Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New study by Mequoda Group predicts rise in preference for digital magazine over print

I am generally skeptical about studies that attempt to predict the future of customer preferences. After all, how many of us would have said in 2006, for instance, that just two years later we would be getting out weather news from an app, or that a few years later we'd be reading much of our news through short sentences found on something called Twitter.

Nonetheless, Mequoda Group has today released the results of a study that they claim shows that 23 percent of current tablet owners already prefer reading magazines on their tablets, and then goes on to predict that a majority of readers will feel this was by 2020.

“The rapid consumer adoption of tablets, and an early preference for digital magazines over print magazines by their users, leads us to conclude that a long-range digital publishing strategy is imperative to the survival and prosperity of every magazine publisher," said Mequoda's CEO Don Nicholas.

You can read the study yourself by downloading it here.

Like most studies about tablets, the Mequoda Group study makes the mistake of throwing all tablets into the same boat. For instance, the study shows that 51 percent of tablet users prefer streaming video, as opposed to 39 percent who read books, 26 percent who read magazines. But one would guess that the type of tablet one owns will significantly influence media preferences (or many it won't). It is generally agreed, for instance, that iPad owners are more disposed to buying media – does this mean that iPad owners are more likely to read digital magazines on their tablets than the owners of another brand? Maybe, but I'd like to see this level of detail.

The study, though, does give publisher important reinforcement concerning the demographics of tablet owners, showing them generally more upscale. Again, though, the study lumps all tab owners together in ways that makes the data meaningless. For instance, the study shows a pretty much even split between men and women – which may be the case – but it is also possible that when one looks at the kinds of tablets owned by each group that patterns might arise. For instance, do women prefer smaller tablets, do they prefer Kindles? This might tell a magazine publisher that it is important to optimize their digital edition for smaller tablets, launch inside Amazon right away rather than simply launch for the Apple Newsstand.

Of course, Mequoda Group has a vested interest in all this so their conclusions must be taken with a grain of salt.

"All in all, no publisher should wait one single day more to launch a digital magazine. No matter how tiny your operation, there appears to be no downside for digital magazines and apps, and at the same time, there are clearly massive new revenue streams to be had," the study concludes.