IFRA and four partnering newspaper publishers in the eNews programme on e-reading have carried out a groundbreaking global consumer test on the concept of mobile e-reading . Earlier this year, focus groups in Stockholm, Tokyo, Zurich and London were introduced to, and asked to comment on, digital e-readers. This is the first time e-reading has been researched across geographic regions.
In the test, which took place in February, March and April, readers of Dagens Nyheter in Stockholm, Yomiuri Shimbun in Tokyo, the Daily Telegraph in London and Tages-Anzeiger in Zurich, got a chance to use digital black-and-white e-readers uploaded with specially designed versions of the respective newspapers. The focus group participants were also introduced to a prototype colour e-paper, less than a millimetre thick.
“It was interesting to note the similarities in some of the responses across the geographic regions,” says Finn Erling Røgenæs, of global market research specialist Synovate, who acted as the discussion moderator at each of the test locations. “In most of the groups, there was an unprompted reaction to the e-readers as an environmentally friendly way to read the newspaper. Participants in all the locations were also particularly drawn to the colour prototype, which in the future will be paper-thin and rolled up. They found it genuinely novel and interesting and many saw it as a potential substitute for the paper product some time in the future.”
With the global focus group test, IFRA has set a benchmark for understanding consumer expectations in the mobile e-reading area, which so far has been researched only in isolated markets and contexts. Says IFRA Digital Research Director Dr. Stig Nordqvist, who also leads the eNews Executive Programme: “As the mobile e-reading market is quickly growing in reach, it is important for newspaper publishers to identify the opportunities it presents. By carrying out a global focus group test, we have been able to identify common drivers and barriers in consumer expectations across countries, as well as note regional differences. The test results are shared in the eNews group and put our members at an advantage going forward in the relatively uncharted market of mobile e-reading.”
The eNews programme is one of IFRA’s Executive Programmes, which provide exclusive networking and learning opportunities on specific topics. eNews was set up in 2005 as a response to the emerging mobile e-reading market, and now consists of two groups, eNews 2008 and eNews 2010, with a total of 41 member publishers and suppliers to the newspaper industry.
The global focus group test was carried out within the eNews 2008 group, and its members are: Arena Interactive (Finland), Bonnier/Expressen (Sweden), De Telegraaf (The Netherlands), dpa (Germany), Edda Media (Norway), Edipresse Publications (Switzerland), Escenic (Norway), Frankfurter Rundschau (Germany), Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH & Co (Germany), Mainichi Shimbun (Japan), New York Times Company (USA), Nordjyske Medier (Denmark), Plastic Logic Limited (UK), PrisaCom/El País (Spain), Rheinisch-Bergische Druckerei- und Verlagsgesellschaft (Germany), Sanoma Corporation (Finland), Schibsted/Aftonbladet (Norway/Sweden), Stampen/Göteborgs-Posten (Sweden), Styria Medien (Austria), Tamedia AG (Switzerland), Telegraph Media Group (UK), Tribune Interactive (USA), Vorarlberger Zeitungsverlag und Druckerei (Austria), Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany) and Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan).
The global consumer test was sponsored by Bridgestone, who provided the prototype colour e-paper displays, and by Sony, who provided a number of Sony Readers. In the test, Iliad e-readers from iRex Technologies were also used.