Which Platforms to Choose for Future Digital Newspaper Publishing?

By Thomas Wittenburg | Nov 26 2015 | Insights

The fact that digital publishing is possible isn’t news anymore. Media houses around the world have succeeded in developing strong business models for digital publishing. They do so to help get readers’ attention in an industry that’s been stagnating for several years.

However, our experience is that there’s still doubt about the future of digital newspaper publishing and which platform is the most beneficial to focus on. Is the future in digital newspaper publishing happening on desktop, tablet or phone?

Trends in digital newspaper publishing

According to the ‘World Press Trends 2015 Report’, newly released by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the newspaper industry is still larger than the film, music and book-publishing industries. More than two billion people read the newspaper in its good-old paper format, while approximately 800 million people read it digitally.

An eye-catching trend noted in the report is that young people continue to seek news on a daily basis, and many of them are even willing to pay for good content. According to WAN-IFRA, this information is interesting, as it contradicts ‘traditional’ wisdom. For some time, the industry has been worried whether young people would want to read news at all. However, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the internet is a first-choice source when this audience is interested in reading the news. This generation was raised in a world that had already accepted the internet as the obvious place to find information.

So, is the fact that young people do read news and favour online distribution an indication that they’ll favour reading newspapers on digital platforms in the future?

Digital newspaper publishing gives media companies an excellent opportunity to attract readers and to increase revenue, which is done through advertising and through tracking subscribers’ reading habits. Nevertheless, the big question is: which platform should media houses be focusing on in order to attract more readers – tablet, desktop or phone?


Cross-platform is key

The CEO of Visiolab, Jens Funder Berg, talked about how to obtain an effective mobile business model at this year’s Mobile News Summit, which was part of the World Publishing Expo in Hamburg at the beginning of October. During his presentation, he touched upon two subjects that are crucial in the media industry:

• paid news on mobile devices
• readers’ preferred type of device for reading digital news.

True to Visiolab’s philosophy – ‘Act on data’ – Jens backed his presentation with data from a recent study carried out by Visiolab this year. In the study, Visiolab tracked the downloading habits of 20 Nordic newspapers to find out which platform is ‘the best’ – meaning which platform readers prefer when downloading paid digital news.

The diagram below shows the results of the study.


There are two key findings here. The large pie-chart on the left illustrates a general picture of the findings from all 20 paid digital publications that were tracked in relation to which downloading platform was the most popular. This reveals that tablet is ‘king’ for ePapers in terms of paid news. The diagram reveals that 70 per cent of the 20 publications perform best on tablet. Only 18 per cent of downloads were on phone, and 12 per cent took place on desktop.

The smaller charts to the right, meanwhile, illustrate a selection of the best-performing newspapers on tablet, phone and desktop respectively. These show a more detailed picture of the individual findings of the study. The first diagram (relating to ePaper 1) resembles the large pie-chart, but with downloads performed on tablets up ten percentage points to 80 per cent. This particular digital newspaper was the one with highest downloads on tablet out of the 20 newspapers included in the study.

The second small pie-chart (ePaper 2), however, shows a completely different result. What’s eye-catching about this publication is that it performed best on phone, with 30 per cent of downloads carried out this way; this is a considerable difference from the general picture (where 18 per cent of downloads were by phone).

The third small chart (ePaper 3) presents the publication that performed best on desktop, with 33 per cent of downloads performed on this platform. This is an interesting observation compared to the general picture (at 12 per cent), as this particular ePaper has trebled the average percentage.

Conclusively, according to the above-mentioned data, there isn’t necessarily one precise answer to the question: which platform is the future for digital newspaper publishing? Tablet is clearly a favourite, but does this mean that media houses shouldn’t focus on other platforms?

Well, the immediate answer is no: publishers should definitely focus on more than one platform, even if tablet use is predominant. The question, rather, is how to prioritise one’s focus. The best way to do this is by testing reader behaviour.

On that note, Visiolab’s study concludes that:

• tablet and phone are not necessarily the most popular devices for paid news

• readers’ behaviour changes depending on the physical surroundings they’re in (for example, at the office, on the train or at home)

• desktop, phone and tablet should all be in focus when developing a digital publishing business model

• it’s important to track readers’ behaviour.

How a cross-platform business model can help increase subscriptions

By implementing a cross-platform business model, you have the opportunity to increase the number of readers by up to 38 per cent, thereby increasing your revenue. The only thing this requires is that your content is present on all platforms: tablet, smartphone and desktop.

Click on the link below if you’re interested in reading more about your readers' habits in the latest European User Survey Report 2015 or subscribe to our newsletter to recieve news about how we can help you attract more subscribers to your newspaper. Also, you're always welcome to contact us if you're interested in more information about the possibilities of digital newspaper publishing and data collection.


Download our User Survey Benchmark Report 2015 here


Thomas Wittenburg


Thomas Wittenburg

Product Marketing Specialist, digital concept developer, wannabe rockstar and great beard.