Paid tablet content upkeeps user loyalty

Content developed for tablets can serve as extension to traditional mediums, market analysts say, adding acceptance of subscription depends on factors such as quality and ease of adoption.
Written by Tyler Thia, Contributor

The proliferation of tablets will see a rise in subscription-only content catered to such devices, with industry observers noting such tablet-specific content is necessary to complement "traditional" Web and print media.

Ryan Lim, business director of social media marketing agency Blugrapes, told ZDNet Asia that tablets are a natural evolution of the user experience and touch point for content publishers. They should be seen as an "extension", and publishers can make use of the opportunity to increase interactions and engagement with readers, which can translate to brand loyalty.

While such a move may incur additional production costs, there will be "significant savings" in distribution costs, removal of middleman and logistics, he pointed out in e-mail. The approach of "local production for global distribution and consumption" will definitely appeal to publishers, he added.

Print content providers extending accessibility to the tablet form factor "is natural", and consumers "expect it", added Prabnabesh Nath, industry manager for Frost and Sullivan's Asia-Pacific ICT practice in an e-mail interview.

Publishers have been jumping onto the tablet bandwagon, with more working with Apple's iOS to push out iPad apps and subscription-only content. Major newspapers and magazines such as the Conde Nast group also distribute their magazines on the iPad, with most allowing readers to purchase monthly issues at a low price.

Local daily The Straits Times also published its app recently, giving subscribers the option of viewing news in three different layouts, including a PDF of the print version.

Tablet news consumption is akin to reading newspapers in the Harry Potter world, with "animated pictures" accompanying the content and which allows "instantaneous interaction with the reader", Lim said.

He is confident that the uptake for such content will experience a "natural rise", but it will also be dependent on factors such as quality of content and ease of adoption.

Nath reminded that while it makes sense for a developer to have multi-use content that can be used across multiple platforms, absence of optimization and hence "less than optimum" user experience would affect user take-up rate as well.

"We should start seeing more such [content] applications once Honeycomb matures and Apple brings its next iteration of iOS for the iPad. However in terms of numbers, they will always be dwarfed by apps that can run on different form-factors simply because of their versatility and common usage across form-factors," he said.

Making right moves
The Frost and Sullivan analyst said the print industry "is faring relatively better" in the tablet space, compared to the movie and music industry.

"The publishing industry has taken a more pragmatic approach, and we see publishers working with industry pioneers like Amazon, Google, and Apple to sell e-books in various formats," he said. However, he noted that the prices can be reduced to enhance take-up rate.

Nath noted that executives in the movie industry are concerned with copyright issues and hence are holding back the easing of distribution of entertainment content, resulting in the lack of enthusiasm in joining the tablet playing field.

While subscription-based content is still in its infant stages, Blugrape's Lim advised that publishers cannot restrict payment methods to just credit cards, or have fragmented payment methods that would pose operational challenges, should they want to make tablet content a success. Licenses for content should also be "globally available for consumption", he added.

Nath concurred. He said more should be done to ease restriction on the availability of content, in reference to the Amazon ecosystem of e-book distribution, which is currently only available in the United States.

"As the market matures, there should be more content available from local providers in different countries, and here there is opportunity of local companies to replicate the business models of Amazon or Apple because of [these big players'] lack of presence outside much of the western world for content creation and distribution," he pointed out.

Lim added that content bundling, the inclusion of richer content for interaction and sharing, multiple points of content consumption on the go, as well as timely delivery and availability are some of the plus points that publishers have showed and are crucial to acceptance of subscription content.

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