Recent figures, such as those in the Digital News Report published last month, show an increase in audiences on these devices, which although lower in some countries compared to others, still signals a growing opportunity to reach new audiences.
One of the key features of tablet usage, highlighted by a number of surveys, including one just last month by OnSwipe, is the high level of engagement later in the day. As Apple Insider reported just last week, the OnSwipe research showed that "traffic from mobile devices gradually grows throughout the day before peaking at 10".
This has been the message for some time, and armed with this, a number of newspapers have launched evening editions onto the iPad over the past few years. The models vary to some degree, but all focus on offering original content, with a more magazine-style approach. In this feature we take a look in detail at O Globo a Mais in Brazil, AZ Today from the Arizona Republic and La Repubblica Sera in Italy.
- O Globo a Mais
O Globo's first foray onto the tablet came soon after the original launch of the iPad. Its first iPad app was largely a replica PDF of the newspaper, but it gave O Globo a foot on the ladder.
Then, in January 2012, O Globo brought out a new version of the app, which is paid-for, and included for the first time an evening edition, made "for the tablet screen", as Pedro Doria, an executive editor at O Globo, told Journalism.co.uk.
"It pretty much fits in a tablet screen and the whole navigation has to do with how you interact with tablets, so there's a lot of touching, interactive graphics.
"We actually were very interested from the beginning to learn how to edit for tablets, realising that our goal, yes it is digital journalism, but it is still very different from the web."
Inspired by the tablet activities of outlets such as Wired, the New Yorker and the now-closed Daily from News Corporation, Doria said the strength of tablets as a reading device, and a platform for effective visual display, was made clear.
"People like to stop and actually dive into some deep-reading, which is not really something people do on the web. The web is all about nervousness and clicking and following links, it's not a medium for deep-reading, whereas with iPad it works.From the beginning we were interested in having well-written text that people could read and enjoy themselves and at the same time be very graphic about it and to have tons of picturesPedro Doria, O Globo
"But at the same time, the iPad is outstanding for pictures. For both movies and videos, and pictures: pictures are just great on that shiny screen.
"So from the beginning we were interested in having well-written text that people could read and enjoy themselves and at the same time be very graphic about it and to have tons of pictures."
Today O Globo reports impressive engagement metrics with its iPad app overall, with an average of an hour and a half spent with it per visit. Prior to the addition of the evening edition, this stood at around 26 minutes.
"So the moment we put the evening edition there, it just went sky-high. We were amazed. We weren't expecting this level of engagement."
1. Embrace experimentation
So how can this engagement be harnessed? For now, Doria says O Globo is "focusing on the content" and gaining "experience" in tablet publishing, but he adds that those at the company are "firm believers that journalism should pay for itself".
"If you can't pay the salaries of a good, healthy newsroom, you can't be independent. To to be profitable is really about journalistic responsibility. But at the same time it's a lot about experience."
"We are not in a rush," he said. "Tablets will grow and grow and grow, and the market will come with it. We are not really that worried about it, as we were on the web."
He also said that the experimentation is not just for news outlets, readers also have lessons to learn.You have to learn how to do journalism on the iPad and at the same time the readers are also learning how to consume journalism on the iPadPedro Doria, O Globo
"You have to learn how to do journalism on the iPad and at the same time the readers are also learning how to consume journalism on the iPad," he said. "You have to constantly test what's working and what's not."
But overall, it is about recognising the need for such experimentation, he added.
"I love the web, I love the conversation on the web, I love the agility of the web, but not all journalism is about real-time news. There's a lot of reflection that comes into a print newspaper that we were worried about losing. Not now, not in 10 years, but eventually, if we were going to a world in which written journalism would be the journalism on the web.
"I think tablets open this new and huge avenue in which you can experiment with digital and all the fantastic possibilities of digital without losing the in-depth possibilities of long-form journalism."
He added that another consideration at this stage is that "iPad penetration is not very big in Brazil". To tackle this, O Globo a Mais will be delivered on Android "in the next few months" he said.
2. Get the right team
Like other projects, the evening edition is run by a dedicated team, in this case eight people-strong, which Pedro said includes three editors.
"We thought seniority was important because we're talking about high quality journalism here," he said. "O Globo is one of three major quality newspapers in Brazil, our readers are as good as they get, so you can't make anything without senior people heading the project.
"At the same time it's an integrated newsroom so most of the content is produced by the newsroom itself."
Content published on the iPad app may also then be re-used in some way on the website or in the newspaper, he said, "somewhat modified", so there remain connections between teams.
