Readers are consuming their news on more than one platform. Pew’s 2012 State of the News Media report found that while the desktop or laptop computer remained the primary digital platform for news (54 percent of Americans receive their news there), 23 percent of U.S. adults now get their news on at least two digital devices.
With more consumers gravitating toward smartphones and tablets, the industry is on the verge of a new technological force that can take their advertising and content to the next level.
What’s your plan?
Even though Pew’s study of 38 newspapers found that mobile made up only a small part of revenue — 1 percent of the digital revenue in 2011 — executives are still excited about the prospects of mobile, particularly in the growth of traffic on mobile platforms. For the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, mobile marketing has been a “game changer,” according to digital business development manager Troy Piekarski.
“With a PC and laptop, content has always been at our fingertips, but with mobile, content is at our fingertips 24/7,” he said.
Piekarski said users are three to five times more likely to click on mobile ads. “At most, a mobile device should only have three ads. More people will see it because the image cannot be ignored, compared to a desktop where users have ‘banner blindness.’”
When Piekarski spoke at this year’s America East conference in Hershey, Pa., he asked the 90 mobile marketing session attendants if they had an iPad solution — only about five hands went up. “I was shocked,” he said.
Learning about upcoming mobile strategies is essential, Piekarski said. “Publishers want to learn how they can monetize their products. Some are still on the fence and they’re not sure on mobile, but during the session, pens didn’t stop moving, and I’ve heard back from about a dozen people who wanted more information.”
Piekarski said a successful Post-Gazette mobile campaign involved local business Moon Automotive. The car dealership was looking for a way to build a mobile database and turned to the newspaper for help. When customers texted in their favorite vehicle brand, they were entered into a drawing to win a free iPad. The giveaway was given prominent placement on the homepage of the paper’s desktop site and the homepage of the mobile site for three days.
As a result, the car dealership’s database grew to more than 2,000 phone numbers. Each of the numbers targeted to the dealer’s brand was placed in databases for future remarketing. After the giveaway ended, the business sent out a text message to everyone who didn’t win an iPad to let them know they had won an oil change coupon.
Once Moon Automotive saw the results of capturing those customers, Piekarski said the mobile marketing campaign became “tangible to them.”
The Post-Gazette also recently launched a redesigned website (post-gazette.com) built on a mobile platform focused on social networking and quick response (QR) codes. According to Piekarski, monthly pageviews at the Post-Gazette’s mobile website have grown from 1.5 million in April 2009 to 5.3 million as of February 2012.
“Selling mobile is not a passing fad,” said Post-Gazette director of advertising Rich Medeiros. “We have to be ready to accept it and train our staff, or else we will miss the wave.” Medeiros added that newspapers have an advantage, because they know their local market.
Allen Klosowski, senior director of social and mobile media at The Denver Post, said that as of January 2012, the Post’s mobile traffic neared 40 percent of all online pageviews due to the company’s aggressive priority, focus, and development of mobile products.
“Mobile will be a key area of growth over the next several years,” Klosowski said. “In many cases it will outpace the Web in terms of daily consumption, particularly when combined with smart notifications of breaking news or other relevant information.”
For advertisers, Klosowski said being on mobile is an “absolute requirement.”
“You must be able to give the right consumers, the right advertisement, at the right time, in the right place,” he said.
Klosowski said more consumers are gravitating toward mobile, because the experience is more adaptable to them. “It will create a discovery of places to go, things to do, products to buy, and media to consume. The information will come to you. This is a tremendous new opportunity for advertisers and content producers alike.”
Apps, Klosowski said, are easy and intuitive, and designed around the way consumers want to interact with information, and websites on tablets are starting to become more tactile and swipeable. The Denver Post has seen success with its sports apps and Viva Colorado app, a bilingual news source for Denver’s Latino population.
Klosowski said publishers usually ask him how to get their sales representatives to sell mobile and get customers to buy it.
“I think the answer is you have to be able to demonstrate the value directly to customers and sales reps,” Klosowski said. “You have to start with those sales reps that are already carrying a smartphone every day and work outward in the organization from there. You need to empower reps with smartphones as budgets allow. Then, they need to be trained to be able to instantly demonstrate to a potential advertiser that still doesn’t use a mobile phone the benefit of mobile advertising.”
Training sales reps on how to sell mobile is also important for Schurz Communications, Inc.’s mobile director, Sandy Martin. Based in Mishawaka, Ind., the company publishes 11 daily and eight weekly newspapers in medium and small markets around the country, including the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune.
