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Measuring the influence of tablets on magazine publishing

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It’s easy to forget that these are still early days for digital publishing. It was only two years ago that Apple unveiled the iPad. Yet, the device – and other tablets and e-readers like it – has dramatically altered the media landscape. At The Economist, our readers increasingly want to access the publication on their tablets. In two years, more than half of our readers expect to consume The Economist digitally.

Given these realities, it’s crucial that we in the industry agree on standard definitions and metrics to accurately capture the impact of tablets on publishing. Last week, the Association of Magazine Media (MPA)’s Tablet Metrics Task Force did just this by announcing voluntary guidelines that give publishers a better way to measure their digital subscriptions. The uniform metrics also provide advertisers with a clear look into the value of digital magazine advertising.

The five initial tablet metrics recommended by the MPA are:

- Total consumer paid digital issues: includes both paid annual subscriptions and paid single issues

- Total number of tablet readers per issue: the number of issues opened by individual devices

- Total number of sessions per issue: the number of times an issue was opened

- Total amount of time spent per reader per issue: the total amount of time a reader spends on each issue

- Average number of sessions per reader per issue: the average number of times each reader accessed the issue

The Economist is glad to see a standardization of terms and data for digital subscriptions. As tablet readership grows, the next step for our industry should be to develop consistent ways of measuring reader engagement with ads. With the digital analytics that tablets provide, we can assess advertisement clickthroughs, stickiness and even the percentage of readers who take action after viewing an ad. These metrics will give advertisers a deeper understanding of the enormous potential of tablet advertising.

Nina Link, who is president and chief executive of the Association of Magazine Media, has said “tablet technology is creating an incredible opportunity for magazine media to grow and reach new audiences.” I agree. In two short years, The Economist has capitalized on the dynamic and immersive tablet experience. In the years to come, we hope to see the publishing and advertising industries continue to harness this technology. The new guidelines are just the start of that journey. 

A sampling of ads found in The Economist’s iPad edition