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Digital Media Strategies 2013: The tablet revolution in numbers

20 Dec 2012

Despite phenomenal sales of the iPad since its launch - 100 million globally - the buzz around tablets has been disproportionate to the market opportunity they've created for media owners. Publishers have put energy into tablet products, but so far they've mainly been targeting a niche audience.

In the last few months that has started to change, and Christmas is set to push tablets firmly over the edge and into the mainstream.

And the growth has been phenomenal:

-- 2010: It's easy to forget that the iPad only launched in January 2010. By January 18 the next year, it had sold 14.8 million.

-- 2011: Enders Analysis research from April that year saying 6 per cent of UK mobile phone users claimed to own a tablet (via Ofcom, 2011)

-- 2012: In July, Ofcom quoted new figures saying 11 per cent of the UK population now has a tablet PC. Another survey from YouGov put the figure at 20 per cent this September.

-- 2013: Benedict Evans of Enders Analysis has crunched the numbers and tells us that the UK's tablet ownership of 7 to 8 million right now and could reach 8 to 10 million in the New Year . Let's just spell that out - we could be looking at something like one fifth of the UK adult population owning a tablet some time soon.

-- YouGov predicts that by August next year there will be more than 10 million iPads in the UK. Apple alone has sold 100 million iPads worldwide.

And now this Christmas, tablet sales are expected to go through the roof. It's always best to take retailer forecasts with a pinch of salt. Any retailer who says "we expect to sell a tablet every two seconds" is probably investing in marketing rather than reality.

Yet a constant feature of reports into tablet ownership has been the high numbers of people who plan to buy a tablet, or at least want one. Christmas is the obvious time for that demand to be satisfied.

On top of that, the far lower prices of tablets from firms such as Google and Amazon, and the promotions such as The Times offer of a massively discounted Nexus 7 with an 18-month subscription.

Show me the money

Of course, for publishers it isn't just about the penetration of tablets in the market, it's about making money out of them. There is some evidence publishers, particularly consumer magazines, are making money out of tablets.

-- Future Publishing : has revealed tablet edition sales are running at $1 million a week.

-- Conde Nast: is selling 520,000 digital replica editions of its magazines each month.

-- Hearst: is selling 600,000 tablet editions per month.

On the flipside, tablets haven't been the panacea some hoped, especially for news organisations.

-- The Daily: Rupert Murdoch 's iPad-only experiment came to an abrupt end after failing to build up nearly enough subscribers to cover its gargantuan costs.

-- The Guardian : The Guardian iPad app only has 17,000 paying subscribers - enough to generate £1.4 million a year, but not enough to make a significant dent in its losses.

It's also worth noting that while most analysts predict iPads will remain the most common form of tablet PC for the near future, many of the new tablet users will be using cheaper Android-based devices.

There's a stack of evidence that Android users tend to spend less money on digital content, so there's every chance that additional audience isn't as easy to tap as the early adopters who have hit the market.

Nevertheless, whether you are part of this revolution or not - this is the fastest-moving trend in your audience is consuming and paying for content.

Source: The Media Briefing

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