Mobile is everywhere nowadays and traditional publishers are working to better serve the mobile crowd. After all, with 46 percent of Americans using smartphones (not to mention tablets) it’d be shortsighted to not address the new mobile face of media. Traditional publishers have worked over the last two decades to bring content to websites, blogs, and online versions of magazines – now they’re faced with the challenge of showcasing that content in a mobile-friendly way.
For example, Hearst Publications, one of the largest diversified media companies in the world, has been successful in mobilizing their online content. Hearst started the mobilization process by adapting Good Housekeeping for mobile devices. Mobile traffic for Hearst's optimized sites grows an average of 74 percent in the first month after the smartphone-friendly version is released.
Across all of Hearst's online properties, mobile devices accounts for 19 percent of the traffic, which is 9 percent higher than average mobile device traffic for the entire Internet. One out of three “Cosmopolitan” pageviews is mobile. Google refers almost 40 percent of those views. One year ago, Hearst's mobile share was only 5 percent. According to Lauren Indvik of Mashable, the low mobile pageviews were likely attributable to the pages not being optimized for mobile devices.
It’s not just Hearst: everyone with content to share faces the challenge of making that content mobile. Even Google is getting in on the action, creating “Currents,” which showcases information in a magazine-like format designed for mobile devices. They already have content agreements from more than 150 sources, including the Huffington Post, Forbes, and PBS. Time, Inc. signed a deal in June 2012 allowing it to provide all 20 of its magazines to subscribers via the iPad.
Of course, publishers face challenges in mobilizing online content, too. Most publishers earn less money when content is viewed on a mobile device than when the same content is viewed on a desktop. Despite the increasing number of webpages viewed on mobile devices, mobile advertising has not caught up. Less money is spent on mobile advertising. Traditional advertising methods – like full page spreads in magazines or banner ads – aren't an effective method of mobile advertising. Large spreads and banners require more space than is available on mobile devices. A banner ad on a smartphone, for example, would have to take up more than 30 percent of the screen to display legible text, while it may only take up 10 percent of the screen on a desktop computer.
Experimental methods of mobile advertising are already deployed, though. Companies like Twitter build ads into its core products, so they appear alongside tweets on a user's feed. JiWire, an advertising company, designs ads that access mobile GPS capabilities to display locally relevant ads. Grant Whitmore, Vice President of digital at Hearst, says the company is working to create interactive mobile advertisements that move beyond currently-running banner ads. For the moment, some publishers generate revenue via paid one-off apps for mobile devices, like InStyle's hairstyling app for iPad.
The writing is on the wall – or on the iPad, more likely. As consumers increasingly embrace mobile devices, so must publishers. It’s a new way of delivering content that offers lots of exciting opportunities not only for media companies, but also for advertisers and subscribers. Publishers will no doubt see increasingly positive results from mobile subscriptions in years to come.
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