The publisher Condé Nast has 3.8 million apps installed on iPads and iPhones, and recently analyzed 5,000 in-app surveys along with 100 hours of one-on-one interviews of magazine app users to see what’s going on with this new device.
There were a few interesting findings:
- Most users leave the iPad at home or in a set location for sharing with a collaborative group. In either setting, the iPad isn’t a mobile, personal device but almost an installed device from a user standpoint.
- Usability issues within and across apps persist, and “apps and that interactive ads often need to come with directions.” This jibes with Jakob Nielsen’s usability findings from this past spring.
- Users spend more time with the apps than with the printed editions. However, because it’s impossible to tell which issue the user is reading, it’s unclear if each issue is getting more time or whether the app itself is what’s getting more time.
- Users get bored if advertising is repurposed or repetitive. Advertisers need to make special ads for apps and mix them up within apps.
The most surprising finding to me is that the iPad isn’t functioning as a mobile device. When I abandoned my iPad, I sensed it was too heavy and beautiful to be regularly hauled around. It turns out, at least in this survey, that most users leave their devices at home rather than lugging them around. To quote from the article:
. . . as the iPad—or other tablet devices—evolve and become cheaper and lighter, the idea of it being regarded as more purely mobile could come into play. But right now, at least, this is something for the couch—not the commute.
This also means that the iPad isn’t just a personal device but often a group’s device — a family uses it instead of one person, limiting the value of personalization strategies. In fact, this also clouds the finding that people are spending more time with iPad versions of magazines than with print versions — if the iPad is a community device rather than a personal device, data might be for a group’s usage rather than an individual’s.
Despite these caveats, it’s clear that fascination with the iPad continues to be high, that at some point Apple or some other vendor will reduce the weight and improve the interface sufficiently to make the tablet reader truly the killer personal device it could be, and users remain willing to dish out money to get digital content — at a price point that’s surprisingly high compared to print.
For publishers and advertisers, the challenge of making things work in this new environment remains significant, but so does the opportunity.