Posts Tagged ‘ iPad ’

Tablet Publishing: What Magazines Can Teach

I recently wrote an article for NetNewsCheck.com on the topic tablet publishing and why it seems that magazines are more innovative in this area than newspapers.  I have included a portion of the article.  You can read the full article at NetNewsCheck.com.

Tablet computers have scaled faster than any computing device in history, and there’s no slowdown anytime soon. According to a recent International Data Corporation (IDC) forecast, 121 million were sold in 2012 and the number could reach 190 million in 2013.

The top age demographic for purchasing tablets is 30-49-year-olds. Interestingly, almost as many 55-64 year olds are buying tablets as 18-24 year olds.

What are the daily reading activities on these tablets? According to BI Intelligence, 30-49-year-olds read news content on their tablets 38% of the time, spending 17% on books and 6% on magazines. The core age group for most newspapers, 50-64-year-olds, read news 43% of the time, followed by 17% on books and 6% on magazines.

Considering the relatively small amount of time tablet users spend on magazines, it is curious to observe what appears to be a higher level of innovation from magazines than from newspapers (perhaps driven by advertisers’ attraction to the form factor’s stunning visuals).

Many newspapers are currently pursuing mobile and tablet publishing by creating responsive design Web sites. This means that the exact same content displayed on a desktop website automatically re-formats to fit smaller (or bigger) screens such as tablet and smartphone screens.

From a cost perspective, it is the most efficient use of resources. Rather than developing a multitude of Web sites and/or apps for different screens and platforms, a publisher simply uses one code base. This also enables publishers to avoid Apple’s App Store and its submission guidelines as an added bonus.

Now compare that to what’s happening in the magazine world.

Among magazines’ old guard, the five largest publishers in the U.S. formed a joint venture and launched a start-up, Next Issue Media, with the specific aim to bring about innovation in the digital space.  Read rest of article at netnewscheck.com.

Library_Next_Issue

INTERNET VIDEO IS THE FUTURE

I recently worked on developing a business plan for a consumer internet video business.  Much of the research done was compelling as it relates to the future of internet video.  The market is exploding and once again mobile plays a big role in the growth.  I thought I would share the information.

Consumers are watching more video than ever. But the way they watch is changing. Increasingly, the demand is being met via the Internet. From smart and connected TVs to laptops, tablets and smartphones, consumers now have more devices than ever to connect to the Internet to stream content.

More and more of consumers are taking advantage of the increased ability to determine what, how, when and where to watch.

Even so, video consumption and interaction by screen and device varies greatly by life-stage and lifestyle, by age, gender, and by ethnicity.  No longer does one size fit all, and new trends continue to emerge.

Yet, the US consumer’s attention continues to lie in the quest to seek TV and TV-like professionally produced content. Consider Netflix which earlier this year expanded its offering not just by increasing its partnerships to re-air programming but also jumped into the game of producing and delivering original content.

The key to success will be to identify the biggest and most immediate opportunities for growth in the growing market of Internet Video. The following section will analyze the market opportunities.

internet_video_overview

Internet video[1]

Traditional TV is still king. But more and more consumers are discovering new video content via the Internet. The lion’s share of Internet video can be assumed to come from desktops/laptops.162.5M users now watching video on the Internet while 36M watch on a mobile phone.

table2

Internet video is still in its infancy as evidenced by the chart below. However, there’s a trend emerging: Time spent watching traditional TV is in decline and Internet video is increasing. We can expect the change to start happening more rapidly over the next couple of years, as more people get high-speed Internet connections and get Internet enabled devices.

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Looking at a month in the life of Americans, traditional TV by far garners the most attention, with the 65+ age demographic spending 220:22 hours per month. Younger demographics increasingly watch timeshifted TV and are gradually turning to Internet video. The age groups 18-24 and 25-34 take the lead, spending 9:38 and 7:09 respectively watching online. In addition, they spend 7:35 and 4:53 watching video on a mobile phone.

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Of the 162.5M watching video on the Internet, the composition skews a little older with 44% coming from the 25-49 age group, and 23% coming from the 50-64 age group. For the 36M watching video on mobile, the composition is younger, with 53%% in the 18-34 age group, and 24% in the 35-49 age group.

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The bottom line:

  • Of the 162.5M users now watching video on the Internet, it is a safe bet that most access from desktop/laptop, while 36M watch on a mobile phones
  • Although traditional TV is king, it is in decline, while we can expect the acceleration of online video watching to increase
  • The age groups 18-24 and 25-34 spend the most time watching both online in general and on mobile
  • The composition for Internet video viewers is slightly older (25-49) and the composition for mobile video viewers is slightly younger (18-34).

Mobile (smartphones and tablets)[2]

In the past, mobile video has been held back by a single factor: bandwidth.  The wireless infrastructure wasn’t fast enough to allow for clean video viewing.

4G LTE is changing that, and mobile video is fast becoming popular on the faster wireless networks.  In the US, 4G subscribers are 33% more likely to watch video on their smartphones than the average mobile user, according to Comscore “Mobile Future 2012” report.

