|Apple is rumoured to be announcing the fifth generation of its iPad on June 18. Mobile devices account for an increasingly larger share of many publishers' web traffic. In the US Publishers are delivering 1.7 million digital editions a week built with Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite - a sixfold increase over the past two years.
The elements required to justify greater investment in mobile development are falling into place. More people are reading digital magazines; Adobe says per-publication readership across its DPS-based publications has increased by an average of 80 per cent over the past six months. More devices are coming to market, with models such as the iPad mini and Kindle HD extending into the mass market.
"People are more comfortable reading magazine content on tablets," Lynly Schambers-Lenox, Adobe's group product marketing manager for digital publishing, said in a recent interview. "That's not surprising, and we expect it to continue."
Publishers adopting a wait-and-see position before moving beyond PDF replicas or m-dot sites now have plenty to see, and less reason to wait. Engagement metrics are rising - a combination of publishers adding more interactivity to their digital editions and users who are actively seeking it out. Top Gear, a UK-based publication for auto enthusiasts, has seen average reading times increase from around 10 minutes per issue to 40 minutes per issue in the three months since it switched from a replica to an enhanced edition built with DPS. Downloads have increased 48 per cent, subscription revenue has grown 165 per cent and ad revenue has risen by 200 per cent.
Advertisers are benefiting from interactive enhancements to ads in apps as well as the mobile web. Adobe most recent ad engagement study found that product recall doubled for interactive ads vs. static ads in digital editions. A study by VivaKi, a digital ad solutions vendor, found that expandable banners on tablets had clickthrough rates four times greater than the static web banners.
The longer publishers wait, the more they will cede mobile ground to digital upstarts and brands that are becoming publishers in their own right. Make no mistake, companies such as LinkedIn are now full-fledged media businesses - and they view mobile as a key part of their strategy to attract and retain audiences through original content.
"More and more people are using [the LinkedIn mobile app] for content consumption," LinkedIn's head of mobile products, Joff Redfern, told Wired. "Now it's not used only to look for jobs - it's used when people go, ‘Oh, I have an extra moment here and I'm interested in what's being shared in my network and in my industry.'"
LinkedIn's upgraded iOS app, which debuted last week, is designed with content, not just professional networking, in mind. That includes sponsored content, which LinkedIn is experimenting with as a new revenue stream.
"Sponsored content in our network update stream for both the desktop and through our mobile channels represents a very large opportunity for us," CEO Jeff Weiner told investors in February (pdf). "[It's] something we're excited about."
Other, traditional publishers are excited to the point of adopting a "mobile first" approach. ESPN, not surprisingly, is one of them.
"The important mentality of where we are today is that the web experience is being built truly mobile first, which is a shift," Ryan Spoon, ESPN's SVP of product development, said at a paidContent event last week. "That means whether it's responsive or however it behaves, think mobile and apply global after that."
Publishers need to make some hard decisions about their commitment to mobile and their ability to continue to reach their communities as consumption habits shift.