'Economist' Reports 1 Million App Readers

Economist-AppInvestments in the tablet platform among financial news providers may be paying off sooner rather than later.

The Economist reports in its latest earnings statement that demand for reading the business pub on tablets is “exceeding expectations.” Currently available on Apple iOS, Android smartphone and tablet devices, The Economist apps have been downloaded over 3 million times, the publication claims -- and it is read on more than 1 million devices each month.

Not all of those million monthly device-based readers are paid subscribers.

The apps allow free access to six “editor’s choice” articles a month before prompting the reader to subscribe. The Economist also is now available on the Barnes & Noble Nook and the new Amazon Kindle Fire as well as the existing Kindle e-reader. The company says about 300,000 paid subscribers are accessing the content from digital devices each week.

The growth in mobile access to the venerable financial news brand contributed to the overall expansion of The Economist’s digital footprint to 100,000 paid digital-only subscribers by the end of October 2011. Along with Financial Times, The Economist has been among the most aggressive publishers in pressing the paid-content model on digital platforms.

At this week’s Reuter’s Global Media Summit, FT CEO John Ridding said he expects revenues from subscriptions to overtake ad income in the next year.

Despite its niche focus on finance, The Economist app for iPad is ranked 12th in the News category among popular “free downloads.” Single-issue purchases are available for $5.99 or quarterly and annual subscriptions for $39.99 and $119.99 respectively. 

The magazine has also leveraged sponsor-underwritten tablet apps to recruit new subscribers. Last week, the company released as a free app “The World in 2012,” a magazine-like download that included top stories selected from 2011, as well as videos, trend pieces and a 2012 calendar of expected big events. BMW was the sole sponsor of the special issue, which echoed a print annual the brand has been publishing for years. 

The affluent and male skews of the tablet platform seem to favor financial and business news topics.

FT reported in recent weeks that its Web app version of the newspaper has served over 1 million users. And this week, Time Inc.’s Money also launched on multiple tablet platforms. In fact, the financial news providers stand out on tablets as one of the first content categories to be engaging in a full-on turf war and competing download and usage metrics.

In recent months, The Wall Street Journal issued its WSJ Live app that includes the ongoing supply of daily video from the main WSJ site. Bloomberg countered with a TV app that streams the cable network’s live on-air programming to the app and offers a library of shows on demand. CNBC also has a stock tracking app in the market.

The financial news category is among the most mature for tablets both on the audience and advertiser ends. Tablet efforts from high-end business news providers map well against the advertising base for the emerging platform -- financial services.

The early adopting but generally middle-aged tablet owner is right in this category’s sweet spot. And almost all of these potential sponsors, such as brokerages, banks and investment funds, have their own tablet apps to push via in-app advertising. In the Finance category of the iPad App Store, the top free offerings are from Bank Of America, AMEX, Chase, Fidelity and CitiBank.

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