Newspaper and magazine iPad data fails to report full story

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News International was “proud” to tell us about its strong Times and Sunday Times iPad user stats this week.

About 5% of the Times’ combined print and digital audience now read the newspaper’s content on the iPad, which equates to 25,000 downloads a day on average.

Given that only around 500,000 to 750,000 iPads have been sold in the UK (UK data is currently unavailable and inconclusive), the Times’ figures seem particularly robust.

The Times was the first UK national newspaper to launch a paid-for iPad app into the market. Almost every national newspaper has since followed, with the Telegraph the latest addition.

The Telegraph and the Times are the only apps in the UK newspaper market to offer paid-for subscription-based versions and at this stage would be the only two definitive competitors in the space. All other newspapers have yet to report their iPad figures.

We have little other data from publishers by way of comparison with the Times.

BBC Worldwide Magazines’ Good Food iPad app “makes a profit”, the Beeb claims. We have no idea whether this profit is in the pennies or the thousands.

Future Publishing claims its T3 app has been downloaded 100,000 times since its launch in May. The publisher estimates it is the biggest selling paid for iPad magazine in the UK.

Condé Nast’s debut issue of its iPad app for Wired sold 105,00 downloads. It now sells around 32,000 per issue, around 39% of its print sales. But this is US data.

BBC Worldwide Magazines’ Good Food iPad app “makes a profit”, the Beeb claims. We have no idea whether this profit is in the pennies or the thousands.

News International, and a handful of other publishers, have been keen to push their headline figures – but other information, such as revenue or more detailed download breakdowns, are currently not reported.

We are told what the media owners want us to know and nothing else, despite the iPad being available in the UK for more than a year.

Speaking at this week’s PPA conference, Dennis Publishing’s chief executive James Tye castigated current iPad auditing methodology. He said 35% of the 15,000 circulation for Dennis title Mac user read the magazine on the iPad, but he has no way of telling advertisers that is the case.

He adds: “The industry has to move quicker than that, we need to do these things, not try and find the perfect solution.”

Condé Nast in the US said last month it is taking steps to slow down its iPad app production, partly due to a slow uptake of digital subscriptions, but also the lack of metrics available to help advertisers determine audience effectiveness.

Apple’s system makes it difficult for outside advertisers to garner further information about iPad stats. The usual trusted auditors – Nielsen, ABC, BPA, comScore and TGI – have all been slow to provide useful figures.

All we have heard is good news because there has not been an independent auditor to tell us otherwise. It is difficult for brands to understand why the iPad really is where they should bung their advertising budget when one publisher reports their total downloads, another the average figure and the rest absolutely zilch.

ABC says it will report on iPad circulation from the summer in its new cross platform certificate. The auditor claims more than 50 consumer magazines and regional publications have signed up for the new auditing to date. But even this number is hardly reflective of the number of iPad apps available in the market.

Chris Bourke, head of mobile at MPG Media Contacts, says the digital industry is “surprised and confused” by the lack of data and insight about iPad apps.

“At this early stage there is no requirement to report revenue figures from iPad subscriptions or iAds and at the moment publishers would probably find them too small to grab headlines,” he adds.

Publishers have been quick to declare that tablets are the next revenue growth area. But with little trustworthy data to prove that is the case, advertisers have not been so ready to believe the claims, at a time when tablet penetration is only set to rise and rise.

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