The Encore iPad experiment – how we’re doing so far

So you may recall that a fortnight ago I somewhat rashly promised to update you on how sales of our Encore iPad app went, “even if the number of subscribers is embarrassingly small”.

I can now share those first numbers. And I’m feeling optimistic but not ecstatic.   

Our experiment began on April 5, two weeks ago today.

encore appIt’s our first effort at an iPad app. You can download it here.

An early dilemma was whether to do something with Mumbrella, or with Encore magazine. There were a couple of reasons to go for Encore.

First, the opportunity to do what a magazine does best, but enhance it. In Encore’s case, where so much of the discussion centres around screen content, the opportunity to embed video right there with the articles is exciting.

Another reason was that we wanted to experiment with a paid content model. Apps is one area where digital consumers seem more willing to spend money. And in Encore, we already have a subscription model.

A further quandary was what platform to build it on. We went with a company called Oomph.

So how has it done?

As of yesterday, 1805 people had downloaded the application. That’s great. But, that part is free.

As you’ll see from the Oomph analytics, those downloads started off with a big surge. This was helped by our own coverage, along with it featuring on the Apple newsstand over the easter weekend.

oomph analytics

The critical next stage is how many subscribers have then paid – either for the $4.49 for the April edition, or $19.99 for six editions.

The answer is that so far we have sold 45 six month subscriptions and made 75 single issue sales.

So we’re not going to be rich any time soon. By my maths 45 x $19.99 plus 75 x $4.49, minus Apple’s 30% is $865.41.

I’ll try not to spend it all at once.

Once you factor in the staff time spent on repurposing the content from the print edition, I don’t think we could claim to have broken even. But that’s not bad for the first month. Of course, the crunch question is whether we continue to grow, or fall back once the excitement fades over that first edition. Happily the six month subs give us an opportunity to build. The importance of that model is a learning right there.

It’s also worth noting that the numbers do not include our paying print subscribers who have free access to the digital edition.

But what does this mean for my sales colleagues who need to sell ads on the edition?

It’s a very different conversation with advertisers to one that takes place around a website that delivers 150,000 unique Australian browsers per month.

It’s going to have to be about engagement, rather than reach. And actually, I’m okay with that. We’re often able to find sponsors who will pay to reach 100 or so people at one of our Q&A breakfasts, for instance. There’s a similar conversation to be had about somebody willing to part with money and spend (I’m willing to bet) quality time with the product. I bet the ads have very high reader engagement too.

The other metric is what people think of it. We’re very proud of the app. I must confess that from time to time I open it up on my own iPad and just browse through it. So far, there’s been just one review on the iTunes store. I don’t know who “BRTDM” is, but I like them:

iTunes review

(If you have tried the app, please do take the trouble to make your own comment in the store.)

And iTunes reviewers can be tough. This is what they said about the effort of our rival AdNews:

adnews itunes

There are also insights to be gained from the fact that more than 10 times as many people take the trouble of downloading the free app, as are then willing to pay to see the content. That suggests there is also much to be learned from experimenting with a free model. (A Mumbrella app at some point?)

For us, the experiment has only just begun. We’re already learning. My first impressions: This isn’t a commercial silver bullet. But it’s not a dead duck either.

Tim Burrowes

Editor-in-chief – Mumbrella and Encore


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