Device design also helps, with smartphones now integrating larger screens and speedier processors (and LTE connectivity).

In short, mobile video is becoming a mass consumer phenomenon, much as digital photos were earlier in the smartphone adoption cycle. As a consequence, consumer behavior is changing in favor of higher mobile video usage, video app uptake and advertising.

Mobile video is growing across the board, but tilts young, reaching audiences not easily penetrated by traditional TV.

Video length is increasing across device types, offering more ad opportunities.

Triple digit growth rates in mobile video ad bookings signal the promise of multi-screen campaigns.

Mobile video is not displacing other mediums.  Instead it appears to be an additive activity: it offers new opportunities for video viewing.

The shift to mobile video is best understood as part of a larger trend away from traditional TV and toward on-demand video, which gives viewers more control over their content and allows for “time shifted” viewing.

Smartphones and tablets now offer options in terms of both when and where content can be viewed.  Tablets can be watched in bed or in your neighborhood café.  Smartphones and mini-tablets can stream a TV sitcom or music video at a bus stop.

According to BI Intelligence analysis of Nielsen data, the US mobile video audience increased 77% to 36 million viewers over last two years.  The second fastest growing category, the audience for time-shifted TV, grew 54% to 146 million.  The chart below shows how mobile video’s share of total video viewing worldwide has also surged.


mobileshare

A misperception about mobile video is that a small screen automatically translates to a consumer preference for shorter videos.  However, as the chart below shows, almost half of videos watched on smartphone screens are 10 minutes or longer, according to Ooyala’s data.  Tablet viewers spend even more of their time – 67% – watching videos longer than 10 minutes.

smartphone_longer_videos

Apple’s IOS-powered devices have a huge lead in terms of driving the most mobile video views. The chart below shows which percentage of videos not viewed on a desktop. IOS devices drive 57% of the views, versus 15% for Android.  Xbox drives more views than Android.

video_ios

On the advertising front, video is part of a larger shift in mobile advertising toward rich media ads that provide more engagement and interactivity and a more tailored experience particular to the device the user is immersed in.

In the chart below, data from Opera’s mobile ad network illustrate the tectonic shift to rich media and video ads, with mobile video ads doubling from 6% to 13% of ad executions in just six months.

Mobile video is a promising medium for advertisers, because it offers a polished TV-style ad, while also presenting an opportunity to ask users to perform other actions, such as signing up for an e-mail about a product or an app.

ads

Video will be key to monetizing mobile advertising.  The relatively low value of mobile ads has in large part been driven by small screens and consumers’ distaste for intrusive ads.  The hope is that mobile video will be the engaging ad format that finally unlocks mobile’s potential.

YuMe, a multi-screen ad solutions provider saw mobile video ad impressions grow 75% from Q1 to Q2, reaching 7% of all impressions.  Mobile ad network Greystripe reported a 300% increase in mobile video ad bookings between Q3 and Q4 last year.  They also boasted 1% to 3% click-through rates on its mobile video ads, and completion rates of 50%.

Bear in mind that mobile ad numbers are still tiny and are growing from a small base of limited inventory.  But even if the value of mobile video ads trend down, spending will still flow to them.  Advertisers will need to capture those eyeballs becoming glued to the small screen.

Current eCPMs for mobile video ads run in the $5 range while in-app video can garner a $10 eCPM.

The bottom line:

  • Users are watching longer videos across all devices, and watching a greater proportion of their video on mobile.
  • Mobile video ad bookings are growing at triple digit rates.
  • Over the long term, robust video-ad CPMs could be threatened by consumers’ tendency to tire of digital ad formats but new formats will need to evolve.

 

Connected Television[3]

Connected TVs are TVs connected to the Internet, whether it’s via Web-TV devices such as Roku and Apple TV, game consoles, or smart TVs.

It is estimated that by 2018, 80% of all TVs shipped will be smart TVs. In the meantime, existing TVs are being connected from the 8.6M Web-TV devices sold globally last year[4].

The chart below shows the number of households with the different sources of service provided.  These same sources are critical in supplying high speed internet access.

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When you consider the amount of bandwidth needed to support streaming video, it is important the number of households with broadband reaches critical mass.  As the chart below indicates broadband penetration of U.S. households now stands at almost 84 million.

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In addition, gaming console manufacturers are also seeking to claim a stake in this evolving ecosystem.  Not only have they strategically aligned themselves to provide video content and gaming interactivity through their consoles, they are capitalizing on an established footprint.  These evolving entertainment hubs are enabling a new set of opportunities for entertainment consumption through media applications.

Owners of game consoles spend considerable time with their devices. PS3 users are spending 36 minutes daily, Wii users 17 minutes, and Xbox 360 users 32 minutes.  And it’s not just for gaming. These consoles act as both gaming vehicles and video content purveyors.  They enable social gaming as well as DVD play and streaming through apps.

