More thoughts on brands and mobile e-commerce

I've written and talked a lot about how news media companies never really grasped the fundamental issues that confront them when they attempt to monetize their websites or sell us their apps. It's certainly not all upside, that's for sure.

The New York Times is still bleeding cash even after building its online paywall. And today that newspaper runs an article about Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and The Daily, their iPad app - After a Year, Tablet Daily is a Struggle.

I'm surprised that The Daily is even still around. It's actually on target to break even in 5 years, which is par for the course for a typical news print magazine. The thing is, it set out to do something else, what Rupert Murdoch called "redefining the news." It didn't. I think Rupert and his team mistook the building of the Daily app as "redefining the news." It was almost a metaphor. What they actually managed to do instead, as the article points out, was to create something "oddly static."

But The Daily, begun with sky-high expectations when Apple’s iPad was being promoted as the savior of the publishing industry, has struggled to break into the national conversation or to drive news and build on its brand the way traditional outlets do.

In part, The Daily has been limited by the structure of the app itself, which renders beautiful pages of text, photos and graphics but lacks the fluidity of the networked Web or the immediacy of blogs and Twitter. Editors might update the app once or twice a day, depending on news events. Critics immediately grumbled that The Daily seemed oddly static.

The feedback we get from users is that this is sit-down, appointment viewing. No one has ever said ‘This isn’t up to date enough,’ ” said Jesse Angelo, editor in chief of The Daily. He added that users spend 30 minutes a day browsing the app, according to internal research.

The app format also puts The Daily outside the walled garden, allowing users to easily share articles and spread scoops far beyond one publication.


"The feedback we get from users is that this is sit-down, appointment viewing." - what does that even mean? Whatever it means, when Murdoch was asked what the target audience was, he answered "everybody." That's a tall order for a news app.

Still, the article has some interesting statistics that brands should pay attention to:

Certainly, the audience on tablets is growing. Last year, an estimated 28 million Americans used iPads, up 144 percent from 2010, according to eMarketer. By 2014, an estimated 60.8 million people in the United States will use iPads, eMarketer said.

One of things News Corporation has learned is that iPad owners are not necessarily young, urban and coastal. A majority of The Daily’s subscribers are 35 to 50. Forty-five percent of them have children and 89 percent own their homes and have a median household income of $118,000.


The data must be heartwarming to marketers. And, it's worth noting, that there is the iPad and then there are other "tablets." iPad ubiquity is imminent.

So, with regard to my prior post, does your company "need" an iPad app or should you be considering your entire mobile e-commerce strategy?

I hope it's the latter.