“There is an idea that mobile is disruptive to the Web and that mobile cuts into the share of digital revenue, like when TV disrupted radio,” Martin said. “Mobile may seem insignificant, but there are profound implications for that revenue. Newspapers may not realize how quickly things are shifting, and they may miss out on advertising revenue, so I ask them, ‘What are you planning?’”
Martin said the solution is to have sales reps who believe in their product. “Right now very few reps think mobile is better than the Web, so it’s very challenging for them to communicate with the client why mobile is best. For mobile products to thrive, someone needs to think they are the best. Our best middle-ground effort is to train reps how to suggest a variety of ads to meet multiple marketing needs for clients.”
A popular mobile app for Schurz is Catalist, which follows the Twitter feed of University of Kentucky basketball team players and coaches and their opposing teams before each game.
“(The Catalist app) came from a brainstorming session in-house,” Martin said. “It didn’t exist anywhere else, so it had to be custom-built, and if we have a really good idea, we will make an investment.”
As the mobile market continues to grow, publishers are looking for strategies that work. Mark Challinor, director of mobile with Londonbased Telegraph Media Group, wrote in a recent International Newsmedia Marketing Association blog entry that the challenge for news media companies is “capturing and holding readers’ attention and presenting only the right content in the context of who the reader is, what they’re interested in, and where they are.
“Know your readership and how they use mobile with you,” Challinor said. “To deliver this user experience and make it effective, we should take the time to learn what our readers’ mobile content habits are: how they access our content online, what our brand is known for, and what they expect from us.”
Here in the U.S., Advanced Publishing Technology, Inc., with headquarters in Burbank, Calif., provides publishing companies with the enhanced Falcon software suite. Falcon software is currently installed at more than 300 locations. Clients include The Chronicle-Tribune in Marion, Ind., and the Kokomo (Ind.) Tribune.
Realizing that more of his clients were looking for a mobile solution, APT vice president of operations Ken Barber said the company began to make its applications available in mobile. “Smartphone and tablets had become a part of the main workflow,” he said.
The latest Falcon editorial system has the ability to publish to Apple’s Newsstand on the iPad and to Amazon’s Kindle. Tablet applications for iPad and Android slated for this year will allow users to edit or read stories securely on the network.
In order for publishers to stay competitive, they want something that can get their content online faster. “We ask (publishers) what content and ads they want to send to what mobile app, and it gets fed right into it,” said APT editorial product manager Wolfie Frank.
He added that mobile reporters have the ability to type up stories and submit them through a Web browser, and the website is updated automatically.
APT also offers software for online classifieds and contests. For example, an online photo contest is a fun and easy way for online visitors and print subscribers to interact and a way to drive more traffic to the website. Online product manager Diane Duren said publishers could charge certain prices for the ads and then upsell additional features such as backgrounds and borders.
In addition to content and advertising, mobile applications are on the rise. Based in San Jose, Calif., Whiz Technologies was founded almost three years ago, specifically to create mobile apps for the newspaper publishers.
Founder and chief executive officer Nikil Modi said apps should be “content and feature rich and aesthetically pleasing in order to make a good reading experience.
“There are general concerns from publishers on how to monetize their apps,” he said. “The best way is through a paid content strategy — a mobile paywall. If publishers have a free content model, we tell them to avoid network ads because the CPM (or cost per impression) rates are low; rely on your sales team, and instead bundle mobile with print, or have your big advertisers sponsor the app.”
The Commercial Appeal in Memphis is one of Modi’s clients. Whiz created a MobileNewsPack for the publication focused on four components: mobile apps, mobile dashboard, normalization engine/server, and services. Modi said the apps went live about seven months ago and continue to yield good results.
comScore’s 2012 Mobile Future in Focus report found that nearly 42 percent of all U.S. mobile subscribers are now using smartphones, and by the end of 2011, nearly 15 percent of users also had tablets. Both statistics are a sign that mobile media is accelerating.
“These mobile devices are getting smarter about learning what its owner wants,” Klosowski said. “Through the applications they install to the location services they use, it is the best chance to create a personalized media consumption experience of any available media platform.”
APT president David Kraai said mobile will only become faster. “We will need to provide content faster and instantly funnel the news for mobile customers. Ads will also be put up quicker.”
According to Modi, publishers should embrace mobile now, because they are in a better position to monetize their content. “At the end of the day, publishers do several things well: They know how to generate local content, and they know how to sell ads for local businesses.”
With the future of mobile filled with augmented reality and QR codes, the possibilities are endless, but as Martin put it, “Newspapers have always been a mobile product — you can carry it with you anywhere. Now people enjoy this kind of mobile experience more.”