Thursday, April 25, 2013

Trinity Mirror releases new tablet edition for the Birmingham Mail; iPad app allows readers to access the replica free of charge

I'm not that familiar with the Daily Mirror, or Trinity Mirror plc, in general. But if the new Birmingham Mail Newspaper for iPad is an example of their idea of a digital media strategy then it's all about offering their paper's free in digital form, something U.S. publishers are very much rejecting as a digital media strategy.

The Newsstand iPad app for the Birmingham, UK tabloid is pretty much everything I would advise against: its a replica, for one thing; and its free, for another. The app screams of one of those apps a media company releases when it is tired of folks reminding them that they haven't released anything. But based on the previous app released by Trinity Mirror for the Daily Mirror, readers will love this app. UK App Store reviews for that app, Daily Mirror Newspaper App (UK) have been universally positive – UK readers, apparently, love free.

Generally speaking, those media properties that pursue digital media strategies that involve free replica products are trying to save their print advertising base by boosting readership.**

The idea is that the added readers that the digital product will attract will increase results for advertisers and keep them on board. This strategy was at the heart of the media profession's thinking in the late nineties when publishers acquiesced to agency demands that they give away online ads as add-value add-ons to the print schedule. Publishers agreed out of fear that their print competitors would do this, so everyone played along. Digital advertising, print publishers trained their clients, had no real value, so giving it away was fine.

Newspaper publishers have shied away from the practice, for the most part, but through replica editions, digital advertising against has been reduced in value. There is no reason to pay for a tablet ad if the newspaper is giving it all away in their replica editions.

A few decades ago, when the ad people ruled the roost, none of this would have been allowed. But the editorial side is in control now so ads are taking a back seat to paid circulation. Except, it appears, at Trinity Mirror, where that, too, is being given away.

** Another reason to give away the digital replica for free is to drive readers to digital in order to reduce print costs. The idea is that the loss of paid subscriptions is acceptable if print production costs will go away. It is a reasonable strategy if, and only if, the ad team can then sell digital ads. Without those paid ads there is zero revenue to be found in a digital replica with no paid circulation and no new digital ads sold.