The mobile web: Digital apocalypse for publishers?
One in a series of Executive Insights looking at the challenges and opportunities for publishers in 2012.
The mobile web is a game-changer for publishers. A recent TechCrunch article cited that time spent on mobile devices now averages 65 minutes per day, compared to 44 minutes for print. Mobile saw a 30 percent increase over 2010, while print saw a 12 percent decrease.
Doomsday for publishers? I think not, but consider packing some canned goods in your bomb shelter if you’re not ready.
You need only check your analytics to see that mobile is already changing the game. At COLE Publishing, about 10 percent of the traffic accessing our sites over the past 30 days was via mobile devices. During the same time period in 2010, 4.7 percent came from mobile; in 2009, just 0.02 percent came from mobile. That’s a staggering 995 percent increase over two years ago. If you’re in a tech market, those numbers will trend significantly higher.
Not the same site
So what experience are you presenting to those who (now) comprise 10 percent – or more – of your traffic? The answer simply cannot be the same site you’re displaying on the desktop. We use our smartphones in different places, at different times and for distinctly different purposes than we use the traditional web.
The mobile web requires information to load faster and be more readable, easier to navigate and more succinct. Can your desktop site be navigated through a smartphone browser with one thumb and one eyeball while walking down a street? Does content load in a large enough format to read without a pinch zoom? Does it load in less than three seconds?
Your mobile content needs to be tailored to the audience. Consider what people will be searching for and participating in while on the move, and make those your most important mobile components. Ensure that social media is tightly integrated into your mobile offerings. Create a mobile-only site or consider responsive design to make a one-site-fits-all experience.
Responsive design allows the flexibility of having one site for desktop, tablet and smartphone. Though it does have some design and ad serving limitations, it’s definitely the most cost-effective means of going mobile-friendly. The Boston Globe introduced a responsive site about six months ago, proving it a viable option for even the largest of publishers.
New revenue streams
Not only will optimizing your site for mobile increase traffic, page visits and time on site, it can create a new and exclusive revenue stream. Advertisers recognize the value of mobile traffic, especially in the regional and local markets. A 2011 Google survey indicates that after researching a business on a mobile device, 61 percent will call and 59 percent will visit.
Mobile makes purchasing a here-and-now event. Those who deliver the information, ads and experiences that best fulfill that need, will earn the greatest returns. Regional and local publishers should be salivating over this data, and certainly leading this mobile revolution.
Nearly two decades ago, the Internet changed the game – content, revenue, advertising and even subscription models were transformed overnight – though many of us didn’t wake up the next morning and recognize the changes. We struggled to learn and adapt, some finally figured it out … and now it’s all changing … again.
The mobile web, smartphones and tablets present our content in completely new formats, in new context and with new challenges. Recognizing mobile opportunities early – or earlier, in this case – could keep your bomb shelter stocked with enough canned goods to survive the latest digital apocalypse.