The chart below identifies how many U.S. households have devices that could have capability to access the Internet in the home.

table12

The bottom Line:

  • Connected TVs represents the future, however it is still in its infancy
  • Web-TV devices a transition while smart TV’s will be the norm by 2015
  • We cannot forget the impact of multi purpose game consoles, unlike Web-TV devices, this segment will continue to grow

 

AUDIENCE

Having grown up with the Internet, Generation Y is more connected than any other generation. As such, their needs and wants are different.

They don’t think of TV as a box in the living room. To them, it doesn’t matter if their videos come from a TV, an iPad or a smartphone. As long as it’s what they want, when they want it.

Gen Y are socially connected consumers. They share everything and they are “on” all the time. They expect the services and products they interact with to enable their connected lifestyles.

Increasingly, consumers are “social explorers”, meaning they use social media channels as their primary source for news and entertainment.

Consider these facts[5]:

  • 17% of all users are Social Explorers
  • People share to talk about themselves, to “brand” themselves
  • 47% of Gen Y’s will write about positive experiences online
  • 39% of Gen Y’s will share negative encounters online
  • 50% of Gen Y’s have over 300 Facebook friends
  • 43% of Gen Y’s have Liked more than 23 brands
  • 40% of Gen Y’s visit Facebook more than 10 times a day

 

The bottom line:

 

  • Gen Y is ahead of other generations and are currently more socially connected
  • In order to be successful with this audience it is important to embed social features in all aspects of the product

[1] Source for data tables: Nielsen cross platform report

Goodnight Peel. Lessons Learned.

The Peel Original Development Team

I’m pretty sure most of us have experienced at least one dramatic shift at a certain point in our careers.  One thing I have always prided myself on is reflection and willingness to learn from every major shift.  The most recent buyout of Freedom Communications and subsequent changes with senior leadership led to many strategy shifts and even total elimination of certain products.  One of the products discontinued was the iPad application called “The Peel”.  Those of you integrated into the process of developing The Peel are fully aware that its production was hard labor; countless hours of blood, sweat and tears.  Well maybe not blood but certainly the sweat and tears. However, those of us intimate with this product saw a light at the end of the tunnel, which we calculated to be about 2 years after its initial launch; we had projected 2 years just to get to break even on the profitability front. That investment period was abruptly ended – cut short by one year.  Its new owners failed to acknowledge the future of this product. So back to my original point: Anytime a major change takes place in my career, I need to reflect on the “why” and “what did we learn along the way” questions.  To give a proper response, I’ve written this post on the lessons learned from our experience with tablet publishing.

I’ll start with the reason that The Peel was eliminated: The new owners of Freedom stated that the focus of the company moving forward would be on subscribers and profitable products.  Seems reasonable for new owners to say.  The problem is that the premises of The Peel was to gain a new audience – to reach a much younger demographic than traditional newspapers. A demographic that is adverse to subscription-based models.  We were, in fact, creating a new way of publishing, using the iPad as the main vehicle; with more video, original content, local information and events than a typical news platform.  As I see it, if a newspaper’s main focus is on subscriptions and profitable products, it makes it very difficult to invest in creating new and different new sources of content.  Regardless of the decision, there were valuable lessons learned that I thought I would share. I know many of you are trying to figure out how to publish for a new audience, and how Mobile and/or Tablet can play a role.

The Good Stuff

  • We learned a key factor in attracting a younger audience was to brand the product with a unique name (non-replica of the newspaper), and play down any connection to its legacy brand.  We fought this battle constantly, both internally and externally.  It may be that your legacy brand is important for initial credibility, but not so much that your readers think it’s the exact same content that’s in your traditional print product.
  • Collaboration is very important with existing content sources, as the resources available from the legacy brand are vast. The large scope of news gathering and related content available for your product is critical to success, and therefore your relationships with legacy journalists are crucial.  We had a great rapport with the local content center; they loved that we were focused on expanding the audience.  They appreciated our role, which was to aggregate relevant content, and to design new elements that brought the content to life on the iPad. Our everyday decisions revolved around our target audience, not what was on the front page of the legacy newspaper or on the homepage of the legacy website.
  • Video must play a major role in the development of content.  Our most viewed stories were usually video-focused stories or features.  We created original series based on prep sports, behind-the-scenes insight into local entertainment, coverage of products & people from our local community and fashion trends.  We had 5 original content series, or “shows” as we called them, in The Peel, We aired the shows on consistent days each week, and we adopted a TV-like marketing effort.  Most of these TV/video products also became hits on The OC Register website.  However, we always kept original show programming exclusive to the iPad for 48 hours.
  • We inspired many other content businesses to follow our lead and produce content similar to The Peel.  We also showed the importance of hiring employees to work on these projects that came from entertainment, TV, production and design.
  • The key component of The Peel each day was the feature story.  The feature stories were brought life with written content, short videos, high-res images and interactive features created in HTML5.  In fact, our usage patterns would go off the charts when we had a rub & reveal HTML5 function in a feature story.
  • We ended up averaging around 5,000 “Uniques” per week and had over 125,000 downloads of the app.  “Time Spent” with the product averaged 13 minutes each time a person opened the app.

