Android tablet gains in market share does not seem to be translating into dollars for publishers, at least not yet
The common wisdom among publishers and digital publishing solution providers has been that when developing new tablet editions one should develop for iOS first, then Android and other platforms. The reason at first was simply that Apple was first with a popular tablet, and their sales dwarfed the competition. But as more Android, and then Kindle Fire, tablets appeared in the market the reason shifted somewhat: publishers were still seeing far more sales, more paid subscriptions from iPad owners than from owners of other tablets.
The theory for why this was true was that Apple had the top end of the market, first adopters, and those with more disposable income. Apple also had a system that allowed for easy purchases – and they also had all those credit cards on file.
But things have changed in the past year or so. Amazon.com launched the Kindle Fire for the holiday season and along with the tablet came a whole infrastructure that resembled Apple’s. Just as iPad owners were used to buying music and movies from iTunes, Kindle Fire owners were used to buying books and other goods from Amazon.com.
Nonetheless, there remains big differences in the way the various platforms are used and the kinds of publications seen inside the app stores. Replica editions are everywhere, but interactive magazines are more often found in Apple’s ecosystem. Many new tablet magazine vendors continue to choose to launch their solutions first for iOS and only later for Android and Windows. TNM’s own survey of digital publishing platform companies shows that close to 25 percent still do not provide solutions that will result in an app for the Google Play store – and close to 75 percent don’t service the Windows environment.
But surely we are starting to see this change, right? With so many new Kindle tablets being sold, with the soon to be released Kindle Fire HDX around the corner, are we seeing, or at least anticipating a change to the market?
“What we see is that there is still very much a stickiness to the iOS platform,” Alex Gruntsev, Chief Innovation Officer, NewspaperDirect, said.
Gruntsev said that the iPad reached people who were early adopters. He sees Android tablets, though, as being in the same category as the iPad, but that users remain more price sensitive.
“Amazon is moving the needle now,” said Graham Farrar of zuuka Group, the maker of the iStoryTime apps and bookstore app. “Which is not a surprise to me, if there is one Amazon know how to do is run a store.”
“As the Kindle Fire, and I think the Kindle Fire HDX, will accelerate this (growth),” Farrar said, though “it’s not iOS money yet.”
“When the Kindle Fire was released about 18 months ago I think that spurred additional uses of devices,” said Lynly Schambers, Group Product Marketing Manager, Digital Publishing Suite, Adobe, “because they were that much more affordable and accessible to people.”
“What we’ve seen, when we look at the growth of the Digital Publishing Suite business, we’ve seen the number of downloads really accelerate, especially over the past six to 12 months,” Schambers said.
Mike Haney of Mag+ said he thinks there may be regional differences, as well.
“I have read that there are real regional differences here—where Android is much more common in Europe and other parts of the world, users tend to spend more,” Haney said. “I hear that many of our customers are having good success on the Kindle, where people are more accustomed to buying content, particularly content to read.”
“I don’t know how soon, but the trend seems to be that like app spending everywhere, spending on Android is picking up, not slowing down. Google has done some nice work in improving the layout and features of its app store, and as more of those Android users—who may not have consciously purchased an Android phone, but rather took the least expensive smartphone their carrier offered—”discover” apps on their device, I think we’ll see spending steadily increasing, even if the price per app or per in-app purchase is driven down,” Haney said.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of people that are willing to pay for content, especially when we look at that year over year,” Adobe’s Schambers said. “Just in the past 12 months we’ve seen the number of digital subscriptions, paid for digital subscription increase almost three times over the past 12 months.”
For Gruntsev from NewspaperDirect, he sees a big difference between what readers are willing to pay for on tablets, and online.
“People are not willing to pay for repurposed web content,” Gruntsev said. “The moment they see replica for some reason it triggers comparison to the print.” (And hence a willingness to pay.)
“Our advice is unequivocally that you need to think of your presence on a tablet or smartphone app as a new product, not just a version of an existing product,” Haney said. “It is a unique ecosystem, with unique usage patterns and unique user needs.”
“If you run a monthly magazine and your publisher asks you to make a book, you wouldn’t just slap a hard cover on the July issue and call it done, would you?”
Haney also says that publishers need to understand that on tablet devices, as elsewhere, they are competing for the attention of the user. “Your replica that you clearly put no effort into is not going to lure me away from Zite or Facebook. ut if you give me a compelling bundle of content that is engaging and easy to consume and fits what I do with that device — Atlantic Weekly being a great example — then you will become part of my app habit.”