Thursday, March 31, 2011

knowDigital study looks at The Daily, foresees possible problems for News Corp's experiment in tablet publishing

The digital media research firm knowDigital released a study of the impressions of The Daily among iPad owners. The study is one of the first publicly released of any tablet publication, let alone one as highly visible as the News Corp. launch.

knowDigital finds that iPad owners who have downloaded The Daily app perceive that superior content is to be found elsewhere online free of charge. Additionally, consumers expressed a desire for single issue sales options, as opposed to a recurring subscription.
“Our research finds that iPad users feel positively about what News Corporation has set out to accomplish with The Daily,” study author and knowDigital President Sam Milkman wrote in the company's press release.

“However, for News Corporation to convert those positive impressions into regular use and paid subscriptions from iPad users, it is going to have to address a number of concerns raised in our study.”

The study, which can be found in full in PDF form here, breaks out reactions of iPad-The Daily readers into two camps. Those who the authors identify as "tech-savvy, heavy news users" and "those who are less tech-savvy and have lower interest in gathering news content". It is the second group that appears most positive about the new digital newspaper.

"It’s not just the news; they have the gossip, they have arts and life, they have apps and the games," a respondent identified as Linda stated to the researchers.

On the other hand, a respondent identified as David told knowDigital "It's not hard-hitting, factual news, ‘cause I feel more comfortable getting that from another source. If I want to learn something new, I'm not going to go to The Daily to learn that.”

Users identified The Daily more as an "app" rather than a newspaper or magazine. I would guess this shouldn't be surprising as The Daily did not come to the iPad from a history in print.
The study also found that users had a "low awareness" that the app is updated through the day. This may be the fault of the editors, however, who could use notifications to make sure readers are aware of new content -- though this has to be used sparingly and with some forethought. I receive, for instance, notices from the NYT of budget developments in New York state, something not terribly important to me as a Midwesterner.

Research like this one from knowDigital is of incredible importance to major publishers looking to launch tablet-only publications. For the most part, publishers are still working in the dark as to what consumers expect in a tablet edition. However, it could be said that many of the issues facing The Daily could have been foreseen. First, while those in the newspaper industry, and those who are iPad enthusiasts may have been very much aware of The Daily prior to its launch, The Daily did not get much marketing support aimed at the general public.

A major marketing effort might have had to address such questions as "why is this product different, better?", "why should I subscribe to this new product?", as well as "what can I expect from this new news product?" Those who are heavy consumers of the news probably could have guess the answers to some of these questions, knowing this was a new launch from News Corp. -- but then again, the publisher may have gone into this launch hoping many iPad owners would ignore the source of the new media app, and concentrate on the app experience itself.


Anonymous said...

Nowhere does knowDigital's research suggest that consumers are looking for "single issue sales options." What they're saying is that the recurring subscription model runs counter to what consumers are used to doing, which is to make a one-time purchase with an app. A subtle, but important difference from what you wrote.

Douglas Hebbard said...

Here is the paragraph directly from the study PDF:

Few consumers are strongly committed to buying The Daily on a weekly or annual basis. The
reasons are several, including that individual consumers are not buying many apps to begin
with, hesitation about adding another recurring expense to their budgets, lack of strong interest
in the product and the overwhelming perception that news in the digital realm is free. This lack
of commitment appears equally strong among consumers who find The Daily very appealing
and those who do not.

I interpret this both as meaning that a straight app buy like you suggest is what readers want, AND that buying single issues is a way to overcome the hesitation to commit to a long term buy.

Of course, all of us, including knowDigital are interpreting the responses from those surveyed. If we could look at their raw data we might feel more confident in drawing conclusions.