According to tablet statistics, digital apps are driving readership, traffic, and profits at a fast rate
In the five years since the introduction of the iPad, it’s become clear that the tablet has rescued the magazine industry from the brink of extinction. Mequoda noted as early as 2011 that digital magazines had already become solidly profitable, led by Hearst Magazines and other forward-thinking publications such as The Economist.
Of course, if you read this blog regularly, you know there are enough digital magazine apps  available–now that we’re reviewing digital magazines and apps regularly to stay on top of the trends. Tablet statistics suggest that the digital magazine apps attract a broader audience, and make sizable returns in revenue.
Tablet statistics vs. smartphones
One thing confusing publishers, however: Does “mobile” mean smartphones, or does it mean tablets? Unfortunately for those of us trying to figure out where to put our resources, researchers (including Morgan Stanley and Google) think it means both.
So what we have to do is decide whether to focus on phones or tablets for our apps (assuming most of us are niche publishers lacking the endless resources of, say, Meredith or Rodale). Plus, Mequoda has decided that tablets are far more important to publishers than smartphones.
But, Ed, you say, surely more people own smartphones than tablets! And I agree that they do. But there are still a lot of tablets out there! According to the Mequoda Tablet Study, an astonishing 55% of people own or have access to a tablet. Unlike most surveys, which ask about ownership, we asked about access, too – because we know that couples and families often share. And we think that’s a pretty impressive number for publishers to heed. (The MPA, for its part, estimates that 60% will outright own a tablet by 2016).
Besides, for most publishers the smartphone just isn’t a medium that will work for you. Even young people with great eyesight won’t be comfortable consuming content on a four-inch screen for more than a few minutes. As Don likes to say, the smartphone is for “snack” reading, which includes brief articles, video, or reading long articles in short increments.
Indeed, the MPA recently found  that users with both mobile and tablet access spend 23% of their engagement time reading magazines on their smartphones. That’s good news, all right! But what about tablets? That number is 75%. Now we can get on board with those tablet statistics !
Researchers believe this kind of usage comes about because the tablet is still portable – and being taken away from home by more people every day, just like smartphones – and at the same time, is much more readable with its larger screen. A recent Pew study  showed that 73% of tablet owners read in-depth articles at least sometimes, including 19% who do so daily.
Tablet statistics has good news for publishers
What does all of this mean for magazine publishers? Why is Mequoda focusing so heavily on tablet apps? Consider this: PriceWaterhouseCoopers has predicted  consumer spending on digital magazines will exceed $80.2B by 2016! Tell me you don’t want to get in on that action.
Two-thirds of the MPA’s tablet survey respondents said they believed they would be increasing the amount of time they spend reading digital magazines on their tablets in the future. And half of those tablet users reported they were reading more magazine issues in any format than they had done a year before the study.
Back in April (2015), MPA’s Magazine Media 360° released a report, saying that year-to-year there has been a 10.2% increase in total visits. This fact concludes that traffic for digital magazines are up to 1.73 billion visitors–an eighteen million increase from the previous year.
The MPA also found that tablet respondents  visited a magazine’s website as a result of reading the magazine’s digital version on their device. And, finally, that brand awareness increased with tablet usage over smartphone usage.
In short: Tablet statistics prove users spend more time reading magazines on their devices than do smartphone users, they spend a lot of money to do so, their device reading also drives them to magazine websites, and tablets are causing many users to read more magazines than they did when print was the only available option.
Tablets have not only stopped the downward spiral in magazine readership, they’ve turned the trend around. That helps all of us sleep better at night.
Turning tablet statistics into cold hard cash
Forward-thinking magazine publishers have already developed digital editions of their magazines, of course. As we’ve noted in the past, some big players, such as The Atlantic  and Forbes , have hit the revenue jackpot with their apps. These folks are taking advantage of something that tablet users say they crave: features that they can’t get in a print version, such as related videos and photo galleries.
And even smaller publishers (i.e. the nonprofit Biblical Archaeology Society) have managed  to do the same with adding video and photos to their magazine. The cost was worth it because in just three months, the organization’s digital offerings managed to contribute 6.4% of its entire yearly revenue!
What’s more, having digital-only features is helping publishers change the public’s well-known belief that digital content should be free, or at least as cheap as the insanely low prices the industry has foolishly charged for its print products over the past few decades. Recall that the New Yorker increased its subscription price by $20 simply by bundling its fancy new digital magazine with print.
Other ideas we’re hearing about from magazine such as New York include enabling readers to move seamlessly between the online subscription website and the digital magazine. Remember, even without that feature, tablet users report they often wind up at the website eventually. That’s the kind of traffic you want to increase to enhance revenues from Internet advertising.
In addition to delivering more impressions per Web-based ads, tablet advertising offers a revenue stream of its own: The recent past has shown researchers reporting year-over-year growth at a rate of 600%. And, according to the MPA, tablet readers spend more time on ads enhanced for tablets (EFT) than they do with print ones. Any publisher who relies on advertising should sit up and take notice of those statistics.
All in all, no publisher should wait one single day more to launch a digital magazine. No matter how tiny your operation, there appears to be no downside for digital magazines and apps, and at the same time, there are clearly massive new incoming revenue streams.
Of course, we recognize that it might seem a daunting task. I suggest publishers without a clear path to mobile magazines start out by watching our webinar, 5 Tablet Publishing Trends, below. And for even more ideas, including the latest trends, check out  our three-day Digital Publishing & Marketing Intensive , coming up in August.