We're living in the age of "Lean Back 2.0," according to The Economist. A presentation by Andrew Rashbass, CEO of The Economist Group, calls the old publishing models of web and print "irredeemably broken," with publishers requiring "urgent re-examination of everything that constitutes a media business." The concept of Lean Back 2.0 is relatively simple — the use of tablets and e-readers is growing at the expense of print and web use, with The Economist's iPad readers spending on average around 90 minutes with the app each week. Unlike the desktop and laptop web experience, these devices are allowing users to read at their leisure. 

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Some key facts from the presentation:

  • 42 percent of tablet users regularly read in-depth articles, with another 40 percent reading them occasionally
  • Tablet users are three times more likely to read an article than watch a news video
  • A user's eye activity is far more focused on an iPad app than on a website
  • Some users believe the content received in an app is even worth more than content received elsewhere, with a large majority saying they find it easier to learn new things and enjoy the news more when using apps
  • The Economist projects a fall of over 50 percent in the preference for paper over other formats in the next 2 years, with tablet preference growing to over 20 percent.
  • 71 percent of tablet users prefer reading or hearing news over pictures or video, compared to roughly 50 / 50 in the general population. 

These facts have led The Economist to call this upsurge "the rebirth of reading." It seems to be deliberately avoiding the model of flooding their apps with web-exclusive content and video like other publishers, but instead sees it as necessary to rethink its publishing model based around the needs of its reader. Although reading habits are trending back towards a model that publishers are traditionally comfortable with, publishers can't afford to be complacent.