Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Morningstar launches its first iPad app for their flagship equities newsletter, Morningstar StockInvestor

When TNM was launched in January 2010 one of the categories I was so sure I would be writing about at length was digital newsletters. I was wrong, it has proven to be the least active category on this site. Why is that? Why have eNewsletters been so stagnant these past few years?

These questions came to mind when I saw that Morningstar Inc. has released its very first iPad app. The idea makes a ton of sense: tablets make it easy to access and archive newsletters, while at the same time finding new readers for your publications. The obvious downside is that Apple will be taking a bite out of your revenue, but the cost to find and sell new newsletter readers is not cheap. Simply being in the Newsstand should generate some new revenue, right?

This first app from Morningstar is for their flagship equities newsletter, Morningstar StockInvestor. I fully expected a Plain Jane replica of the print newsletter, and was fully prepared to praise the decision. After all, most print newsletters are printed on pages around the size of the iPad's display, so a replica edition choice would work for most newsletters.

But Morningstar built a better app than than, allowing readers to adjust the font size of the text. It is still a fairly simply app, but it works perfectly fine.
The Morningstar StockInvestor app is free to download, of course. There is no option to buy individual newsletters, simply an option to subscribe at $9.99 per month.

New readers can get access to two issues free of charge as a trial. Choosing this option leads to a place where you can sign up for email alerts, and nice way of getting those email addresses.

Existing subscribers to the print newsletter can download the iPad app and access their newsletters at no additional charge.

I'm surprised it took Morningstar this long to launch its first app, but at least that first app is a very good product and both new and existing subscribers should be very happy with the effort.

So why haven't we seen more eNewsletter products in the Newsstand? One reason may be that many B2B publishers have been producing their newsletters and supplemental products of their print magazines. These eNewsletters are a bit of a pain for editors to produce and rarely generate much additional income.

But some B2Bs, especially those with strong sales teams, are doing quite well in this area. A tablet edition of the newsletter might make a lot of sense to these B2B publishers.

For a B2B magazine one could create a tablet newsletter that would be free to existing subscribers but paid to new readers – thus encouraging qualified subscriptions. Just as importantly, any digital ads sold for the eNewsletter would create copy of use in later tablet editions.

Of course, the biggest obstacle to creating eNewsletters for tablets remains the reduced staff sizes to be found at most B2B media firms today. Nonetheless, just as I would have predicted almost three years ago, one has to guess that we will one day see lots of eNewsletters available for tablets. For existing print newsletter companies I would think that the prospect of dumping the USPS would be reason alone to go digital and to go tablets.