Time Out’s iPad app has generated tens of thousands of downloads since its launch last Friday, in the same week the publisher outlined plans to stop charging for the weekly print edition.
The decision to make the magazine free is intended to better align the publisher’s print and digital products and broaden the its reach throughout London and beyond.
Prior to changing the print proposition, Time Out editor in chief Tim Arthur said it was vital to firmly establish its online position and solidify its digital portfolio.
“Our big push over the past year and a half has been to make sure our digital products are cutting edge, useful and engaging. After doing that we then had to swing back and look at the magazine and realign it to fit with the digital products we have developed,” he said.
Time Out offers a print replica iPad edition, in addition to a geo-targeted iPhone app, but the new iPad app was designed as a standalone platform, which takes advantage of personalisation - the more readers use the app, the more it will serve them with relevant content.
“Each product has its own individual reason for being in existence. We’re hoping that people will go to the website to search for something specific, but that won’t stop them from using the iPhone app when they’re out and about because geo location is its main feature. Ideally we’d like it if people used all our products at different times for different purpose.”
The publisher has no plans to start charging for digital content now the print edition is free though and will continue to monetise through advertising, sponsorship and transactions, as Arthur said, “Enough eyeballs see it to make it an attractive proposition to advertisers.”
“Our feeling is that providing free information for our readers is the best model,” he said. “People are so used to not paying for information that it would seem like a step backwards if we began charging for our digital products now.”
Revenue for print and digital products are relatively balanced as things stand. As with most publishers, Time Out predicts digital will be its greatest source of long term revenue growth going forwards though, but in order to keep print viable, it is set to increase distribution from 55,000 to 300,000 to ramp up advertising and sponsorship revenue.
Timeout.com hits more than 45m unique users a month according to Arthur, who added, “We will look to increase digital revenue through growth. It will mean more transactions, more advertising and more sponsorship. As more people use Time Out we’re able to offer more services and options for people in addition to what we already provide.”
Paul Thompson, Time Out UK’s commercial director, said last month that the publisher was also looking to readjust its business model to diversify revenue streams further and challenge companies in the online deals sector (nma.co.uk 13 July 2012).
Meanwhile, statistics from the National Readership Survey (NRS) show that 27% of tablet owners now read magazine content on digital devices, while 44% read newspapers.
The research also showed that 15% of the adult population in the UK now owns either a tablet or e-reader and the number of people using these devices to read publisher content has doubled year on year, while readership of content on mobile apps as grown by 30%.