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The tipping point for digital publishing? New research results

How many print publishers are experimenting with digital formats, both on the web and on mobile?  A year ago we surveyed publishers and just 22% had mobile apps, with a further 16% planning apps.  One third were charging for web content.  Early results are just coming in for the 2012 Specialist Media Insights survey, and it looks like digital publishing has just gone mainstream.

From the 97 responses so far, which are evenly split between consumer and business publishers, 31% are publishing mobile b2c content, and 25% mobile b2b content.  34% are currently charging for online web content, with a further 25% planning to charge within the next two years.  Annual subs are beating one-off payments by a large margin.

62% either have mobile apps now or plan to within two years.  35% have at least one app live now, with 10% having over 5 already.  Within the next year, almost half will have at least one app, rising to 62% in the next two years.

Those who charge are increasingly resisting discounting.  43% of current apps are priced in line with print editions, and a further 25% are discounting by 25% or less.

The type of apps is gradually shifting.  While 57% of current apps are simple PDF replicas of print magazines, most planned apps will include links, video or web feeds.  Plus 40% are planning new apps that aren’t edition of magazines but have a specific function, such as listings or gallery.

The overwhelming majority of survey respondents were UK based, but 60% were seeing over 20% of their downloads from outside the UK, with 35% of paid apps seeing over 40% of sales from outside the UK.  So the app store is proving a potent channel for reaching a global audience.

E-readers are still a bit of a minority sport, with only 11% publishing for Kindle or other e-reader platforms, but half the respondents plan to publish to e-readers, so this might change rapidly.

The sample so far is biased to smaller publishers, with 67% having turnover under £5m, but this doesn’t seem to be constraining their plans to experiment with digital publishing.

The Specialist Media Insights survey is live for two more weeks, and covers pricing of online subs and digital magazines, plans for online events, the impact of social media on publishers’ business and observations for the future.

All who take part in the survey will receive a summary of the results, providing a useful benchmark for planning their digital publishing strategy.

Click here to take part in Specialist Media Insights 2012

Specialist Media Insights 2012 is supported by InPublishing Magazine and the Specialist Media Show, and sponsored by Brad Insight.

Jim Bilton will present highlights of the research at the Specialist Media Show on 24 May 2012 at ThinkTank Birmingham.

All responses are confidential and held by Demographix , who power the survey, according to MRS guidelines.  If you provide your email address you will receive a copy of the summary results.  This information is held by Demographix and is not connected to your answers.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan works with niche media businesses on their digital publishing and marketing strategy, through consulting firm Penmaen Media. Carolyn regularly writes for media trade press and speaks at conferences on the challenges of digital publishing.  She also runs the Specialist Media Show, a conference, exhibition and workshop programme for niche publishers.  Carolyn moderates the Specialist Media Network on LinkedIn, a community of over 900 niche publishers who swap ideas and contacts. Request to join here.

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