The Not So Good Stuff

  • We started out thinking the best thing we could do was to tie our publishing efforts into our existing content management system and workflow.  What a mistake.  Most legacy publishing systems start with a page-layout system that does not understand HTML5 or high-res images; we spent countless hours each day trying to make our desired functionality work within a system that didn’t want to accept it. We had wanted to focus all efforts around the needs and expectations of the end user, and not what the system would or would not do.  Sounds naive, but we missed many opportunities to grow upon content functionality due to being held back by the publishing system.
  • We should have developed more video and original content sooner.  We were so busy just trying to make our deadlines each day in the early stages, that we didn’t have time to collect data that would dictate what changes were needed.
  • The name change to “The Peel” (from its original name “OC Register Tablet app”) occurred when we had realized that most of the users of the iPad app were actually the same people who received the daily traditional print and website versions of the newspaper.  These readers were actually upset that they couldn’t find the stories from the web in the iPad app.  They were expecting an iPad rendition of the website and print products.  We quickly made a strategic shift away from the flagship brand, and what a difference it made. However, again a little late.  It’s not always easy being on the edge of new technology.
  • We should have created a Sunday edition of The Peel.  We were so focused on the Monday through Saturday readers, that we didn’t realize the Sunday users want a similar experience.  We were thinking Sunday was a time when people would slow down and take a look at the printed newspaper.  In fact, what really occurred was that our younger readers were used to experiencing the Monday through Saturday editions, and were actually disrupted by not getting the same experience on Sundays. And, they were not users of our other products; therefore there was a gap in their daily flow of news.
  • Finally, sales and advertisers weren’t ready for this new medium’s type of analytics.  Selling “share-of-voice” was foreign to our sales reps and advertisers, who wanted to talk cpm based buys.  I’m not sure much progress could have been made in this realm, as we simply didn’t have enough scale to gain major sales.  We sold advertising to casinos, sporting goods and some retail, but nowhere else.  The ads that we created for these particular advertisers looked great on the iPad. It was impressive. In the end, we ended up with the budgeted sales we had hoped for, but those numbers didn’t create profits.  I truly believe that we could have been profitable based on our original 2-year timeline. However, with new ownership comes new expectations, and the investment period for The Peel was cut off a year before we could witness that success.

The knowledge gained from this experience has allowed me to become an industry expert in Mobile and Tablet publishing, but boy did it come with some bumps and bruises.  I believe the future is bright for products designed to engage and deliver what a user expects from the device they are using.  I am a strong advocate of creating or publishing around audience expectations, and not trying to repurpose traditional newspaper content to fit the screen of the device.  I hope this post allows others to learn from my experiences and win the pursuit of new audiences by utilizing a new and different way of thinking and publishing.

Publishing for Mobile and Tablets, Why Does It Have To Be So Hard?

My Interactive team has been driving the mobile strategy for the company since 2007, launching hundreds of mobile apps, mobile websites and iPad apps. Those products have been revised over the years, but it’s become clear lately that we need to take our approach to mobile to the next level.

Over the past few months, we have been putting the final touches on a next-generation mobile and tablet apps strategy. We used user data as well as analytics data for our mobile websites, apps and iPad products.

Generally speaking, our news apps have been fairly easy to maintain since they are RSS feeds into a template design. iPad publishing on our “The Peel” app, however, is a different story.  The Peel features a combination of curated and original content.  The process to upload this original content is time-intensive. We have to manually work with each story to create a uniquely interactive experience for iPad consumers that expect dynamic functionality.

As we considered our next generation of products, it was apparent that we needed to improve on the user experience and increase our speed to market (improving on productivity with the backend content management system).  With 2 years of trials and tribulations under our belt, I can certainly say that our strategy for content, design creativity and innovation clearly outweighs our ability to deliver at a desired speed-to-market using the current legacy systems we have in place.

Advertisers expect a unique and compelling experience on mobile and tablets, as do consumers.  But how do we meet these needs when we continue to pull from existing legacy content production systems with ever increasing limitations? Example of limitations: Photo & video resolutions in existing systems don’t take advantage of hi-resolution retina display on an iPad. News stories are currently laid out to fit desktop or printed page, not mobile or tablet, and HTML5 is a foreign language to most.

The answer? Bite-the-bullet! Recognize that if you want to succeed you MUST publish for the future and think about investing in non-legacy products.  Easy enough? Not so much. More issues are arising with each upgrade of smart phone and tablet operating systems. Not easy to stay ahead of the technology curve when newspapers are inherently print-oriented.

Rahul Patel wrote Are Publishers Failing on Tablets:  “Tablet readers expect the best of both worlds.  They want real-time content and web-like interactivity within a user-friendly brand experience that “feels” like the same brand found on the web and in print.” This comment is more focused on magazines but the basic premise is correct for newspapers as well.

