From BBC to BuzzFeed: lessons in mobile publishing
If it hasn’t happened yet, it will. In the coming months, the websites you visit – those you read, run or contribute to – are likely to generate more traffic from smartphones and tablets than desktop and laptop computers. The mobile tipping point happened for the BBC earlier this year. It’s happened for the Guardian, where the mobile traffic accounts for around 60 per cent at weekends. And the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) reports that more people now access retail sites via mobile than desktop, by a ratio of 52 to 48.
But what does this trend mean for those involved in digital publishing? How does it inform the decisions publishers, editors, journalists and content sellers make? At the Press Gazette’s News on the Move conference earlier this month, five well-known media brands shared some lessons in mobile publishing.
1. Plan for the extended internet day – and week
Until the advent of internet-enabled smartphones and tablets, the middle of the working day was typically the busiest for content-based websites. Mobile devices have changed all that. No longer shackled to the desktop, users are accessing content well beyond the 9-to-5, on the commute to and from work, from the pub, in front of the TV and in bed. For BuzzFeed that means a traffic peak much later in the day. UK editor Luke Lewis said: “It starts to pick up around 6pm and tends to peak around 10pm.” Anyone targeting an audience, staffing teams and timing social media posts to best effect needs to take note.
Take note, too, of the extended internet week. Saturdays and Sundays matter now more than ever. So much so that one of the first things Martin Ashplant did as newly-appointed digital and social media director of City AM was turn his digital news team from a five-day to a seven-day operation.
2. Think format
That’s format as in layout and format as in genre. “It’s about making [the text] scannable, quite modular,” said Nathalie Malinarich, mobile editor for BBC News Online whose team have adapted the ‘explainer’ for a mobile audience. “We took the traditional format of a Q&A and made it very visual, the answers very short and snappy and the questions very basic, so within a minute you could get a really good idea of what a story was.” The success of Malinarich’s approach is visible in the traffic numbers – for six out of the previous seven days an explainer on Ebola had featured in the top 20 for mobile. “It’s about answering the questions that people are asking themselves.”
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