‘Assholes’ The Next Web ‘suck’ for stopping making an Android product that loses them money
No, that isn’t an Onion headline, that’s the verdict of some of the commenters underneath The Next Web’s announcement that they are ceasing production of their Android magazine edition.
Their decision is based on the fact that “for every Android user that downloads an Android magazine we have 80 iOS downloads”, and that the magazine was taking them 3-to-4 days each month to convert from iPad version to Android version. They’d expected the market to be bigger:
“We had gotten enough requests for it and had gotten the impression there were thousands of anxious Android tablets owners holding their breath for an Android version of our magazine. Unfortunately we’ve found out that although Android users are very vocal they aren’t very active when it comes to downloading and reading magazines. Or maybe they just don’t like our magazine. You never know.”
That 80:1 ratio sounds severe, but other figures that have come out recently back it up. The Guardian Developer Blog published a breakdown of mobile traffic to m.guardian.co.uk. Even though Android is scoring some big numbers in handset activation, when it comes to usage, it appears that iOS dominates. More than two-thirds of mobile traffic to the Guardian is on iOS devices.
Developing for Android is difficult for publishers if they want to support the huge variety of devices with different screen-sizes, resolutions and capabilities. That is why a couple of companies that I’ve been designing for recently have opted to try and cover their bases with responsively designed web-app-ish sites, rather than invest in native Android app development.
Fans of Android will argue that there is a chicken-and-egg situation going on here, and that until publishers provide comparable levels of content, there won’t be a comparable market, but whenever publishers put figures out, it does make you wonder at the economics of specific Android apps and editions. Stern in Germany have a weekly print circulation of 800,000, and a digital subs base of 16,000. Of those 16,000, just 5% — 8,00 copies — are on Android. In the comments under The Next Web’s announcements, one member of staff put their Android audience figure at 1,000.
It remains to be seen how long publishers can produce bespoke content for audiences in three and four figures, and whether 2013 might see a retreat from native Android publishing.