It’s a mobile world, and publishing needs to be there

More than 94,000 attendees will visit the Catalan capital over the next few days to see the latest mobile innovation and a glimpse of the future. The event is also unparalleled as the place to meet and mix with the right people in the mobile industry.

Smartphones ()

This week, Samsung will reveal the new Galaxy S7 smartphone, LG will launch their new G5 range, we may see a completely new tablet range from Sony, and there will no doubt be many fresh wearable products on display from smartwatches to fitness gear and VR kit. Adobe will also announce the launch of a new product – Adobe Experience Manager Mobile, which will allow enterprises and publishers to revolutionise the way they build and manage mobile apps.

I’m hoping that some of the publishing world will be there too, to experience the latest technology, mix with key influencers, and most importantly, get inspired. Content creators and distributors must be collaborating more with tech brands, software companies, manufacturers and developers with the aim of creating new and immersive experiences for content, and to discover the ‘new’ before it becomes the norm. Mobile technology moves at light speed and publishing needs to catch up, and stay there.

It’s catch-up time

YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook is where your potential and existing customers are hanging out. Try to own it, get a following, create a buzz, and good things will happen. Get your content all over it – and study the results and react accordingly. It’s not too late.

Aside from the major platforms, you could argue that going it alone is the way forward too. If companies don’t move more aggressively with their own digital aims – the potential for future growth could well be compromised by the strength of the platforms, and magazine and newspaper apps and websites could become redundant. Perhaps that’s already happening? 

From my perspective, we should definitely be further ahead than where we are. Considering the iPad was launched six years ago there are still thousands of lacklustre digital magazine products on app stores – overpriced, poor user experience, buggy, and hard to discover. We need to see increased experimentation, proactive decision-making instead of reactionary measures, and this would be easier if the innovators in the technology industry were more closely involved.

Publishers must benefit from fresh developments in mobile to enhance the development of their own digital products – to push for compelling content experiences, test out new platforms and potentially create new revenue streams. Nothing stays the same in this area, change happens sometimes on a weekly basis, and you have to be flexible and open-minded in your approach and willing to invest, learn, and switch direction.

Learning new digital skills and techniques should be a key part of any publisher’s strategy. Digital is not the future, its very much the present, and if you’re working on a magazine or a newspaper, there really will be no avoiding working on digital content within a few years.

Is print now a luxury purchase?

A question that comes up at digital seminars is ‘do millennials read print magazines and will they ever pay for online content’? Evidently not, looking at Snapchat, which is free, Facebook, free, Instagram, free. Even music title NME has gone freemium. Will they ever consider that a paper product is more engaging than a mobile app or website? I think that might be a no, and I might go as far to say that within five years, many readers will consider print a luxury. Maybe they already do.

And it’s not just the younger market. Ovum research analyst Charlotte Miller, reports in July 2015: “In the digital space, consumers are less willing to pay due to the abundant amount of free content on offer and, in order to maximise digital revenues, some publishers are already experimenting with alternative business models including the use of “all-access” subscription models and the use of micro transactions to sell by the section or article.”

Given increasing consumption of content on social media, publishers will do well to collaborate further with social platforms in order to extend their reach. “What’s key is that publishers understand that consumers are in control of where they view content and publishers need to meet their expectations in order to succeed,” concludes Miller.

The fight for attention

After Apple launched the iPad, many tablet models and large smartphones have followed in its wake. There are now thousands of different-sized screens to distribute to, and potentially hundreds of millions of readers to entice. And smartphones really are the place to be right now for content providers. But as well as the major social platforms, there are millions more apps in the marketplace that have become your competition for attention. 

Additionally, publishers must experiment, discover and learn how to get the best from Apple News. Many magazines brands are already trying it out – and there have been positive noises around engagement. Again, a willingness to take a calculated risk, and make decisions based on analytics should be applied in equal measure here.

Mobile apps should also provide a controlled environment for revenue growth, and this is where publishing must be developing its own space away from the major platforms. Discoverability is well-known issue, and relentless in-app marketing and external promotion should be at the top of any digital strategy to counter this.

Joined-up thinking

I think publishers need to focus on creating ‘journeys’ which should end up inviting readers into the publisher’s ‘funnel’ to make a purchase. The Economist has done this incredibly well over the last few years. For better product awareness, more magazine and newspaper content should be shared, favourited, sampled and promoted more widely.

I’ve seen countless subscription offers advertised online and within app storefronts to existing punters, and yet only once a month a new digital issue gets a few tweets and posts using the cover as the sell. Surely, the editorial content is the pull, followed by the engagement via further sampling, and finally a potential purchase via a paywall or subs offer.

The reader sees a magazine tweet or post, clicks the link, reads the story, perhaps shares it socially – its all a free experience so far. Frustratingly, I’d estimate that 95% of the time, the experience never ends with the downloading of a magazine app, or an article from within. The current system is simply not joined up enough for any chance of reader visit resulting in a purchase. Hence the current stall on digital product awareness or growth. This is one area that technology companies and software providers can definitely improve on.

Mobile content apps would perform better with daily or weekly news feeds integrated with social and video to entertain readers with new stories and keep them coming back for more. Make the link closer between a Google search for subject matter, a spotlight search on iOS, or a visit to a social media feed, and the ideal end result – reader engagement in the app, followed by a purchase. Don’t forget to work twice as hard to create reader loyalty once enticed. And the potential for in-app e-commerce revenue is simply huge, why haven’t more publishing brands made more things happen there? 

Digital is a massive challenge that publishing must crack to stay afloat. This space will keep evolving and moving in many directions at rocket speed, thanks to some of the folks hanging out in Barcelona this week. 

Mobile World Congress takes place in Barcelona from 22-25 February.

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