IPad, other tablet computers, and e-readers will create a
'reading revolution.' But publishers' revenues may lag.
When the Consumer Electronics Show kicks off its annual event in
Las Vegas next week, it will bask in the glow of more than 50 models
of tablet computers either on display or announced. The new must-
have gadget will warm the hearts of manufacturers, high-tech
consumers, and - an unlikely group - magazine publishers.
The masters of ink and glossy photo see in the Apple iPad and its
competitors a way to rejuvenate their slumping industry. With more
than 100 million tablets and e-readers forecast to be in Americans'
hands by 2013, publishers foresee a reading boom.
As a result, readers can expect digital magazines that are more
up-to-the-minute, more interactive, and more eye-catching. The big
unknown is how much these new readers will be willing to pay.
"I don't think that [the computer tablet] is the savior that some
people have made it out to be, but it's an interesting opportunity,"
says Jeff Price, president and publisher of The Sporting News. In
April, the New York-based biweekly began selling a daily digital
edition for $2.99 a month. Since then, advertising is up 17 percent
compared with a year ago. Mr. Price expects the new digital daily to
turn profitable next year: "We're bullish in terms of 2011."
Reading time soars
One of the most encouraging signs for publishers is that tablets
and e-readers boost reading time. Users of e-readers are 11 percent
more likely than theaverage adult to have read a print or online
newspaper in the past week, says Scarborough Research, a New York
consumer and media research firm. Of 1,600 iPad owners interviewed
by the Reynolds Journalism Institute in the fall, 79 percent
reported using it at least 30 minutes a day to read news. Only
slightly more than half spent that much time getting news from the
TV or a PC.
"We are calling this a reading revolution," says Jim Taylor, vice
chairman of Harrison Group, a market research and strategy firm in
Waterbury, Conn. The time people spend reading goes up 50 percent
once they buy a tablet or e-reader, according to a Harrison Group
survey of 1,800 consumers, which is due to be released at the
Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 4. By 2013, Mr. Taylor forecasts,
more than 100 million tablets and e-readers will be in the hands of
US consumers, luring them to the printed word.
As a result of such forecasts, magazine publishers are
experimenting with digital content specially formatted for the
tablets. In May, Wired Magazine unveiled an iPad edition that sold
24,000 copies in 24 hours. In a recent digital edition, National
Geographic not only ran an article on aardvarks but also included
video of the photographers capturing the animals on camera. …