Monday, February 6, 2012

New research from Gfk MRI reaches some controversial conclusions regarding digital magazines

A new study from Gfk MRI promoted late last week reaches some interesting, if confusing, and possibly erroneous, conclusions.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of Tablet owners who read a magazine on their device in the last 30 days say they would prefer all digital magazines to be formatted in the same way, according to new research from the GfK MRI iPanel--composed exclusively of Tablet and eReader owners. Almost the same percentage (70%) said they would like to be able to buy items by clicking on the ads in a digital magazine.
I can see the eyes of replica makers lighting up with glee when they read these findings. But I'm exactly sure what Gfk MRI was actually asking readers, nor am I sure what they are saying.

What does it mean "formatted in the same way"? Same way as all other magazines? or the same as the print edition?

Also, the survey comes to two seemingly contradictory findings: 67 percent say they would prefer to read an electronic version of a magazine, but also that 65 percent say they find reading print magazines more enjoyable than electronic ones.

National Geographic, with its native tablet design, is still getting good marks from iPad owners.

Gfk MRI's SVP of Research, Risa Becker, thinks she knows what to conclude: "Although magazine publishers are experimenting with different formats in order to differentiate their digital brands, this is not necessarily resonating with digital readers adopting the new Tablet technology."

One of the problems with this survey, and one too often made by companies, is lumping both tablets and eReaders into the same survey, as well as not differentiating between larger tablets and smaller ones.

In any case, if one wants some instant research results I would suggest looking at the top apps currently appearing in the App Store. While the NYT remains number one quite a number of new titles are in the top ten.

Of the top ten, five are replica editions (Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Travel + Leisure, and Women's Health), five are natively designed (NYT, The Daily, Engadget Distro, National Geographic and US News Weekly). Overwhelmingly, the native designed apps have much more positive reviews than the replica editions.

Many of the complaints are just plain silly – many believe that the free apps would offer free issues – but a uniform look is not winning any raves from iPad owners. Maybe Kindle owners are different. But we'd need a better designed study to find out.