So, how can legacy media businesses evolve with technology?  Well, this is our attempt at it:

1)   We focused on the desired design layout.

2)   We decided how often we wanted to publish new content.

3)   We focused on how we could deliver original content that took advantage of HTML5 elements to bring the information to life.

4)   We looked carefully at how smart phone design and functionality differed from tablet design and functionality.

5)   We created our next-generation layout, and assumed it would last about 12 months.

6)   We also asked ourselves “How do we continually feed this beast”?  After all, we had been going on the assumption that we could continue with our legacy systems…

7)   CMS (Onset) & our publishing system (CCI) provide what we need to publish, however the process is labor-intensive, and this production process gets heavier as technology progresses faster and faster! We are just adding to the production time each day as we pursue the best possible experience for our audience.

It’s now time for us to rethink another next-generation process, as we must free ourselves from the current time-intensive workflow environment.  A publishing system and or process should not drive what you deliver to your audience.  That’s the job of the audience.

The Interactive ‘think-tank’ has devised a system where any CMS would feed into a “normalization engine” which would then put all content into its proper place.  The normalization engine would feed the templates automatically, therefore increasing the speed of production.  A dashboard would allow for manual manipulation of the content.  We could pull in HTML5 components, hi-res photos etc.  We could then push to any template we have in place regardless of the device.  Assuming success, we would now spend our time on the creativity of design and interactivity, changeable at your fingertips! This new process would break the heavy production cycle.  The content becomes ubiquitous and our time could be spent at the dashboard level making each interactive experience the best ever.

Not such an easy task… and the hardest part is foregoing the existing production system/workflow environment. If you don’t, you’ll never be able to deliver the experience expected in mobile and tablet publishing on a time-sensitive basis. The key to success is not allowing process or outdated publishing systems drive product.

Stay tuned, every day we learn more.

Display Ads Don’t Work Anymore: NOW WHAT


I attended several meetings last week in the Bay Area and met with several companies including Google and Pandora.  I’m always energized after spending time with businesses whose sole focus is on the pursuit of digital and the monetization of those efforts.

During the meetings we spent a lot of time talking about the ever changing consumer behavior as it relates to interacting with advertising.  As we all know, display ads are still a major component of most online efforts but with each passing day the advertisers that pay for those ads are asking for more clarity on the success rate.  Jason Del Rey of AdAge wrote a good article on the subject that talked about click throughs becoming irrelevant as a way to measure the success of digital display ads.  Advertisers are starting to talk more about the interaction with the ad which includes hovering over the ad, listening to audio, playing a game integrated in the ad, or other activities.

I am seeing more and more advertisers asking to have their message put into the context of content on the page.  Check out how SAP ad is relevant to content. Advertisers are also asking how social aspects of the content can be integrated into advertising.  Think Facebook.  In other words, the old way of thinking about display ads as relatively static messaging has to change if we want to continue selling to advertisers.

Buzzfeed’s Jonah Peretti  wrote a good article that talked about the importance of moving beyond display ads.  I particularly took note of this quote:

“Peretti sees display ads as artifacts of an earlier Internet era when people went to portals to find content. That era — and its skyscraper and banner ads — has long passed as readers instead turned to search and, more recently, to social networks to find stories.”

I believe the issue of display ads not working as well as they once did is becoming even more critical when you consider the impact of mobile and tablets. Most publishers are seeing desktop page views flattening out and most growth is coming from smart phones and tablets.  Now think about display ads on a smart phone.  It’s a small screen and many advertiser websites are not optimized for smart phones, creating a bad experience.  The answer?  We often create mobile landing pages for our advertisers.

On the tablet, display takes on a whole new meaning.  Using a tablet is an engaging process; consumers are much more interactive using the device. They spend more time, look at more pages, and click on more ads. They are more likely to click on an ad if it takes advantage of the device’s technology, with interactive and social elements. Most advertisers can’t create interactive ads. They need an agency or the publisher to do that for them. Therefore we create tablet landing pages and build interactive and social elements into ads for our advertisers.

So, what’s a publisher to do? Here are some recommendations:

  1. Create mobile and tablet landing pages for your advertisers
  2. Integrate interactive and social elements into ads
  3. Offer advertisers an immersive experience, giving them a role in the content on the page

There are no easy solutions. For anyone. And after sitting with the Pandora execs, one thing I know is no one has it all figured out.  Pandora is doing a great job in getting an audio advertisement to your music station every 20 minutes.  The ad includes a leave-behind display ad.  However unless you have the phone in your hand or you’re sitting at your desktop you won’t see a display ad unless you need to access the screen itself.

And Pandora’s ads are typical display ads that fill the screen on a smart phone, similar to a static display ad. Pandora has a compelling message and audience reach story.  As they evolve in the space my bet is they come up with even more compelling interactive ads for mobile devices.

