E-Readers: Unparalleled Potential for Advertisers

I recently became addicted to George R.R. Martin’s groundbreaking fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” also known as “Game of Thrones” thanks to HBO’s popular TV adaptation. With the release of the fifth book in the series, I faced a growing conundrum: Should I buy the hard-copy version and risk back problems lugging the 1,200-plus page book everywhere, or wait for the lighter, less obtrusive paperback to come out? Unfortunately for my back, my eagerness to immediately resume the series won out over my laziness to carry the bulky hardcopy.

In the wake of the rising popularity of the e-reader, spending on printed books has slumped to record lows. Borders filed for bankruptcy last year and Barnes & Noble announced plans to close a number of its brick-and-mortar locations and put greater emphasis on digital book sales through its e-reader, the Nook. What’s more, the number of U.S. consumers using e-readers has more than quadrupled in the last two years, according to eMarketer.

The digitalization of magazines is of particular interest to advertisers. More than 500 years after the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, the e-reader represents the first monumental shift in the way we consume the printed word. Readers can now immerse themselves in the same print formula they’ve been used to for more than a century — i.e., being able to read content page-by-page, which presents unparalleled opportunities for advertisers.

According to a recent study from Affinity, almost half of all magazine readers now access their favorite magazines in both print and digital formats, reading an average of just over eight publications per month. Here are some more findings from the study:

  • 52 percent of digital magazine readers clicked on links offering more information about a topic;
  • 38 percent watched a magazine-sponsored video;
  • 36 percent confirmed they clicked on links within advertisements;
  • 66 percent planned to download more magazines; and
  • 63 percent wanted to see more of their favorite magazines available digitally.

E-readers not only offer publishers the opportunity to bring their content to a more engaged audience, but they also help advertisers take static ad images to new heights. Imagine the ability to have completely interactive, full-page print ads that allow users to click and explore the ads like never before. E-readers give print advertisers the same benefits as digital marketers, such as geo-targeting, tracking and optimization, but on a richer canvas. Does a consumer like an ad, will they try a product and do they want to buy? Suddenly print advertisers can incorporate feedback loops to gain a level of insight previously unheard of in traditional media.

There’s no doubt advertising will play a vital role in the e-reader landscape moving forward. For the industry to be successful, there needs to be a single established publishing standard so any e-reader can display any type of content and advertisers can reach all readers using standard ad specifications. Similar to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) setting industry standards for web advertising, the e-reader space is up for grabs.

Perhaps the IAB will come aboard with guidelines for the digital ad versions of magazines. According to reports, the Audit Bureau of Circulations is preparing for that day, having noted an increase in publisher inquiries about auditing and reporting requirements for e-readers and smartphones. The possibilities are wide open for someone to take the lead.

In case you’re wondering, I’m halfway through the fifth “Game of Thrones” book and am subscribed to three magazines. I don’t believe my bookshelf will ever be filled with a physical book again.

Michael Goldberg is director of marketing communications at Martini Media. Michael can be reached at michael.goldberg@martini-corp.com.