Mobile advertising: What works?
This week, the Magazine Publishers of America and eMediaVitals held the second installment in their luncheon series The Magazine Mobile Imperative. This week’s topic was mobile advertising. Our panelists included Craig Ettinger, vice president of marketing and business operations at Time.com; Pooja Midha, group vice president of business development for MTV Networks Digital; and Matt Snyder, president of mobile media agency MediaMob.
The panelists touched on several topics related to mobile content and mobile advertising, including the following:
Which platform to support?
The main challenge for publishers is deciding which mobile devices to support with development and sales resources. Time.com, for example, offers a mobile-enabled WAP site (launched in 2006) along with apps for Blackberry (released in July 2009), the iPhone (September 2009) and the iPad (April 2010). Time.com plans to release its first app for Android devices this summer.
A WAP site, basically a mobile extension of a publisher’s existing website, can be accessed by any mobile device. Developing apps for specific devices requires separate development efforts, and therefore is more costly.
Ettinger listed several pros and cons in the WAP vs. app debate:
* Easier to maintain and iterate user interface/design
* Streamlined reporting
* Good for pushing out content
* One version across all platforms (except iPhone)
* Can’t update for offline consumption
* Must leave WAP site for video or audio
* Slow to update
* Not great for producing content (user-generated content)
* Self-contained experience
* Graphics, games, user-generated content
* Can receive updates automatically then read content offline
* Leverages device-native capabilities — accelerometer, camera, GPS
* Strong paid model
* Fragmentation — need to build for multiple platforms (skilled developers focused on iPhone, not BlackBerry)
* Managing multiple releases
* Client side changes
* Need to submit app to some stores for approval
When deciding which platform to support, Midha suggested that publishers look to their audience as “the best North Star,” particularly the "super users." In other words, research which devices are being used to access your site, which platform they are using in the greatest scale, and what users are doing with the content on these devices.
Midha also shared MTVN’s experiences with various mobile ad formats — most of which are still focused on the mobile Web.
Finding the right partners
Publishers need to seek out the right vendor partners that are not only experts in one area but many areas, said Snyder. But that's not an easy task; the market is flooded with specialists for specific platforms, such as a vendor providing SMS or custom iPad app development. For publishers, finding the right partners can be “exhausting,” he said.
“There is a real need for finding folks who are not only experts in one area but have the expertise to bring you to others. Fragmentation is a huge issue in mobile,” Snyder said. He suggested that publishers seek out partners who can help them get rid of that silo effect and focus on “what we as a brand are trying to do in leveraging these digital touch points rather than focusing on a digital slice of the pie.”
Aligning the sales organization
New mobile products can be quite disruptive for sales teams. Time.com felt the mobile market was important enough to keep with its in-house sales team. The company’s eight-person dedicated digital sales force now sells premium mobile inventory, with any backfill done through ad networks.
"In the short term it's costly to do this because you're using up valuable time from the sales perspective where you might be focusing on covering more accounts and selling larger online deals," Ettinger said. "Whereas longer term again we felt that if we didn't do this now, if we outsourced the sales to someone else, a year or two from now when mobile is much bigger from the advertising perspective, we didn't want to be playing catch-up."
The iPad represents a different animal from the rest of Time’s mobile efforts, Ettinger said. The iPad is the only device for which Time's digital and print sales teams are collaborating.
“It’s an interesting model because to date you’ve had print people selling print and digital people selling mobile and online,” he said. “Now we have a product that bridges that from a consumer standpoint and has forced us to take on this new model where we have both teams selling a single product.” The model will continue to evolve as more advertisers come on board and more advertisers ask for cross-platform buys, he said.
Advertisers are looking more and more to the advice of publishers to help them get on the mobile Web, Ettinger said. He estimates about half of the campaigns they run for Time Mobile are with large marketers experienced in running traditional and online media but just dipping their toes in the water as far as the mobile market.
"They know they want to run mobile and they think they understand it but they don’t necessarily understand what it really takes to run an effective campaign," he said. “We end up consulting probably half of the advertisers that run with us, even if they’re not explicitly asking.”