Everyone has a chance to be successful in the mobile and tablet space as long as they don’t treat it like desktop.  Pandora is making sure they don’t, and my guess is they will be a big winner in selling digital ads for their service.

Google is also really pushing the envelope in thinking about mobile and tablet, but their real knockout punch is still Search.  They are constantly evolving with more progressive advertising on mobile formats and no longer thinking about it as a display ad.

It is going to take a combination of social, display, integrated messaging and interactive elements to win this battle.  My message here is that even the big guys haven’t figured out the secret sauce as display ages and new formats evolve and progress for all our mobile devices.  Keep trying new things and don’t get caught trying to repurpose old formats.

Jumping on the Proverbial Band Wagon

I have been reading a lot lately about newspaper businesses implementing pay walls at what seems like a rapid rate compared to just 12 months ago.  So, what has changed?  The number one driver of this new enthusiasm is because the New York Times was able to implement a “pay fence” to its primary website with an acceptably low decline in traffic, along with more than 450,000 paid subscribers.  The increase in subscription revenue has more than offset any decline in ad revenues from the drop in page views.

Even though no other newspaper is anything like the NY Times, with its national footprint and millions of readers, others are following in what feels like a frenzied rush to judgment.  The largest newspaper chain holding company, Gannett, announced all 80 of its daily newspapers (with exception of USA Today) would be behind a pay wall within 12 months.  Lee Enterprises, owner of the St. Louis Post Dispatch as well as many small community newspapers, announced all of its dailies would be going behind a pay wall.  Many others are heading in the same direction.  So a little success in a big national newspaper is giving everyone confidence to move in this direction, forget the fact that the audience for digital content has been conditioned for “free” content (with ads of course).

Could there be something else driving this change in attitude?  Maybe, there’s a lack of new ideas on how to grow digital faster.  Could it be that mobile isn’t moving fast enough and current indications are that it could be at a lower CPM than desktop web?  Is it that the sales organization is now smaller and has to focus on what still drives 85% of the revenues for these companies (print)?   Maybe it’s because it’s a last ditch effort to stop the slide in revenues since the economy is coming back but hasn’t really helped the newspaper industry.  Or, could it be all of these things.

Here are some things to think about if you are working in a media business, regardless of where you think the future will be.

  • Are you selling advertising as if you are part of an agency?  Do you offer much more than just display ads?  Do you help an advertiser spend their precious $1,000 a month budget and not place 85% of it in print unless it really creates 85% of the interest?
  • Do you offer your advertisers help in creating digital ads for web and mobile?
  • What are you doing to help advertisers deal with social media?
  • How are you helping advertisers be successful in search?
  • Are you creating post campaign reports that your reps actually understand, and are able to review with advertisers to demonstrate the value of their advertising efforts?
  • Are you selling the newest opportunity in digital (mobile) with the same sales organization that sells print, and who just recently started understanding how to sell digital ads for desktop? If so, why?
  • What about tablets?  They are sold differently than mobile.  Do you know why?
  • Are you creating content specific to the device, or is your content team putting the same content that is on the web onto mobile and tablet?
  • What have you done to move beyond display ads for smart phones?
  • Does your sales organization understand how to sell “share of voice?”  This is the way selling advertising on tablets will be done.

If you can answer positively to these questions I wonder if a pay wall is really needed?

Spend some time thinking this through.  We don’t want the newspaper business to be compared to Kodak.

Selling Mobile & Tablet Advertising is Different

Over the past several months I’ve been invited to speak about mobile and tablet pursuits from both content and monetization perspectives.  I’ve also spent countless hours with sales people discussing issues they run into when selling mobile advertising.   Let me lay out the crux of the issue in a nutshell; mobile and tablet page views are growing exponentially, yet ad dollars are lagging far behind.  Why is the rift so dramatic?

I feel the lag  occurs primarily due to the lack of knowledge on the interactive aspect of mobile and tablet advertising and  the ‘newness’ factor of mobile and tablet advertising in general (it’s hard to sell it if you don’t fully understand the worth and growth potential).

Take a look at the following graph. It is clear to see that within mobile media the amount of dollars spent on advertising versus the time users spend with content is dramatically unbalanced compared to  other forms of media.  However, newspapers and magazines have the opposite situation; users spend less time with the content, but the advertising dollars are still there!  It’s obvious to see that traditional media must figure out mobile as well as tablet advertising, and the sooner the better!

Today, the primary advertising sold on mobile is display advertising (banner ads).   Many clicks of display/banner ads are inadvertent due to the small size of the screen and therefore cause the analytics to be rather inaccurate.

The solution to the issue is to create interactive landing pages – user experiences that take advantage of the features of the mobile device.

Take a look at the example below (Kohls landing page built for an iPad app).  Rather than displaying a simple banner ad that runs across a small portion of the screen, we’ve created an interactive full scale landing page with maps, store locator, social media links and deal specifics.  This particular ad received 11x more engagement than a banner ad that carried the same promotion.  The key was building an experience for the end user, something that didn’t act or feel like a static ad.  This landing page ad can still be sold using a CPM basis, but at a higher rate due to customization of the ad.

