The most recent iMonitor report examined one of the major debates raging among publishers and developers: whether an app model or a browser-based model will become dominant in the long term. The outcome will have significant implications not only in terms of how publications are distributed and consumed, but in the business models that will be favored. Many of those favoring the browser-based approach are advocates of business models that are solely dependent on ad revenues.
Consumer choice will clearly be the critical variable in the outcome, with smart publishers making their content available on the devices — and in the forms — that consumers prefer. That said, iMonitor authors strongly believe in an app-based model for several reasons. From their perspective, all of these reasons are related to the potential for broader interaction between the consumer and branded content.
First of all, authors of iMonitor believe that the immersive experience offered by apps—particularly tablet apps— is not only more analogous to that traditionally offered by magazines and newspapers, but creates better value for advertisers because of higher levels of engagement and attentiveness. Consumers typically spend much more time when they sit down with a publication than they do when they visit a website. This allows publishers to garner not only more time with their audiences, but more opportunities to deliver advertising that is appropriate to both their audiences and the content.
Browsing, on the other hand, is just that. As a 2009 study McPheters & Company conducted with Condé Nast and CBS showed, ads exposed during browsing result in significantly less impact than is routinely generated by advertising in either magazines or on television. The study found that not only was recall of magazine ads almost three times higher that banner ads, but that within a half hour, magazines effectively delivered more than 6 times the number of ads delivered in the same amount of time spent browsing.
Secondly, publishers’ experience with the web — particularly during the economic downturn of the last few years — has more than amply demonstrated the importance of monetizing content among consumers and the desirability of multiple revenue streams. There are substantial costs associated with content development that need to be recouped, and since consumers derive substantial value from that content — in terms of its utility, entertainment value, or both — then it makes sense that they should pay for it. Hopefully, the transactional capabilities afforded by many apps, which allow consumers to purchase featured or advertised products, will facilitate the further development of a third significant revenue stream for many publishers.
Lastly, apps hold the promise of offering an easier way of marketing and delivering publication content. It’s much easier to go to the App Store, or a newsstand like Zinio, and browse through multiple titles of potential interest than it is to visit websites one by one. And while email alerts are being used extensively by publishers already, they tend to get lost in the deluge of all of the others from organizations attempting to maintain “meaningful relationships.”