App publishing, analytics and the path to profitability

Since the day the iPad came out, those of us in the digital publishing business have been preaching about the need to think creatively about content for this amazing new canvas, says Mike Haney, chief creative officer of Mag+. But there’s a cold, hard truth to face: Creativity isn’t enough. The most groundbreaking digital publication out there can and will fail miserably if it’s not rooted in the opposite of creativity: data. More specifically, app usage analytics.

I know. As a former editor and designer, I appreciate that that phrase is cringe-worthy to creatives. But stay with me here: Knowing more about how people use your app will do two things. First, it will help you bring in the ad dollars that will fund all the cool content stuff you want to do. And second, it will help you make a better product, which will help you gain and retain readers. In short, analytics pays the bills.

Analytics for advertising

Advertising inside trusted editorial on touchscreen devices is the best environment ad clients have ever had: a big beautiful canvas for those display ads, endless interactivity for true engagement and utility, and it’s all completely measurable, online and off, in near real-time.

Here’s the glitch: What do those measurements mean? What should you share and how? Most importantly, what’s normal?

These questions, not technology, are what’s been holding back advertising from playing any real role in monetizing app publishing. Most platforms can capture the key metrics advertisers want, but until we can all trust those numbers and until we have a baseline, they’re useless.

Fortunately, in the media industry, the MPA is tackling this problem with its new pilot program to provide consistent measurement and reporting of standardized metrics across platforms. The voluntary program includes more than 20 publishers and several newsstands, platforms and analytic providers. The MPA anticipates being able to share preliminary results at the 2013 American Magazine Conference (AMC) in October. (My employer, Mag+, is one of the participating platforms.) The five core metrics are basic, but they’re where we need to start:

  • Total consumer paid digital issues
  • Total number of digital edition readers per issue
  • Total number of sessions per issue
  • Average amount of time spent per reader per issue
  • Average number of sessions per reader per issue

With these numbers, we’ll know the average open rate, or what percentage of subscribers actually open those auto-delivered issues, as well as what sorts of issue-level engagement times we should expect.

Read the rest of this article at Emedia Vitals

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