Tablets and Newspapers: A Match Made in Heaven?

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According to Forrester Research, the U.S. tablet market is about to explode, and 82 million Americans — one third of the online population — are projected to own one of the devices by 2015. The announcement of the $199 Kindle Fire by Amazon means that the tablet will be a means for advertisers to reach people who can then buy their products almost immediately, on Amazon and elsewhere.
These tablet numbers fit well with the growing rate of U.S. online retail sales, which increased 12.6 percent in 2010 to reach $176.2 billion and is expected to reach $278.9 billion by 2015.

According to Editor and Publisher, “If newspapers connect the dots accurately, they may be able to design a revenue masterpiece worthy of hanging in the Louvre. Blending e-commerce, tablets, and apps on a strategic business palette, coupled with a few strokes of marketing genius, newspapers have an opportunity to regain a hefty chunk of lost advertising dollars.”

All this great news comes from Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru’s report “Why Tablet Commerce May Trump Mobile Commerce.” Currently, only 9 percent of Web shoppers own a tablet (most of whom already own a smartphone or computer), but tablets are their preferred device for shopping. Users prefer the larger screen size and the opportunity to flip pages similar to a print catalog. Eighty percent of tablet owners use them in the comfort of their living rooms, which offer a leisurely shopping experience and cultivate increased browsing time.

All this would seem to be obvious. But what does it mean for newspapers? Editor and Publisher’s Jeff Fleming has a clever idea:

Think “buyerlog,” a newspaper’s answer to a catalog. For example, newspapers could create weekly buyerlog apps, which are an amalgamation of advertisers’ products and services — offering subscribers a wide variety of categories, such as travel, real estate, major appliances, furniture, and the coveted classifieds.

Online shoppers in the market for a new sofa and chairs would be able to request or download a newspaper’s furniture buyerlog and browse a wide-ranging selection of styles, colors, and prices from numerous manufacturers and retailers. Shoppers could relax in the comfort of their homes, flipping pages that include interactive content, videos, audio, and large colorful photos.

With large subscription numbers and a diversified advertising base, newspapers are in an ideal position to dominate the buyerlog market. Subscribers would no longer need to jump from one website to another, benefiting from a newspaper’s ability to include multiple advertisers in one complete package.

Relatively cheap to produce and affordable to large and small advertisers, buyerlogs could offer newspapers a chance to earn digital advertising dollars and take ownership of the up-and-coming tablet inundation.

If I were a newspaper publisher today, I would be thinking of tablets rather than mobile as my next consumption platform, and I’d be optimizing my online site for the tablet revolution.

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