Here’s the app. Where’s the money?

When I was a newspaper editor pushing to get some traction to develop a mobile app, one of the issues that stymied the business types was, to quote, “What’s the ROI?” Because I was a journalist, it came out as, “It costs money. How are we going to make money?”

I would talk about future customers and going to where the people are. They would respond, quite rightly, by thinking of the present: “Where’s the money?”

Nielsen lines up with them: Taking just the use of paid content on tablets in Q4 2011, Nielsen found that in the U.S., a majority of tablet owners have already paid for downloaded music, books and movies, with 62 percent, 58 percent and 51 percent respectively saying they have already made such purchases. The one area that really fell down in the U.S. was news, where only 19 percent said they had ever paid to read news on their tablets.

Related, Ad Age reports that  Conde Nast is making progress with advertisers on its iPad app. The growing body of overall information on tablet readership is reinforcing some early impressions that are promising for magazines on tablets, according to Conde Nast.

Readers typically swipe through tablet editions from front to back, for example, the same way they work their way through print editions. They browse — taking in ads as they go — instead of jumping directly to specific articles the way web surfers do.

“Consumer behavior with digital editions of magazines is very much like their behavior with print editions of magazines, and very much unlike their behavior with websites,” Mr. McDonald said.

Digital-edition readers are also still younger but more affluent than magazines’ print readers, Conde Nast said, although the disparity has narrowed as tablet ownership has grown and Amazon and Barnes & Noble have introduced devices that are cheaper than the iPad.

Meanwhile, my former paper has a new, free app. I like it.

2 thoughts on “Here’s the app. Where’s the money?

  1. Per this Chronicle of Higher Education blog post (which may be paywalled depending on where you’re looking at it from), tablet ownership among college students has more than tripled, from 7% to 25%, in just the past year.

    I would happily read the New Yorker on my tablet, but Conde Nast only has an iPad app for it, no Droid app. Shoot.

  2. Update: They have an app you can download from INSIDE the Amazon Kindle app that will run on a Droid. However, although it sounds nice, the user reviews say it’s crap.

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