3. Don't underestimate the power of the cover
If you are offering an app which includes extras such as an evening edition, paying users will access this content, right? Wrong, warns Doria, who highlighted the need to still "charm" readers via the cover, and not expect them to access an edition just because they have paid for the right to do so.
"Sometimes they forget," he said. "So you still have to charm them, you still have to seem interesting, you still have to be attractive."
Leading on from this, Doria also highlighted the need for the cover to give a clear message about the content within - and that this would not be out of date for the third of its readers who access content the morning after.
"Because we are a newspaper, we are as addicted to hard news as one can get," Doria said. "Two thirds of our readers read it between 6pm and 11/12pm, so the time is right. But there's that last third that tends to read it in the mornings.
"We've been noticing that some of those people were under the impression that the edition had become old between 6pm and 8 o'clock in the morning the following day. That had a lot to do with our cover and that had a lot to with our story choices.
"That actually played very well with a lot of things we were noticing, which was people actually wanted to relax, be entertained more in the evening," he added.
This is not just limited to standard forms of entertainment coverage, but can also include "news analysis, a good profile of a senator, the sort of stuff you would see on the New Yorker on a good Sunday magazine of any newspaper", he explained.
"It's not newsy in the sense that it's not necessarily about the news of the day, but it's the sort of stuff that gives you context to understand the news of the day. So once we went for more magazine style stuff we started to see it working better."
In conclusion, Pedro advises others not to underestimate the impact tablets will still have on the journalism industry.Tablets are definitely not about migrating content from the web into that little screen, it's about very different stuffPedro Doria, O Globo
"Tablets will be a big part of the future of journalism. They are as important as the web. I wouldn't say more important, but I would certainly say as important as.
"And in the same way that in 1994, 1995, 1996, everybody was jumping into the web, saying we have to start trying to do this, it's pretty much the same with tablets.
"And tablets are definitely not about migrating content from the web into that little screen, it's about very different stuff. So I would really encourage people to start studying it and working with it."
- AZ Today
Republic Media, which is part of Gannett, is truly multi-platform, with daily newspaper the Arizona Republic, the website AZCentral.com and television station 12News. It also offers a replica edition for tablet devices, and iPhone apps for breaking news and sport.
And while this caters for many, there was still something missing until December last year when the company launched a 'newsmagazine' called AZ for the iPad.
"Early morning people have the newspaper, midday they go to AZCentral, on their lunch period they look at news on the web, in the evening we have our evening newscast, but then you have that big bulk of time between the evening newscast and the night-time newscast where we don't really have an offering and that's the time that we're looking at," senior director of special projects at Arizona Republic Keira Nothaft told Journalism.co.uk.
This was around the same time that plans were starting for digital subscriptions across many Gannett-owned websites, which meant the idea for an evening iPad edition grew into a great opportunity to offer "a subscriber benefit".
"As we were going to be changing the financial model, we wanted to make sure our readers felt like they were getting even more for what it is that we are offering," Nothaft said. "So that's one of the reasons why we started AZ". For now the edition is published weekly, although this will increase to twice a week this month, with hopes to one day become a daily edition, Monday to Friday.
4. Tell different stories, or at least tell stories differently
Just like O Globo a Mais, AZ has adopted a magazine style, which delivers content in a different way to its audience, often with an interactive element.
For example, Nothaft explained, a story which may be run as a three minute video by the television station, might then be developed into a slightly longer video for the iPad. Or a print story may be run first on the iPad, but changed so it is designed for the tablet.
The edition also features content made just for that platform, and Nothaft added that certain wire copy, which is "really informative, or entertaining or fascinating", but that is not widely used, may also make its way into the edition, especially since it is less likely to make it into the newspaper "as the newsprint has shrunk", she said.
One specific example she gave was a story about a man who gave sick children and their parents the chance to ride in a Batmobile he purchased, and visit a 'Batcave' he had built.
When the story appeared in the print newspaper it was "a very long story", Nothaft said. The television station ran a video to tell the tale, and online the outlet offered users the main story, accompanied by the video and a photo slideshow. But on tablet, AZ wanted to do something different.
In the end, this included the ability for tablet users to spin the Batmobile 360 degree, or click on different areas of the Batcave to find out more about what lies within, as the images below illustrate.
Overall it was about producing a "completely immersive, really rich experience," Nothaft added.
Unlike O Globo a Mais, AZ Today does not currently have data on how long people engage with the app, although this looks set to change and Nothaft said the team cannot wait "to get our hands on some of the analytics to know that".I think reader expectations continue to grow, the more they see, the more they want, the more they expect. I know I doKeira Nothaft, Arizona Republic
Like O Globo, there is a dedicated team working on AZ, consisting of an editor, two assistant editors and two designers. The production of content, however, comes from the main newsroom.
