Get off the Internet and on the phone
Many publishers are stuck in a cycle of playing technology catch-up. They are trying to figure out how to monetize Web phenomena like Twitter and Facebook long after the need to do so has already become apparent. Want to break that cycle? It’s simple: Make sure your mobile content is up and rolling.
There are a lot of reasons that the phone (or some variant, like the iPad) is the platform of the incredibly near future. I’m not going to list them here. If you have any doubts, look around you. See if you can find someone without a smart phone. Now ask them if they want to get one.
This development is good news for the news. Mobile users access general news content more than sports information, share prices, online banking, restaurant reviews or weather forecasts, according to comScore.
Here are three essential steps to make sure you’re not missing out on mobility.
- Actually access your site from a smart phone. This may seem painfully obvious, but unfortunately it’s not.* Don’t listen to what the consultants or tech guys are saying – do it yourself. Pretend this is a new thing for you (this is easier for some of us than we’d like to admit). Can you use the site easily? Does everything look like you want it to? I’ve been to a lot of news sites that look like they were ported to mobile without a second thought about usability. And it shows. Personally I find that with mobile – much more than online – I have a “one and done” approach to a site. If it doesn’t work the first time, I don’t go back.
- Make sure you have a smart phone app and that it works well. See above. An app for your product/content gives you a direct link to that user. He or she may get it from Google or Apple, but once they start using it they are yours. Don’t blow your chance.
- Go local or go home. Computers, even laptops and netbooks, aren’t used everywhere. Phones are. I want information on where I am or what I want to do right now and right here. The more of that you can provide, the better. The Metro has taken a huge step in the right direction by teaming up with the uber-local social network Foursquare.
If you’re wondering what other “local” steps to take, check out this incredibly useful post by Chris Brogan at OpenForum. While this type of localization would seem to exclude other type of publications – for example, ones that are industry specific – don’t fall for it. Someone is going to come up with a great way to give localized industry-wide content. Think of how Google Earth uses layers with its maps. There is information there that people want and don’t know they can get. Your job is to get there before them.
*This approach is groundbreaking no matter what technology you use. In an amazingly good business book called Up The Organization, Robert Townsend, the former CEO of Hertz, tells how he used to test his own organization by acting like an outsider and trying to get through to himself on the phone. Doing these things yourself can tell you as much as any focus group.