Below is an overview and review of the Australian Financial Review’s iPad application – which was released last month after a long wait. The application is mostly locked to subscribers only. It represents a significant leap forward for the publication, as a quality reading experience and financial news analysis application.
Covered below in sections and images is:
- Style & Form
- Markets Tools and Data
- Other iPad-based Functions
- Newspaper Inserted Magazines (NIMs)
- AFR iPad Advertising examples
- AFR audience and ad inventory growth over the past 12 months.
Style & Form
The design strengths of the AFR newspaper are used well in the navigational parts of the iPad app (much more than its website) but are then ignored once you are on an article page (see example from a technology article below) which are indistinguisable from most other newspaper apps. This is a shame, as the AFR is, in my opinion, the best looking and type-set newspaper in the country at the moment.
Whilst both landscape and portrait orientation is possible, landscape is the best way to read it. As a side note I have never seen someone use an iPad in portrait mode when reading websites or magazine apps. Only A4 PDF files like eBooks or whitepapers make sense in this format, as landscape gives you more width (and both formats retain up-down scrolling that we are all accustomed to from years of internet browsing behaviour).
The vivid colours, photo/chart content and dynamic market/chart tools play to the strengths of the iPad. Like the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age iPad apps – which are built using the same Méthode publishing platform – navigation is instantly responsive and very stable (rarely stalling or crashing).
Here is an example of a David Rowe caricature, which is given new life in digital form.
Here are examples of other content sections from the daily AFR editorial:
Markets Tools and Data:
The AFR app is not as flexible or feature rich as many other free stocks and portfolio app – like Bloomberg’s free app – and it is limited to mostly Australian indices. But it is a very useful integration with what is a news/analysis content application. Indeed, it is a big step up from the newspaper though not as functional as AFR.com.
Company names are hyperlinked throughout the app, and ASX quotes are readily available from all screens via a button in the top-right-hand corner. This is an essential tool for analysts or retail investors interested to see what the market data is on the company they are reading about. Favourite or frequently accessed stocks are saved in this search function.
Examples below (click to enlarge).
Other summary dashboards are also available (see below examples).
Other iPad-based Functions:
The AFR iPad app uses the same contents navigation and optional section-downloads as its metro-masthead sister newspapers (see below). This is wise, considering the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age apps have had over half a million downloads so far and will have gone some way to training their readers to use this manner of navigation.
The ability to control what digital versions of NIMs (newspaper inserted magazines) like AFR mag, Luxury, Capital, etc is a good way to cut down on downloads of sections you may rarely read. The impact on auditing this, and finding out how many readers actually read them, will be interesting to follow in the future.
Saved articles are a good feature (that is, if you don’t support 3rd party read-later apps like Instapaper)
Offline reading, and ability to control how much or which you want to retain, is another thoughtful feature.
Newspaper Inserted Magazines (NIMs)
The AFR’s NIMs are optional downloads with the app. Digital versions of the NIMs are navigated to, and read within, the same navigation as regular content but greater emphasis is placed on imagery and interactivity.
Viewing AFR mag content through an iPad, like the photo essays below, feels much more natural than on a scrolling text-based-navigation website like afr.com – however it misses the quality-stock tactile experience that all glossy magazines are grappling with.
As mentioned earlier, the numbers of app users actually reading this magazine content will be interesting to see once sectional readership is shared with advertisers. NIMs revenue represents a significant share of advertising for the AFR that would be difficult to replace in the long term if readership shuns this content when given more choice in whether to download it or not.
AFR iPad Advertising
Brands appearing in the first month of launch included (click below for larger images):
- Land Rover (Range Rover Sport & Evoque models)
- Virgin Australia (international)
- Vacheron Constantin (Richemont)
- CBA Total Capital Solutions (Commonwealth Bank)
AFR audience growth and advertising inventory growth
No data is currently available on how many downloads or active users the AFR iPad app has.
Much was made over the last few years to the AFR’s digital strategy. Many media commentators had strong opinions over what they should be doing as its print circulation plumetted and digital subscribtions hovered around 7,000.
Indeed, I worked with Business Spectator over 18 months to attack its digital advertising revenues.
But a lot has changed in the past 12 months under new CEO Brett Clegg. Though print circulation continues to drop – digital subscriptions and digital audiences (for advertising) have both doubled since June 2011.
Digital subscription figures provided to PANPA in May totalled 17,000 compared to 8,111 before the change in new paywall strategy went live in December 2011. The number of digital-only subscriptions is not provided by Fairfax.
Regardless, the dramatic reversal in audience stagnation is good news for Fairfax. Making a broad assumption of the AFR making an average of $0.20 per page impression – a lift in 1.5million pages per month is equivalent to $3.6m annually to the bottom line in advertising (based on their ratecard and industry sell-through-rates).
January-March quarter numbers:
- Weekday print circ -3% to 70,518
- Weekend print circ -11.8% to 69,057
May 2012 online numbers (Nielsen MI):
- Monthly online UBs +192% to 408,536
- Daily online UBs +201% to 24,180
- May page impressions +194% to 3.1
- Average page duration steady at 1 min 12 sec.