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What You Don't Know About Mobile Magazine Readers - 7/24/2012 -

Through a new readership study, one association discovered that significantly more people learned about its magazine through online app stores than through the association itself.

By Vanessa St. Gerard

These days, readership surveys look vastly different than they did just three or four years ago. With the emergence of Kindles, iPads, and smartphones, association members are accessing magazine content on devices beyond their home or work computers—and magazine staff must ask more specific questions about members’ reading habits to benchmark engagement on a whole new level.

During the Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting session titled "Understand the Mobile Magazine Reader,” presenters Kim Kett and Joe Puskarz detailed the strategy they used to evaluate how readers access their content and the changes that subsequently were made to accommodate reader preferences, including developing six apps.

Puskarz, senior managing editor for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and Kett, vice president of sales for Godengo+Texterity, shared three steps publication staff should take to understand their mobile magazine readers: learn, build, and measure.

First AAP conducted focus groups and readership surveys that provided input from members, which helped Puskarz to determine what changes and improvements he should consider for the organization’s peer-reviewed journal and magazine. Specifically, Puskarz sought to learn how members were interacting with AAP’s print and online content, and which devices they used to read the different types of content (e.g., articles, research reports, AAP policy statements, etc.).

What he discovered from the research was that considerably more members were reading content online rather than in print, and that the use of mobile devices, e-readers, and tablets had increased substantially compared with AAP’s readership research the year before. These results led to a partnership with Godengo+Texterity to launch digital editions for the journal and magazine in 2010, as well as mobile apps for its publications during the past 18 months.

The association’s apps offer summaries of each of the articles published in the print and digital editions; full-text articles are available on Kindle. But the work didn’t end with AAP’s release of its publications in varying formats. While the data indicated that members were making use of the new offerings (a combined 22,000 active monthly users for three of its apps), Puskarz worked with Kett to conduct an "in-app” readership survey that allowed AAP to gain insight and feedback from its mobile users by asking such questions as:

· What do you like most about this app?

· How did you find this app?

· When do you typically use this app?

· Where do you typically use this app?

Demographic information also was collected, including age, gender, and location of users, as well as determining on what device users accessed the app (i.e., smartphone, tablet or iPod Touch) and whether their devices are used for personal and/or business use. Conducting an in-app survey allowed AAP to poll a more defined audience that has a proven interest in the organization’s mobile content.

One interesting finding was that 67 percent of app users initially learned about AAP’s magazine app through the App Store or Android Marketplace, compared with 20 percent learning about it from AAP, and 9 percent receiving a recommendation about it from a friend or colleague. In all, 17 percent of users learned about AAP as a result of the magazine app, which opens the possibility for gaining new members.

AAP’s strategy to learn about its overall readers’ preferences, build applications based on reader feedback, and then measure engagement among users of these new offerings led Puskarz and his staff to expand the accessibility and range of their publications. Based on the data and feedback received post-launch—and in line with the cycle of learn, build, and measure—AAP plans to continue further revolutionizing its publications.

Vanessa St. Gerard is managing editor at ASTD. Association Media & Publishing sincerely thanks her for covering this Annual Meeting session for our members who were unable to attend.


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