WAN-IFRA Expo: Tablets now crucial part of European newspapers’ business models

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Patrick Smith, TheMediaBriefing Experts' Blog, Consumer Media, Mobile

You run a local and regional newspaper group. Your circulation is declining at a rate of knots, advertising is challenged and consumer behaviour isn’t swinging back to print any time soon. What do you do?

Cut costs, of course! Well, that would be the normal reaction of publishers far and wide – but for several European newspaper groups are instead launching more digital products, outside the confines of weekly or daily print publishing. The WAN-IFRA Publishing Expo on Monday was refreshing with its handful of case studies showing how newspaper groups getting aggressive and organised with digital media – not waiting for someone else to think of a solution.

From daily print to weekly tablet

Lotta Holm from KSF Media explained how that its Finnish, Swedish-language paper Hufvudstadsbladet had launched a weekly news magazine for tablet devices to reach new readers and stem the unchecked decline of print – 13 percent down last year – using the Conmio mobile publishing platform. Available at 2pm every Friday, the digital mag offers a digest of the paper’s best original reporting – no “this just happened” news agency stuff.

She says: “We needed an entirely new concept to reach the audiences who didn’t want to read the newspaper any more. This is the first digital news magazine in
Finland… it collects high quality journalism from our national and regional titles and publishes it once a week to reach those people who feel they don’t have the time nor the money to read the paper.”

The mag costs €2.99 an issue, €9.99 a month or €99 a year and the publishers claim that it reached profitability after breaking the 2,000 subscriber barrier. And it’s cost-effective: the whole project is managed with one editor and one journalist. The real reason this is interesting? A whole generation of readers is not picking up the newspaper habit and publishers have to think differently and digitally to entice them in.

Putting commerce into newspapers on tablets

This is a neat way to re-publish newspaper content on tablets in an interesting and entrepreneurial way. Spanish publisher Unidad Editorial, which owns El Mundo, Marca and many other national and regional titles, launched the digital newsstand Orbyt in March 2010, a full month before the first iPad appeared. Unidad’s IT director Alex Palomo told the expo: “We were seeing that the sales in newspapers were going down dramatically so we thought of ways to respond.

“We came up with an application that not only shows the newspapers but also video, books, games and a lot of other stuff that allows us to do promotion around the paper.”

Orbyt has 65,000 subs, 250,000 registered users, one million unique users per month, and more 130 different products are dispatched daily, according to Palomo. As well as sell its own digital content, orbyt is being used by other publishers who weren’t so canny as to set up their own digital kiosk, plus Unidad is pushing its membership scheme, travel deals, football tickets and a whole plethora or goods through the platform.

A CRM revolution, thanks to tablets

If you like marketing and sales data, you’ll love this. The Bavarian daily paper Ausburger Allgemeine, the third biggest in Germany by subscription sales with 30,000 of them, noticed recently that its customer data wasn’t up to much – including both commercial advertising customers and subscribers. Many addresses were missing and contracts were being lost.

The solution? Build a cloud-based CRM system, via German vendor Sensix, accessible via iPads and give one to every sales team member across the company. Rüdiger Hoebel, deputy director for print publishing, says: “We increased our staff’s motivation and we could also generate added turnover. How do we use our ipad? To access all customer data – all motives for all our customers, and they are all available in mobile.”

Much of the Allgemeine’s business is done face-to-face and all staff having access to data as soon as its updated proved invaluable, he says. “We can now create structured data. This happened with CRM reports and in the past but most of our members had them on paper only and most of them were found in drawers somewhere so they were not available for anyone else in the sales team.

“You can drill down and have a closer look at the ad – then you have a closer look you can secure it again, and email it to them directly, saying this is the one you wanted to repeat… You can secure the deal in the meeting. Otherwise you’d be wasting a lot of time.”

The results were an increase in revenue and complete data for 75 percent of customers. Although other publishers may not like the method Allgemeine took to get this stage: paying its staff through commission to complete data on their clients.

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