When considering the iPad (or tablets in general) the job of selling and delivering ads is totally different than selling ads on smart phones.  The biggest reason is due to the engagement factor of people using the iPad.  A typical user spends anywhere from 10-20 minutes with most content products.  A highly engaged audience expects to see advertisements, but these advertisements need to be part of the content experience.  Display ads don’t cut it.  Landing page advertising carries highly visual and interactive elements, tied directly to the promotion.  An even more critical component to this process, is the way it the ad is sold to the advertiser.  The Sales person must convey to the advertiser that the iPad/tablet is more like advertising on TV rather than advertising on a website.  CPM selling doesn’t work here.  Similar to television advertising, tablet advertising is a “share of voice” type of sale. It’s more about a percentage of pages viewed or time spent by the user within the content.  This means that if your product is a highly visual and interactive (with a lot of video); users are going to spend 4x as much time on average, as they do with your web product! This is where I highly suggest you learn how to sell share of voice!  If you don’t, you run the risk of selling everything in a bundle format (with print and web), and consequently undervalue inventory on the iPad.

How do we really get to the bottom of this issue and find a solution to the problem of selling mobile and tablet advertising effectively? The suggestion I have may be considered controversial, but here it is: you must build a separate sales group focused on mobile and tablet.

The majority of traditional media businesses are just now figuring out how to sell interactive on a CPM basis.  This being said, a traditional media sales rep’s plate is already full with selling print, web and other third party products. Then “BAMM!” now comes the duty of selling mobile and tablet as well.  Also, it must be understood that selling mobile advertising requires a lot of hand holding to develop the interactive elements and to create something that will work on small screen.  Also, tablet advertising requires a completely new way of selling and creating ads for advertisers.

Newspapers need to prioritize digital advertising sales if they expect to thrive.” Pew Research Center, March 2012*

If you believe as I do that mobile and tablet represent the largest opportunity on both content and monetization/revenue fronts, you’ll want to avoid adding mobile and tablet to your current sales organization. Rather, you’ll build a separate sales group focused on mobile and tablet.  And, of course consider mobile and tablet advertising as a big piece of the revenue growth required to get back to growing revenues.

Publishing Content For A Device Does NOT Equal New Audience

I have been immersed in digital media for over 17 years. And, although the digital world has evolved at rapid speed most recently, my main goal has always stayed the same: deliver content when, where and how people want it. Then, monetize the content via advertisements, subscriptions and ecommerce.

Traditionally, media companies have a large database of content that meets the needs of one mass audience, and it’s no secret that most traditional newspaper organizations have a strong foothold in the 50+ age group.  The newspaper creates a piece of content, and then delivers that content on multiple platforms.  This is driven by a “let the brand do the work” mentality.

Here’s the problem. Building content for one mass audience doesn’t work anymore.  Placing the content on smartphones and tablets that is pulled directly from your print newspaper and website, doesn’t mean you will all of a sudden attract a new and younger audience that’s using these devices.

Younger audiences expect news and information built specifically around their likes and dislikes. More so, they expect it to be structured to meet the different digital platforms.

Let me give you an example from my own company.  When we moved existing web content to smart phones, we found it met the needs of our current print and web audience of 50+, yet we weren’t reaching a new and younger audience. The traditional newspaper subscribers want convenient access on smart phones to the exact same stories as in print and online – just shorter versions of those stories.

With the iPad project, we decided to take a completely different approach. We looked at design and content differently in an effort to reach a younger demographic, that we knew was extremely active on iPads. We weren’t trying to satisfy/grow the current traditional 50+ demographic that made up our print/website brand.

For the iPad app, we started with a design that was very graphical and that categorized information around typical interests of a 35-45 year old. We developed original content and we curated existing content to focus on providing entertaining information as well as news. We were developing content around a specific audience, rather than driving the effort around the specific device.

Early results have been positive.  We continue to build a new audience that is very different than the traditional newspaper reader.  Our iPad app users are more engaged, spending on average approximately 11 minutes for every visit.  They are heavy users in the evening, from 6-10pm.  The majority of users fall in the 25-45 age group.  At least 60% of the iPad app content is still being created by our existing ‘traditional’ content center, but a separate iPad production team is curating it.  Our original content offering, in addition to the curated content, has proven to be very successful at building a new and younger loyal audience.  However, must continue to grow this audience to a size that rivals our other online efforts, in order to call this a true success story.

This being said, we know it’s time to cater to the traditional newspaper audience as well, as they too are purchasing iPads and consuming news on them. We’ll give this audience what they want by providing  a format similar to the structure of a news focused product.  It will still take advantage of the technology but in a fashion that is consistent with expected content for the traditional audience.  Call it an interactive newspaper.

