Editorial: How Newspapers Can Profit From Tablets — and Do It Without News Content

By: Jeff Fleming

What looks like a dark cloud hanging over newspaper financials might actually be the shadow of the tablet market — a towering giant just a few moons from waking up, pounding down The Fourth Estate’s door of opportunity and offering to share a $278.9 billion payload.  

According to Forrester Research, the U.S. tablet market is about to explode, and 82 million Americans — one third of the online population — are projected to own one of the devices by 2015. In concert with these numbers is the growing rate of U.S. online retail sales, which increased 12.6 percent in 2010 to reach $176.2 billion and is expected to reach $278.9 billion by 2015.  

If newspapers connect the dots accurately, they may be able to design a revenue masterpiece worthy of hanging in the Louvre. Blending e-commerce, tablets, and apps on a strategic business palette, coupled with a few strokes of marketing genius, newspapers have an opportunity to regain a hefty chunk of lost advertising dollars.  

Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru recently shared a significant finding in her report “Why Tablet Commerce May Trump Mobile Commerce.” Currently, only 9 percent of Web shoppers own a tablet (most of whom already own a smartphone or computer), but tablets are their preferred device for shopping. Users prefer the larger screen size and the opportunity to flip pages similar to a print catalog. Eighty percent of tablet owners use them in the comfort of their living rooms, which offer a leisurely shopping experience and cultivate increased browsing time.  

How does all this translate into profits for newspapers? Think “buyerlog,” a newspaper’s answer to a catalog. For example, newspapers could create weekly buyerlog apps, which are an amalgamation of advertisers’ products and services — offering subscribers a wide variety of categories, such as travel, real estate, major appliances, furniture, and the coveted classifieds.  

Online shoppers in the market for a new sofa and chairs would be able to request or download a newspaper’s furniture buyerlog and browse a wide-ranging selection of styles, colors, and prices from numerous manufacturers and retailers. Shoppers could relax in the comfort of their homes, flipping pages that include interactive content, videos, audio, and large colorful photos.  

With large subscription numbers and a diversified advertising base, newspapers are in an ideal position to dominate the buyerlog market. Subscribers would no longer need to jump from one website to another, benefiting from a newspaper’s ability to include multiple advertisers in one complete package.  

Relatively cheap to produce and affordable to large and small advertisers, buyerlogs could offer newspapers a chance to earn digital advertising dollars and take ownership of the up-and-coming tablet inundation.

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Published: September 28, 2011

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