I cut my teeth in print and during my career have worked on dozens of magazines in the U.S. and around the world. Whatever the competitive climate, all magazine publishers tend to agree that a reader engages with a printed magazine in a very special and measurable way. MPA, the consumer magazine association, with help from Northwestern University and various research firms, has put more teeth into the engagement arguments (I worked there until recently). Whatever is going on outside or in the noisy digital space, a magazine is my personal time out, a quiet, intimate, and even reflective moment.
I heard about some research at CES that indicates e-reader marketers are using very similar engagement language, suggesting that settling back with my Kindle or Sony Reader represents my personal time out. In fact, unlike with magazines, I don't want to be distracted with ads and rich media on my screen. I want my reading and consumption to be a one-dimensional, lean back, uninterrupted experience.
But what happens when reading goes mobile in the fullest sense of the word? The website Read It Later (RIL) provides some research that suggests our digestion of mobile content not only changes the place where we consume content but also the time we consume. RIL uses as its starting point the 100 million articles that its registered users have saved.
Please consult site for details on the various graphs charting user consumption behavior. Simply put people tend to save and cache content during the day and read them later. RIL notes that newspapers and magazines are portable and large enough to make reading enjoyable. The iPad offers similar advantages. It's too early to posit much about reading habits on the iPad but RIL data shows that iPad owners are no longer doing the majority of their reading on computers. "They are saving it for their personal prime time, when they can relax comfortably, iPad in hands and burn through the content they found during the day." Does this constitute a higher level of engagement because I have carefully chosen my content from multiple sources and have also decided the time of the consumption?
So what does this say about the reading of content online? According to RIL, when a reader is given a choice about how to consume their content, a major shift in behavior occurs. They no longer consume the majority of their content during the day on their computer. Instead they shift that content to prime time and onto a device better suited for consumption.
"Initially, it appears that the devices users prefer for reading are mobile devices, most notably the iPad. It's the iPad leading the jailbreak from consuming content in our desk chairs.
"As better mobile experiences become more accessible to more readers, this movement will continue to grow. Readers want to consume content in a comfortable place, on their own time and mobile devices are making it possible for readers to take control once more."
I'm not sure what this means for newspapers and magazines, but it will certainly mean that during my down-time between 6PM--9PM I will have many more media choices.