How Hearst and Time Inc. are approaching mobile
Each of the media companies is positioned to innovate around mobile. Edwards and Rich spoke about what they were doing at their respective companies, but also touched on monetisation, digital editions and video.
The opportunity around mobile is enormous, Rich said. “The passionate audiences we have deliver a better return on investment. And the second part of that is anytime, anywhere, understanding the journey that the customer goes through.”
It was critical for Time Inc. to approach, create and distribute mobile content in a way that uses the device more appropriately. A breaking story might start on a Time Inc. Twitter feed, and then take the consumer to desktop. “It depends on where the customer is on their journey.”
Hearst’s approach to mobile is part of it’s overall strategy, and the majority of their effort, Edwards said, is building their global, connected network around their major brands. “The brand really matters in a world where there’s an enormous amount of noise. Having brand that organises content is incredibly important. As we think about how we connect with those consumers, we’re thinking of connecting with them through mobile devices.”
Edwards said Hearst is aiming to connect their audiences on their own platforms, but also on other platforms they choose to spend time with. Hearst is still learning, testing new products and building a mobile experience around their own brands, he said.
Mobile platforms are growing area of interest for both companies.
At Hearst, Edwards outlined that they use Facebook as a discovery tool and as a way to drive audience to their websites. “We’re very involved in Instant Articles and monetise that content. And we’re in the process of a three-month test where we’re producing 250 live videos broadcast on Facebook,” he said.
Hearst is a Snapchat partner, Edwards said.
“We publish Cosmo on Snapchat every day. In the US, we get 2.5 million young women watching Cosmo on Snapchat, for an average of six minutes with an average of 75 per cent completion rate. It’s like our own cable channel.”
The Time brand is spread across Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat. They participate in Facebook Instant Articles. They’re have numerous web properties. Whatever the platform, it’s the same principle, said Rich. “Our objective is to serve the passions of our consumers at any time.”
Rich cited a recent Goldman Sachs study, that suggested premium content would marry distribution partners. However, it’s critical, Rich said, “while working on this mobile shift, we have existing content and brands that create real attractions with consumers.”
Both leaders agreed that marrying content and data, and the resulting information about audience consumption is essential. “We have to be realistic about apps and consumer behaviour that is likely to occur,” Edwards said. “Our view is that we want people to come to our platform. The majority of people might be elsewhere in the future, but that’s fine, as long as we can monetise that in one way or another.”
Publishers have to produce different content at different times of day, and match that with what audience need and want.
“We’re moving from months to moments – you have to present content in that moment, for that moment. Programming for the day is a critical part of what editorial teams do,” Edwards said.
Editorial teams know exactly when people are going to need content, because they’re mobile users, too, Rich said.
The shift to mobile video is still new for Time Inc. and for Hearst, but they’re experimenting and testing.
“It’s a new muscle for us,” Edwards said. “We’ve been playing at this for the last 18 months in a growing way, and our beta tests with Facebook are a huge acceleration.”
Mobile video – and video, in general – is new for publishers and often requires them to thing about publishing content in a different way. Like physical space. Most magazine companies, Edwards said, don’t have studio space. Staffing is also a challenge magazine companies are dealing with. “You can’t make a videographer out of someone who isn’t a videographer,” Edwards said.
Moderator Carolyn Morgan turned to a couple of questions asked by the FIPP London audience. “What about digital editions and digital subscriptions?” she asked.
Digital editions are part of Hearst’s and Time’s multiplatform strategy. In the US, Edwards said they have 1.5 digital copies a month, which sounds like a lot, but is a small number compared to the print editions. Most of Hearst’s efforts are concentrated on the free web, he said.
At Time, digital edition subscriptions have plateaued, Rich said.
At Time, Rich said they monetise traditional models, but added that he believed there are bigger opportunities with Facebook. Time Inc. works with a lot of affiliates and is looking at multiple monetisation opportunities.
But, becoming crucial to monetisation is management of the user experience. This has become top of mind for executives.
“We have built proprietary advertising units, where advertisers can have all of the utility that our editorial teams have,” he said. “There are ad units that are entirely native to the experience, which are integrated seamlessly in mobile products, but they’re the same that are integrated into other people’s products (like Facebook). You can distribute advertising the same way you can distribute content.”
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