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iPad Not A Newspaper Substitute (Yet)

Posted by Andrew at 2:34 PM on March 17, 2011

Britain’s The Telegraph was one of a few organisations to be given early access to the iPad before its launch and Tim Rowell, Director of Mobile Product Development at the Telegraph, reports on some of the thinking that went on as the team developed the first apps for it.

Initially, it appears that the plans were for a “all encompassing service” but as no-one knew what people wanted or how they would behave, in the end a simpler app was developed that tracked what the readers did. Over 60,000 people provided tracking data and the results were revealing.

“People are realizing that the iPad is not a direct substitute for the newspaper, they’re arguably complementary,” Mr Rowell says. The data showed that the average age of a reader was 47 and the app was only used seven times a month when the readers were unable to buy a paper.  Interestingly, the iPads tended to stay at home or at work and weren’t carried around. And to the Telegraph’s delight, the app was being used in over 186 countries.  “Here is a market, we can start selling the iPad edition to people abroad,” Mr Rowell says.

Mr Rowell went on to give some of the lessons learned from the experience (quoted from the original article)

- The iPad is not a direct substitute for print (yet)
- Users want editorial guidance – they want editors to provide the hierarchy of what is important.
- Production is a headache, building the app itself is easy.
- Advertising agencies and clients see the iPad app as a web product while newspapers see it as print. “We have to come up with a new metric,” Mr Rowell says.
- Apple’s insistence that anything offered outside the Apple store has to be offered inside is a problem, but Apple seems willing to listen to publishers’ concerns.

There’s some very interesting stuff there, especially when combined with the State of the News Media, reported on earlier in the week. Clearly some of the news media aren’t willing to have the web steal their lunch entirely and are fighting back, but what is revealing is the Telegraph app was mostly used when the reader couldn’t buy a paper.

For non-UK readers, The Daily Telegraph is one of the leading quality daily newspapers.

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