Your audience is already mobile—will you catch up?
Audiences want to interact with media brands on mobile devices—via “untethered digital content” said John Loughlin, Hearst Magazines EVP and general manager, at the recent Digital Innovators' Summit in Berlin.
Loughlin noted that there will be 67 million smartphone users in 2010, citing the CEA, Strategy Analytics & Gartner study. If those numbers prove true, mobile Web usage is poised to rival U.S. broadband penetration (69.9 million in 2009 according to Leichtman Research Group). The rate of smartphone adoption is impressive when you consider it took broadband over 10 years to get to its current usage levels while smartphones have reached nearly the same adoption since the iPhone permanently changed the game less than three years ago.
Media companies should focus on using mobile devices to connect to and engage with audiences on those audiences' own turf, offering users impulse buy opportunities in the form of upsell content and applications. Guardian Media Group CEO Carolyn McCall said that Guardian has learned that people will pay for convenience and quality of experience on mobile devices but warned that media brands must create quality applications because users will quickly judge and compare. “Design needs to start with the end-user,” she said.
Many media companies still focused primarily on trying to sell display advertising and print subscriptions don't seem to get it. “Digital is constantly being asked to make up for loss of print revenues and it cannot do that because digital revenues are commoditized,” said McCall at the summit.
Mobile represents an opportunity to break with that commoditization, but media companies shouldn't put all their digital eggs in one basket, advised Loughlin. Just because the iPhone and iPad are buzz-worthy now doesn't mean that your mobile focus should be tailor-made for Apple. The key is to invest in technology that can lend itself to the next shiny new device.