You don’t need to invest $100,000-plus in custom app development, or re-work your entire website around HTML5 and responsive design, to engage the growing numbers of your audience who are accessing your content through smartphones or tablets. You can start by thinking of new ways to package your content to make it more appealing on a smaller screen, or more useful to a user on the go.
In its just released Outlook report on the media and entertainment industry, PwC notes that the number of mobile Internet subscribers will more than double over the next five years, from 1.2 billion in 2011 to 2.9 billion by 2016. This increase, PwC notes, “will significantly expand the potential market for mobile advertising and mobile content.”
Smells like opportunity. Here are four methods that publishers can leverage to increase their mobile presence.
E-books are an appealing format for magazine or pure-play digital publishers looking to repackage existing content without a heavy development investment. For example, Forbes Chief Product Officer Lewis Dvorkin has turned his blog posts on Forbes’ evolving journalism model into an e-book – an eating-his-own-dog-food display of entrepreneurial journalism.
"Hyperink … indexed all my posts (probably 60 or so) to identify keyword patterns and engagement levels (views, comments and backlinks). The result was a ranked list of my posts that helped determine the book’s initial outline. Keyword and search data were also used to find anchor words for a title. Then, an editor was brought in to determine the book’s organization and structure and to increase readability through a round of light editing and proofreading.”
Dvorkin said he put in about 20 hours of his own editing time. Hyperink created a cover, formatted the book (PDF, epub and mobi), then submitted it to the app stores. Forbes is now working with Hyperink to develop a regular digital publishing schedule for Forbes’ growing roster of content creators.
Technology publisher GigaOM also joined the ranks of e-book publishers this week with the launch of, you guessed it, GigaOM Books. The new imprint, VP Michael Wolf writes, is “where we’ll publish new works from our own team of writers as well as other great voices we’ve discovered. We’ll also publish some of our most popular reports from GigaOM Pro, allowing, for the first time, access in e-book format to great research on Kindle, Nook and iPad.”
GigaOM has created a site to sell the book and is currently offering six titles, with prices ranging from $2.99 to $9.99.
Variations on e-books hold appeal to publishers as well. E-book siblings include “singles” (a way for publishers to monetize long-form content). Several Hearst brands publish e-singles, from Good Housekeeping (Amazing Soup Diet) to Cosmopolitan (Sexiest Stories Ever). Rodale has also launched a series of e-singles, including “Essential Guides” from Runner’s World.
B2B publishers are experimenting with the guidebook theme as well. Farm Journal Media, for example, is developing an app version of its Online Field Guide, a database to help farmers identify and manage weeds, diseases and pests that affect their crops.
Media companies, especially B2B publishers, generally have access to a lot of data – even if it’s not their own. Mobile presents an opportunity to package and publish data in new and interesting ways, in either text message or app form, to help people find information or complete tasks during work or leisure time.
Don’t think there’s utility here? One of Farm Journal Media’s most popular offerings is Commodity Update, a subscription service that delivers commodity pricing alerts to farmers’ phones throughout the day.
“The service lets you pick which commodities and which types of contracts you want to track, and then pings you SMS listings of current prices on a schedule you select, between one and nine times per day,” said Mitch Rouda, president of eMedia at Farm Journal Media. “A user can also ping the service and get current prices on demand.”
More than 70,000 farmers have signed up to receive the data, which is compiled from the Chicago Board of Trade. Farm Journal monetizes the alerts through annual subscriptions (prices range between $9.95 a month and $99.95 a year) and sponsorships.
Publishers can localize their content to make it more compelling to mobile users. There’s tons of room for consumer and B2B publishers to innovate with location-based content.
The June editions of Rodale’s Men’s Health and Women’s Health, for example, feature a GPS-enabled UV index that auto-loads current UV risk-factor readings based on the user’s location, as part of its coverage of skin cancer protection.
Last month, Farm Journal Media launched Cash Grain Bids, a location-based app for iPhone or Android that helps farmers compare local grain prices. Farmers select the crop they want prices on, enable their phone’s location service, and receive bids from five local grain elevators. A click-to-call option lets the farmer complete the transaction.
A Q1 study by Viacom found that U.S. tablet owners used their devices at home 74% of the time. A similar survey of tablet owners in Europe found that 80% use their tablets in the living room. A Nielsen survey of consumers in the U.S. and Europe found that 88 percent of tablet owners use their device while watching TV.
This trend bodes well for enthusiast publications that can tie their content into broadcast or cable programming to create a more interactive experience. TVGuide.com, for example, has been following this trend and is working on a new iPad app targeted at TV-watching tablet users.
“We’ve seen a big shift in behavior with our audience,” said David Singer, VP of product development for TVGuide.com. “We’re learning to cater to them, which is helping to shape our product roadmap.” TVGuide.com’s new iPad app, which Singer’s team is developing in-house, is due later this summer.