Your digital paper, sir
The struggle to make money out of news on tablets
1.A CUSTOMISED, constantly-updating newspaper used to be the stuff of science fiction. Now, thanks to tablet devices like the iPad, there are several. Livestand, a news app launched this week by Yahoo!, joins a field that already includes Zite, bought recently by CNN; Editions, created by AOL; and Flipboard, which Google tried to buy last year. Rebuffed, Google is expected at some point to launch its own news app, code-named Propeller.
2.These corporate giants aim to cash in on the desperation of traditional news publishers. A study last month by the Pew Research Centre with The Economist Group (this newspaper’s parent company) found that, less than two years after the iPad went on sale, 11% of American adults now own a tablet and more than half of this group read news on it each day. They are more avid news consumers than those without tablets (see chart), and for long articles they prefer their tablets both to ordinary computers and (remarkably) to print. Ken Doctor of Outsell, a media consultancy, says the study is the best evidence yet that tablets are gradually replacing print.
3.For news outlets facing dwindling print circulations and meagre online advertising rates, this is a glimmer of hope. Yet turning this readership into revenue is tricky. Not all publishers can afford to build their own tablet apps. For those that can, readers are somewhat readier to pay for subscriptions than on the web; advertising rates are (for now) six to ten times higher than online, according to Mr Doctor. But it is not yet clear how many readers will make the switch. And for publishers without an app, tablet users are just like other web users: worth very little money.
4.Flipboard and its rivals let users create a personalised digital magazine from a mix of sources, which can include magazines, newspapers, blogs and articles posted by their contacts on Facebook or Twitter. On the web, similar aggregator sites, personalised or not, have a bad name as freeloaders that create no content of their own. And the app versions have been of dubious benefit thus far to publishers, which must provide their stories free (or at least the first few lines, with a link to their websites) in return for the vague hope of getting more readers. But compared with a website cluttered with links and ads for penis enlargement, the apps are clean, stylish and nice to use. And some have started carrying glossy, high-end ads and sharing the revenue with publishers.
5.Livestand is the most publisher-friendly app so far. It is more like a digital news-stand than a personalised magazine: users can subscribe to various publications, but must read each one separately instead of seeing all their stories together. Publishers must provide the full text of their stories, but can control their visual design, and from next year they will be able to charge for subscriptions too. There will be interactive and video ads, for which Yahoo! will charge advertisers big premiums.
LIVESTAND 是迄今为止最具出版商亲和力的数字刊物平台。它看起来更像是一个数字杂志摊而并非个性化定制的杂志，读者可以向不同的出版商订阅电子杂志， 但每次只能读到其中一篇文章而不是读照单全读。出版商必须提供其文章的全文内容，但可以控制浏览模式，而且从明年开始，他们便可以向订购人收取费用了。平台上会有一些互动广告或视频广告，从中雅虎可以大赚广告客户一笔。
6.Some publishers may benefit from all this; others may lose subscribers from their own apps to the aggregators. Readers will be spoilt for choice. For Yahoo! and the rest it should be a nice little business—as long as there are any publishers left to fuel it.