Readers drawn by familiar newspaper format on iPad

Those newspapers that combine a familiar layout with online news and interactive features are most popular with iPad readers, according to a study undertaken by Visiolink in collaboration with Aarhus University. The study also shows that the closer a digital paper resembles the printed edition, the more readers are willing to pay.

Under the banner "Publishing in a digital future", Visiolink is working with Aarhus University to identify which types of digital content future newspaper readers will be willing to pay for, and how best to present the contents on the individual platforms.

Two digital editions of the same paper
In the first pilot study, a group of readers were asked to test two different app versions of the same paper on the iPad: one a 1:1 version of the paper (that is, a digital edition identical to the daily printed newspaper); and the other, a so-called "web-based newsreader", also containing articles and photos from the printed paper, but in a layout based on digital conventions, primarily those associated with the internet and not easily identifiable to the newspaper's loyal readers.

The editorial flow
The study found that readers prefer the version that most resembles the printed paper, primarily because it offers security, familiarity and an overall perspective.

"Many of those in the test group expressed satisfaction at being able to get all the way through a 1:1 version of the printed paper, which has a start and an end, and thus a consistent and easy editorial flow. Readers placed particular weight on editorial priorities and the general perspective in their decision. When a newspaper bases itself on digital conventions with an endless, non-prioritised news flow, readers cannot follow it in a way that makes them feel they have reached the end of the paper," says Visiolink's CEO, Jens Funder Berg, about the results.

"...I expect editing to be included in what I pay for. When images and headlines from all sections are clumped together in a heap, it is not particularly appealing. And what about relevance criteria? I can't find any." 
Quotes from readers on the web-based newsreader

Higher price
Participants in the same study were asked what they thought the two digital editions of the newspaper each cost. They were also asked to say what they personally would be willing to pay for each edition. Although both apps were estimated to be far cheaper than their actual price, participants guessed that the 1:1 version cost about twice as much as the web-based, template version. 
"Test subjects guessed both apps to be far below what they really cost, so we can conclude here that what readers are willing to pay is not the same figure as the actual price. In general, readers set prices lower for digital products – in that they don't get a hard copy with the purchase," explains Jens Funder Berg.

What the study suggests about willingness to pay:
The general opinion is that digital newspapers by definition should be cheaper than the printed paper. Readers are willing to pay for length and depth, but not for short, web-based news, and the same conclusion was found across age groups and gender. Young people (under 30) and older readers (50+) are those willing to pay most for the paper: those in the age group 30-50 years are the least obliging when it comes to payment. 

The appearance of the digital paper is, by all accounts, highly influential in determining whether readers are willing to pay for it; they are happy to pay for attention to detail in the form of layout, pictures, relevant infographics, etc, but not for something that looks like a free internet news site. 

Wish for interactivity
Despite readers having given the 1:1 version of the newspaper higher marks than the web-based newsreader, there remains a general wish that the digital potential could be better exploited: not only when it comes to interactivity, but also for the possibility of regularly updated news and more multimedia content, such as video and photo galleries. At the same time, readers would like the option to 'share' articles via social media sites.

"Interactive content is still lacking. iPad gives me some extra options, but they are not being used. It's really irritating when links don't work. The same goes for QR codes." 
Reader quote on the 1:1 app

Catch younger readers
The pilot study shows that it is quite possible to draw younger readers into digital newspapers, if the readers are exposed to the paper and its value – even though what creates that kind of value is highly individual. "The competition for readers' time means however that the challenge for media houses is to create formats that allow for shorter newspaper moments rather than working on longer, unbroken newspaper time, as the classic newspaper does. We must service both new and old readers in a controlled transformation from print to digital format – for example with hybrid-apps, which combine familiar newspaper content with digital content in the form of related articles, picture galleries, video reportage, etc," says Jens Funder Berg. 

"Publishing in a digital future"
The pilot study is part of the "Publishing in a digital future" project, a joint research project between Visiolink and Aarhus University. The basis of the project is that the reading of newspapers is moving from printed media to digital platforms. What nobody knows, however, is how the newspaper of the future will look or what readers will want to see. To achieve a secure footing for future digital payment platforms, those in the media industry need to know more about their readers' use of tablets and smartphones, as well as how the new platforms are changing media consumption and reader habits. 

According to Martin Brynskov, associate professor and researcher in mobile media at the Department of Aesthetics and Communication at Aarhus University, knowledge in this area is both limited and fragmented. For the first time, relevant information is being collected and analysed, so that Visiolink – in addition to using the information for product development – can share it with its customers, which include more than 600 European newspapers.

Danish and international material
"The market for digital payment platforms is still in the early stages of development. There is very little actual information in this area. We are now collecting a large amount of material, both in Denmark and internationally, and once we have reviewed it, it should provide Visiolink with a unique body of knowledge. This also means that, in the future, Visiolink will be better equipped to analyse the digital media market itself," says Martin Brynskov.

Tools for the digital future
For Visiolink, a market leader in digital newspaper solutions in Northern Europe, the collaboration with Aarhus University will secure the company with an even better foundation as a knowledge-based enterprise. Armed with more precise information about readers' digital expectations, together with Visiolink's position and experience both nationally and internationally, the company is better equipped to lead media houses into the digital future.

Exclusive market knowledge
"The exclusive market knowledge that is falling into our laps will contribute to us bringing an even greater wealth of information and expertise to the market. Currently, many initiatives are based on customer-driven innovation combined with our expertise and experience. Our goal is to always remain one step ahead of developments. This research project lays the foundation that ensures media houses can enter the future with confidence - a foundation based on facts," says Jens Funder Berg, CEO of Visiolink.

Fonte: 27/03/2013


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