In the end, when looking at the early successes of our current iPad app product, we’ve learned our challenges go beyond apps and devices when delivering news to reach new audiences.  We can’t build one content database and deliver it on multiple platforms. Whether its iPads, smartphones, online, or print, we must continue in our iPad app curated and original content mindset, by building content for specific audiences and specific platforms.

Audience Acquisition with iPad Product “The Peel” Is it working?

Back in May 2011 we launched our tablet publishing effort (The Peel) seeking to attract a younger demographic utilizing Apple’s iPad.  It has been an exciting, yet daunting task.  Today, I am happy to say we are making great progress.  When we set out on this journey, we laid out milestones that we wanted to reach within a year.  The key milestones were 20,000 loyal users and a primary audience in the 35-45 year old demographic, 50,000 downloads, deep user engagement of at least 8 minutes per session and advertiser acceptance.  I have been receiving calls from industry friends fairly regularly since the launch of The Peel asking how we are doing.  Many of those calls from traditional media businesses still trying to figure out if they should pursue an audience acquisition strategy similar to what we have done.  We believe we are heading in the right direction with this product.  As The Peel continues to show good results, we will be adding another tablet product focused on a traditional newspaper audience in the 50+ age demographic.   I thought everyone might like to see how we have done after 8 months of publishing The Peel, so I included an infographic on the topic.  Our strategy is paying off.

News Readers and Aggregators: Friend or Foe of Traditional Media?

The tablet market has seen several news readers and aggregator apps emerge that elegantly package news, social media and other content from multiple sources into one compelling and personalized reading experience. Apps, such as Flipboard, Zite and the new Livestand by Yahoo!, seem to have found a place in tablet users’ critical hearts. As such, Livestand is currently the number two free app in iTunes.

What part will traditional publishers play in this space? Are these newcomers posing a competitive threat, or do they give us an opportunity?

News readers provide a powerful new way to consume information. This blog excerpt from globalmoxie.com explains some of the benefits:

“Publishers and designers have to start thinking about content at a more atomic level, not in aggregated issues. That’s how we already understand news as consumers, and we have to start thinking that way as publishers, too. This is why Flipboard, Instapaper, and other aggregators are so interesting: they give you one container for the whole universe of content, unbound to any one publisher.”

It doesn’t seem likely that consumers will pay for these products. Instead, since the news readers rely on third party content, their key to success long term has to be in partnering with content providers. In other words, they need us. But do we need them?

Advertising

At present, it doesn’t appear that news readers drive much referral traffic back to publishers. Over time, this could change, but for now, the only way publishers will benefit is to get ads displayed within their content. You are starting to see some examples of ad placement inside content from content partners. In the example below, The Oprah Magazine is advertising for themselves within Flipboard.

Discovery

The real payoff in partnering with news readers is the potential for premium placement. Yes, you are giving users free access to your content, but you also get maximum exposure of your brand. New audiences will discover you and become familiar with your content. Flipboard, for example has 37 selections, which include brands such as TechCrunch, GigaOm and Wired under Tech & Science. It is publishers job to deliver compelling enough content, such that users eventually will be enticed to visit the original source.

DIY

Instead of partnering with these newcomers, why can’t newspapers or magazines just do something similar to Flipboard themselves? Washington Post did with the launch of Trove earlier this year. What about publishers at the local level? The reality is we could, but instead we spend most of our time pursuing legacy revenue streams from legacy websites.

Partnership opportunities

So, friend or foe? They are both. Foe, in the sense they use our content to “steal” audiences. Friend, in the sense they introduce new audiences to our content. I believe publishers need to work with companies like Flipboard more because of discovery rather than a direct revenue source – at least today.

Many news readers are already reaching out to publishers.

  • Yahoo LiveStand has already included publisher partners from their newspaper consortium.
  • Google Propeller will also have partners in place at launch.
  • Pulse just introduced Pulse Connect, which lets publishers submit their site for inclusion in Pulse. After approval, it is then available to users of the newsreader as a content source.
  • Zite has an integrated partner program that enables content to be provided to appropriately targeted audiences, such as people in your publishing area or people who are interested in content from your area.  Zite claims to use proprietary algorithms to deliver users content that matches their unique tastes and interests and is personalized to the type of content they like to read.
  • Flipboard offers a product called Flipboard Pages, which already includes some larger publishers such as Conde Nast, ABC, SF Gate and the Washington Post. It will soon be expanded to interested publishers, who then become visible inside Flipboard. Users can create a section of Flipboard of just your content.

The jury is out how publishers will make money from news readers, but they cannot be ignored as potential partners.

What do you think? Is partnering with newsreaders a good move, or do you think it would diminish the value of our brand?

For more reading, check out this great article from Nieman Labs, which analyzes the battle between aggregators and single-brand apps.  There is a particular comment I am in agreement with from the article.

“We’ll each pick a single news aggregator to complement our top two to three top single brand choices. Those will be the buttons, the apps, on the first page of our iPads — and the second page won’t matter much”.

Also, check out this blog post from cenevoldsen.com, which talks about why aggregators are so compelling from a design standpoint in the first place.

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