Tablet publishing is being turned upside down

By May 9, 2013News

Things had seemed to be settling down quite nicely after the iPad burst onto the publishing scene in 2010. Publishing to tablets meant creating a nice native app for iPads, which were typically owned by well-off and older ABC1s eager to spend money on content; most tablets never left the home; and the tablet was a platform optimised for ‘lean-back’, relaxed sessions of content consumption.

The latest industry figures suggest that most of this received wisdom is already out of date.

The first thing to note is that the market is now moving decisively towards tablets considerably smaller than the standard iPad.

Supply-chain figures obtained by the Tapei-based Digitimes websitereveal that of Apple’s total 19.5 million tablets shipped globally in Q1 2012, 12.5 million were iPad minis – in other words, shipments of the iPad mini now outnumber standard iPads almost two to one. Taken together with strong sales for 7-8 inch Android mini tablets made by Google, Samsung and others, it is clear that the market now favours smaller devices. This is further evidenced by the rising popularity of so-called phablets like Samsung’s Galaxy Note, whose screens are around the 5-inch mark; earlier this year, Reuters quoted a Barclays forecast that the global phablet market would quadruple over the next three years to $135bn.

There are two likely reasons for this shift; portability and cash. The average iPad is mobile only in the sense that it is sometimes found in the bedroom, and other times in the living-room. Taking a standard iPad out of the house is not much fun; it’s quite big, and quite heavy. Not as big and heavy as a laptop, of course, but still a pain to cart about, unless you happen to be carrying a briefcase or rucksack already. At the other end of the spectrum, almost everybody carries a mobile phone around, because it’s so easy to carry in a pocket or handbag. However, a 7-inch tablet is absolutely small enough to be dropped into a coat pocket – and a phablet can go straight into a back pocket. And, crucially, minis and phablets are a fraction of the cost of the standard iPad.

What are the implications of the rise of titchy tablets for publishers? Because titchy tablets are easier to carry around, they will be carried around, and as a result will be increasingly used for the kind of lean-forward, episodic content consumption that characterises proper mobile usage… queuing for a coffee, waiting for the train, all offer opportunities for a quick burst of content consumption on the go – a completely different approach to an hour spent curled up on the sofa with an iPad, consuming long-form content in a leisurely frame of mind.

And the other main implication is that tablets are becoming a mass-market platform, with numbers of devices currently doubling every year, and newly available at a cost level that extends way beyond the well-heeled, older and middle-class market for the standard iPad. eMarketerestimates that in 2014 the UK will see a majority of internet users regularly accessing a tablet. Brands that want to reach a younger and more general market, rather than an elite one, will soon start to realise that titchy tablets offer exciting new opportunities for their content marketing. Read full article