/smartphones with at least most of its portfolio. If we go back to the results published by Newsweek three years ago (1,000 digital issues sold each week) and compare them with today’s results (over 5,000), the trend is clearly visible. Moreover, this proves digital sales is gradually increasing its share in the sales of the magazine, which according to ZKDP amounts to 125 000 issues.
KP: What stands behind the increase in the mobile reading trend? Would it be helped by a bigger number of free issues?
ŁK: The trend results from the constantly growing number of sold mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, the changes in consumer behaviour who want to read their favourite magazine “here and now”, and the increasing prosperity of the society. Besides, digital publications in Poland don’t give way to the quality of such magazines published in USA, U.K. or France – which should also encourage to using this form of reading. In the long run, free publications do more damage than good to the market. After all, in order to prepare valuable content that the reader will want to read (and pay for it) you need to bear costs, which pay back e.g. by paid issues.
KP: Social media and the Internet are now an obvious way of using mobile devices. Should magazine publishers even dream about similar popularity?
ŁK: Reading the content of a magazine in an organised way is a conscious and planned action, and can not compete with checking your friend’s status on Facebook. We usually read on tablets in the evenings spent at home (from 5 till 11 p.m. according to Online Publishers Association), our “personal prime time”. This is similar to the time spent sitting in an armchair with a printed magazine. During the day, we tend to access content via smartphones. American research suggest the number of users reading content on smartphones regularly is growing.
The social media or Google do not carry a value by themselves, they only simplify communication between people, finding particular information or reaching information about valuable content that can be found somewhere else, e.g. on the Internet or in the “offline” world.
KP: Reading on smartphones is no longer difficult because of the size of the screens, which are getting bigger and bigger.
ŁK: The size is not a barrier also for another reason. Today’s magazines are very well adjusted to smartphones. The Polish market has now over a dozen titles fantastically prepared to being read on small screens, and the sales of these versions is “competing” with their tablet versions (e.g. Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Newsweek, Wysokie Obcasy, Wysokie Obcasy Extra, Computerworld, Puls Biznesu+, Wprost Biznes, Brief, Logo). Optimising for smartphone translates into e.g. adjusting the layout to the size of the device, large font. Naturally, there are still magazines whose printed A4 form was literally transferred to 4″ screen, which you need to scroll many times to read. It is the publisher’s error, such a project can not be successful.
KP: And publishing a magazine as an application brings many benefits to the publisher: it allows to find out more about the readers. What can be measured?
ŁK: The tools for preparing publications for tablets and smartphones currently available on the market allow to analyse quality and quantity in the way nearly identical to what we are used to in measuring traffic on the Internet. We can measure when the app is opened, at what times of the day, the time of the session, UU number, but also most frequently read articles, time spent on viewing ads and many other parameters. Advanced tools allow to follow the content consumption map, showing the path of the user in a given issue and whether he or she preferred to read the magazine in the vertical or horizontal position (if the publication was prepared by the publisher for both orientations.) All these data indeed carry huge advantages for the publisher, chief editor and advertisers.
KP: What trends can you see on the electronic publishing market?
ŁK: Definitely more people are becoming aware of the need to enter the new distribution channel. Another key thing is publishers’ awareness that it’s not enough to publish the magazine on tablets or smartphones, but they also need to promote it effectively in order to increase sales. One strong trend are special issues prepared for smartphones.
KP: Are foreign magazines prepared for small screens better in quality than Polish ones?
ŁK: I think we don’t need to look at what publishers abroad are doing. What we can find in tablet versions of Top Gear, Wired, Martha Stewart Living, we can also find in Nesweek, Men’s Health, Focus, @mazing or Douglas Magazyn. If we talk about smartphone versions, the above mentioned examples can easily compete with Wired, Vanity Fair or The New Yorker.