Are consumers actually engaging more with content on devices like smartphones and tablets? Publishers in attendance for OMMA Publish on Wednesday wanted to know.
Heck yeah, said Cameron Clayton, VP of mobile for The Weather Channel. "The iPhone changed everything from an engagement point of view." To date, The Weather Channel has recorded 10 million downloads, and now sees 5 million uniques a month.
"The ad story is huge; the paid version is huge," said Clayton. The iPad experience is different, he said. "It's about weekends," when the publisher witnesses a 300-to-400% spike versus the weekdays.
Rick Levine, VP of editorial operations at Conde Nast, said GQ readers are spending nearly the same amount of time with iPhone apps -- 65-70 minutes a month -- that they do with the magazine -- 80 minutes a month. By contrast, readers spend less than 10 minutes a month browsing GQ.com, said Levine. "We think that there's a tremendous appeal to getting a magazine digitally."
Of particular note, Jeff Litvack, GM of global product development at The Associated Press, said he's not seeing the same level of engagement on Android devices as he is on Apple devices. He wasn't sure exactly why, but he suggested it could have something to do with the "experience."
What's the real value of a publisher's iPad investment? Beyond usership numbers -- which are still quite modest -- the branding possibilities "can't really be overstated," Sarah Rotman Epps, a consumer product strategy analyst at Forrester Research, said Wednesday. "Numbers tell part of the story, but not the whole thing." Also of note, she said, is the fact that the revenue per impression that publishers can charge on something like an iPad is very attractive.
More broadly, the future for publishers is "app-centric and multiplatform," said Rotman. "Even browsers are starting to feature apps." Why? Apps allow publishers to deliver this curated experience to users -- some that they can charge a premium for.
Users increasingly want go "go deeper" with apps, Rotman added. Browsers will play a role, but it will be "different."
More than Facebook integration or app development, however, publishers should be thinking of new and creative ways to differentiate themselves.
"What we're not hearing a lot is how publishers differentiate themselves," Josh Jacobs, SVP of Brand Advertising Products and Global Marketing at Glam Media, said Wednesday.
Added Mike Tatum, a partner at digital media company Whiskey Media: "The normalization is killing our industry."