Tablets: E-Paper access from launch to stats

The day the tablet was introduced to the world is a day that is still fresh in the mind of Andree Gosselin O’Meara of The Globe and Mail.

O’Meara, the director of audience development and mobile digital, presented tablet audience data and reading trends to newspaper delegates at the annual INK+BEYOND conference in Ottawa on May 2, 2013.

Referencing her own experiences at The Globe and Mail during the launch of the paper’s tablet and mobile apps, Gosselin O’Meara described the challenges and triumphs that come along with formatting for e-paper.

A few months after the unveiling of the iPad, one of The Globe and Mail’s service providers came to O’Meara and proposed creating an app for the iPad’s digital replica. “I’d been resisting the e-paper ever since joining The Globe and Mail,” said Gosselin O’Meara. “I just found it uncomfortable to read a PDF online.”

However, O’Meara saw the opportunity to learn about the new technology and agreed to go forward with a proposal for an app. When the first incarnation of the Globe’s tablet app hit the iTunes market at $20 a month, the feedback was interesting to O’Meara.

“We got a one star rating out of five in the beginning,” explained Gosselin O’Meara. “Some of the comments were ‘It’s not a bad app but it’s a horrible price,’ ‘It doesn’t work,’ ‘Is this really the newspaper?’” Three weeks after the launch, The Globe and Mail had received 500 new subscribers. “We keep going,” said Gosselin O’Meara. “We just keep at it all the time.” The paper went on to launch a free Globe app in July 2010 but received zero cancellations of its $20/per month e-paper. Several apps and trial runs later, The Globe and Mail’s e-paper rating has jumped to three stars.

When Gosselin O’Meara and her team looked into their readership to get a better sense of who was reading their apps, they found that their audience was a contained mixture of readers.

Unsurprisingly, eighty percent of readers come from urban and suburban settings and are in the urban elite social class. What did surprise Gosselin O’Meara, and most of her younger colleagues, was that young urbanites were also a large part of their readership.

The majority of readers were between the ages of 50 and 60 years, married, had a post graduate degree, worked full-time, held professional careers and made a salary of $200,000 upwards. Furthermore, these mobile readers are spending as much if not more time with the digital product as they did with the print product.

“Do we know how it’s going to work? No, not really. But it’s not too complicated to try it,” said Gosselin O’Meara. “Heck, it’s been a lot of learning already and constantly doing some new things is going to help you all the time.”