Mick Rigby is the CEO Yodel Mobile, where he brings more than 20 years of experience as a strategist in advertising and marketing.



We’ve almost reached the tablet-to-PC tipping point where the cheaper, more portable tablet form factor is becoming the de facto device for browsing and consuming online content. Pick your analyst report – they all pretty much indicate that 2014 will see consumers approach and pass the tablet horizon.

In its most recent report, analyst and research firm Canalys predicts that tablet sales will account for 50 percent of all PCs shipped. It’s also widely reported that from back in Q1 2013, tablet shipments passed the half a million per day mark (the global birth rate is only 370,000 per day).

At a recent Professional Publishers Association conference, Nicholas Coleridge, president of Condé Nast International, took the opportunity to urge the “stick-in-the-muds” at the ABC auditing body to include tablet edition sales in its figures as soon as possible, or risk making their figures increasingly irrelevant.

So, with more tablets than babies and users seemingly preferring the format as their primary digital reading source, publisher brands are radically rethinking their strategies to engage this increasingly mobile audience.

There are, of course, lots of models around the retailing of tablet versions of publications alongside a consumer expectation that everything online is or should be free. This is a difficult ship to turn with many publishers bundling their tablet versions with a subscription with a print edition or relying on advertising revenue to ad-fund what would, ten years ago, have had a cover price that nobody quibbled with.

It’s a long slog but there are some great pay-wall success stories emerging. The Times newspaper set up its online pay-wall in 2010 and now has 140,000 (mainly tablet) digital subscribers. The New York Times also set up its online pay-wall in 2010 (allowing access to 10 free articles per month) and by 2012 there were 640,000 subscribers.

The Financial Times followed the online subscription model and now has 328,000 digital subscribers versus 240,000 for its daily print edition.

One key success factor is that all of these print editions are available internationally. The tablet version of the British Journal of Photography’s publication has turned a physical product (which weighed almost a kilogram and cost a fortune to send abroad) into one of the most successful iPad magazines in the world. Condé Nast’s Colerdige said at the same event that 57 percent of his company’s iPad sales come from overseas.

So, is it just a question of getting your app in a load of app stores and preparing to count the money? Not quite. Here are some key considerations. 

Cultural diversity can make a huge difference

If you’re targeting the Arab world, for example, a free app will go down very well; you’ll get a lot of downloads and will see a spike in app store rankings but getting the customer to convert from being a free subscriber to being a paid subscriber can be much more difficult.

Whereas in the West consumers are much more likely to subscribe, they won’t tolerate crashing apps. Even if it fails once, your reviews will change rapidly and you can expect one-star reviews if you disappoint them with your product.

Consider the mobile OS mix

Android’s market share is massive, but the conversion journey is more complex which leads to greater drop off giving an overall lower conversion. iOS users have fewer steps to purchase and Apple provides a trusted environment making people more comfortable with making purchases.

In addition, Apple users are more tech-savvy with a higher net worth – all these factors together make them valuable customers. Compare this with the Android environment where the cheaper devices tend to attract the younger and older ends of the market. Not only is this audience less likely to purchase, they also download fewer apps.

This combined with an open source platform simply does not give the same level of confidence as the Apple environment. We predict this changing over time as app providers build devices with greater safety aspects but there is still a six year gap between the two. 

Discoverability is the single biggest challenge when it comes to app publishing

It’s important to know your mobile users, but it’s even more important to reach potential users in the first place. 

There are 1.8m apps out there, and only a handful of visible spots on app store home pages. If you underestimate the cost of marketing your app, your app development investment is wasted.

A ratio of 90 percent marketing and 10 percent development is sensible. Too many people don’t leave any money for marketing and their apps do not give the ROI that they need.

Within your marketing spend you need to allow a portion for App Store Optimisation. Too many apps fail because they are not tagged properly and do not come up in search, a quick win for many people who already have an app presence. 

You must also be able to track your app

It’s not enough to just understand where the app was discovered, but what is the user’s journey beyond the installation? You must be able to track beyond the click to see logins, registration, content previews, trials and ultimately, subscriptions.

For the bigger brands, the likelihood is that your customers will have downloaded your app already. The key is to activate those users and drive them down the path to your chosen objective. If you don’t have tracking, then none of this is possible. Don’t ever ‘run blind’ without tracking.

For publishers, 2014 will be the year of the tablet – but everyone involved in this particular part of the ecosystem needs to take a mobile first approach. This will not only put the consumer at the heart of the experience, but takes steps to understand them – from their device and cultural nuances to their activity within an app environment.

Image credit: Brian Jackson via Thinkstock