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Review of mediaPro 2011

mediaPro 2011 took place last week at Olympia 2 in London. Andrew Lugton, who blogs regularly on media matters, summarises the main talking points.

By Andrew Lugton

I am pleased to report that the recent mediaPro event, at Olympia, had a real buzz about it this year.

I spent two days there and sat in on a dozen or so of about 140 seminars and keynote speeches, plus a couple of demos. There were around 130 exhibitors and more visitors than you would expect in the current economic climate, animatedly chatting over their coffee and iPads.

I formed the impression that, this year, the industry has not only a better understanding of the challenges facing it, but is beginning to appreciate some of the opportunities within its grasp. Indeed, many speakers were happy to share their positive experiences of this brave, if no longer so new, world of digital media.

I now realise that the iPad editions of magazines are strictly offline products, while newspapers are intended to be read with a live internet connection. The volume of rich media content makes them too large to download quickly, so publishers prefer to use static placeholders that link to online video content. This approach takes advantage of the opportunity to update content around the clock.

Although I didn’t go home with a big story or an overriding theme, it was a very rewarding show, so here are a few soundbites to give you a flavour of it:

* In three years, there will be 3.62 million tablet owners in the UK, of which 73% will be iPads;

* Few publishers are catering for Android tablets, preferring to wait until their numbers justify the investment. There is more interest in the Kindle Fire;

* It is easier than ever before for an entrepreneur to launch a new publication and steal a march on established competitors in the online and mobile arenas. For example, The Good Pub Guide has been trounced in search rankings by Beerintheevening;

* Marketers are getting ever more sophisticated in their personalised emails and landing pages, with compelling data showing the dramatic benefits in terms of increased activations, subscriptions and response rates. As Google give high ranking to sites carrying video on their front page, it is now possible to include personalised video, which greets users by name.

* A panel of eminent magazine publishers informed its audience that they would have to “move up the value chain” and become retailers too, in order to make their businesses viable. At the same time, some retailers, such as ASOS, are turning to publishing. I asked if they planned to adopt the lessons their e-commerce competitors have already learned about the benefits of personalisation, but none have taken any steps in this direction yet. I’ve written about this before;

* In one of the most interesting seminars, Rebekah Billingsley gave a thorough account of how the BBC went about publishing Good Food Magazine on the iPad platform. They have now learned, among much else, that 25% of all sales are for back-issues; around 65% of readers are new and iPad readers are not price sensitive. Rebekah generously gave lots of detail, openly describing a process that many would have been more coy about;

* The recent launch of Apple Newsstand was universally applauded, with publishers likening it to the opening of a global supermarket. The growing audience on the iPad platform is also bringing growth to advertising opportunities;

* There is a win-win opportunity for businesses to collaborate with their customers on product design. DirectLine asked 500 voluntary participants, via Facebook, to choose their app’s name, appearance and functionality;

* I was shocked to hear that the average price of an ebook is £1.50 higher than the physical equivalent, despite which, ebook and audiobook sales grew 318% in 2010;

* Magazine publishers report an unexpected boost to their back-catalogue sales on the tablet platform;

* I was impressed to learn that the Telegraph is now using digital watermarking in some of its printed photos. Once you have downloaded a free app to your smartphone and taken a photo of one of them, it launches a website. This is similar to QR codes, but invisible to the naked eye and unobtrusive on the page. The technology carries little overhead to the production process;

* Magplus offers an iPad publishing workflow that repurposes the original InDesign layout, without having to create both landscape and portrait orientations. Their business model allows the free download of the components, applying charges only upon publication. This effectively means you could make slick sales pitches, free of charge;

* There is still life in email marketing. A presentation from Adestra claimed that 62% of respondents prefer to hear of sales promotions via email in preference to social media; 58% of smartphone users check their emails as soon as they wake, against 11% who check their social sites first;

* B2B publishers must identify what readers will pay for and demonstrate a return on their investment. It is essential that content is not free elsewhere and that it is critical to the reader;

* The InDesign functionality in Adobe’s Creative Suite 5 includes the bells and whistles needed to add rich media to tablet editions of publications. This should encourage designers from the print world to put their skills to use on the new platform;

But, as always, the best moments of the show were bumping into old colleagues and having a chat.