5. Consider strategies to tackle audience acquisition and retention
In terms of challenges, Nothaft highlighted "acquisition and retention" of audiences are the key ones they, and others, face,
Even those who got out of the gate early in launching these products are "still trying to develop those relationships in a digital way", she said.We feel pretty comfortable creating great journalism, and now we really want to make sure that people know about itKeira Nothaft, Arizona Republic
With seven months now under their belt, the team is now looking at how to up promotion of the edition. "We've been kind of soft launching and haven't done marketing or outside promotion really," Nothaft said.
"I think that was fine, I don't know that that's a mistake, because we really wanted to be comfortable with what it is that we were doing and making sure things were where we wanted them to be, but certainly promotion and gaining audience is the biggest challenge and that's what we need to devote a lot of time and energy to."
"We feel pretty comfortable creating great journalism, and now we really want to make sure that people know about it," she added.
- La Repubblica Sera
In Italy, in a bid to reignite the evening newspaper industry, La Repubblica launched an iPad edition, to be published at 7pm, back in November 2011.
With La Repubblica Sera, as the edition is called, the idea was to avoid the costs of a new print edition, and instead offer a product which could neatly sit "between the refreshing website and the morning edition of the print newspaper", former deputy editor Andrea Iannuzzi told Journalism.co.uk.
Again, like O Globo and AZ, the focus was on offering a unique experience with original journalism: "content the reader couldn't find in the print edition or the website," Ianuzzi said, including commentaries, video, audio and images, as well as text articles.
As mentioned by Doria in relation to the Brazilian market, Iannuzzi also highlighted that the "iPad is not yet a mass communication tool" in Italy.
"So numbers and revenues are strictly connected to the iPad diffusion," he said. Again, like O Globo, it is responding to this with a planned launch on Android.
"This could have a good impact in revenues, but our goal was to try to experiment in a niche and I think it was very good."
6. Help print journalists make shift to new publishing schedules
Current deputy editor Luca Fraioli highlighted one challenge La Repubblica Sera encountered at first, which centred on the new, earlier deadlines for those journalists making the move from print to tablet.
"It is very difficult to organise an evening edition in an office that is organised for a classical newspaper that closes at 11pm in the night," Fraioli explained.
"Our colleagues here were trained to write at 9pm or 10pm in the evening," he said, "because in Italy newspapers close at night at 12pm, or at 11pm. Now we ask for articles at 2pm and we ask them to please write the article for 5pm this afternoon."
But this difficulty was overcome, and "we are very happy with our results," Fraioli said.
"All our colleagues understand the difficulties of traditional newspapers, they understand it is very important to work on the digital edition."
7. Ensure communication across platforms
As the content being produced for the evening edition is original, it is important to avoid repetition across platforms. In the case of La Repubblica Sera, Fraioli stressed the need to "be co-ordinated with the newspaper" as well as the website.
"We can't offer the same content to our readers for free on the website and for payment on the tablet. We need to be strongly connected with the newspaper, with the website, to offer a different product that doesn't overlap the others."
8. Find and understand your audience analytics
Like AZ, La Repubblica Sera does not have engagement metrics to hand, although Fraioli is very proud of the figures he does have on the percentage of readers compared to the print side of the business, in light of the difference in editorial team size.
Fraioli said around 10 to 20 per cent of print readers also download the evening iPad edition, which is produced by a team of six, compared to the 400 journalists of La Repubblica.
He stressed that this is more "important" as a metric, than the number of downloads in "absolute numbers".
While detailed engagement data was not available, Fraioli said download figures suggest this is not just taking place in the evening, but also the morning after - as was also identified by O Globo. But like Nothaft, he said getting more data on this sort of thing is something he would like to see happen.
Currently, Fraioli said, La Repubblica Sera is still considered an experiment, and as such, big news events are saved for the daily newspaper, as "the core business".
But when La Repubblica Sera is no longer considered just an experiment, but instead potentially "the first edition available in the afternoon where you can publish big news, the time will be good for the evening edition too", he said.
Looking to the future, and Fraioli predicts that "in the next year something will change". If, for example, La Repubblica decides to put a paywall in place, this may help fuel a change in thinking, although he said he does not know whether this is the plan or not.
- We originally spoke to Keira Nothaft, Pedro Doria, Luca Fraioli and Andrea Iannuzzi for a Journalism.co.uk podcast on launching evening iPad editions