Why “mobile first” equates to “content first,” and what it means

Whereas the initial focus with mobile apps was on delivering a “packaged magazine” similar to print, the “reality is people consume content on mobile devices in a very different, more rapid, frenetic way,” says Nick Bogaty, senior director and head of digital publishing at Adobe

In practice, this means engagement is not at the issue-level (i.e. as in the whole “magazine”) but rather with the smaller units of content: articles, videos, images and so on. That (the single unit of content) is the starting point from where to imagine the mobile app experience, not the other way around.

Bogaty spoke to FIPP’s Cobus Heyl as part of Adobe’s sponsored content series on FIPP.com. The series, including a free webinar to FIPP.com users on 1 April 2015 (register for it here), focuses on the launch of Adobe and Fast Company’s new app at the end of February this year, which “re-imagines the mobile experience”.  The new Adobe mobile app software will be available to all publishers in mid-2015.

This article is the second of three articles

  • Read the first article, “Re-imagining mobile: not print, not the web, but in between” here.
  • The third article will focus on “what’s behind Adobe’s quest for a better mobile experience.

For this article, Bogaty was asked to elaborate on the “content first” mobile experience, mentioned in the original blog post of the launch of the new Fast Company app.

“With ‘content first’, I had two images in my head. [Originally,] with magazine apps, including those built with our software, the first experience of the user when they opened the magazine app was not straight into the beautiful content, but into a library of packaged issues for sale that mimics a physical newsstand.” 

That is “a complete turn off for mobile users, because they just want to experience the content and become engaged with it and then be gradually led into whatever business model the publisher has.”

The second point was that it puts user experiences first, before monetisation. It is counter to print, where the first action is to purchase the full magazine, and the second to engage with its content.

“I think on a mobile device, to say OK, if you open up an application we have to enter into a business relationship [e.g. purchase a full issue] before you do even anything else…I think that’s a real mistake. While that worked in print, it just doesn’t work in mobile,” said Bogaty. 

“Once consumers enjoy the experience and understand the value they get from the content, I think there are plenty of opportunities to develop a relationship, whether it is through people paying for content or ad models or combinations of the two. 

“So when I say content first it’s really all about building an amazing experience for the audience, building an audience, and then figuring out your business after that. Because if you figure out your business model upfront and present it to your audience you’re never going to build an audience.”

Prompted about the practice of paywalls in front of all mobile content, Bogaty said, “Really harsh paywalls are a terrible idea. They’re a total turnoff. We’re sophisticated enough to understand audience behaviours at this point, where you can present offers and advertising at appropriate and natural points. If there’s any tendency of a publisher to be more conservative or more liberal in their paywall rules, my advice will be absolutely be more liberal. Audience is the name of the game and if you’re in competition with the Googles you really cannot turn away potential customers.”

This links to the idea of competing in the attention economy, where consumers’ attention is considered a scarce commodity. According to Bogaty, whereas challenges of old revolved around subscription bases, newsstand sales, paper costs and so on, “publishers today are competing for [consumers’] time with Google, Facebook, Angry Birds, email, and so on. If publishers spend all their time thinking about those things [traditional publishing challenges], they’re missing the bigger picture which is that today people get their entertainment from many different places, a dramatic change from the past.”

It comes back to engaging and developing user experiences and relationships first, and then to think about monetising those relationships. “One of the decisions that Fast Company made [in developing their new mobile app prototype], which honestly, throughout this whole project with them, I think was probably the wisest decision, was to allow access to all of the content for free. 

“They will build an audience, they’ll figure out what the usage patterns of the app are and then they’ll figure out what the business model is afterwards. You’re not going to figure out a business model if no-one is consuming the content,” which is why content comes first.

This is not to say monetisation is not on Adobe and Fast Company’s minds.

“We’re going to offer a wide variety of payment options – all-access subscriptions, paywall and metering options and more. 

“But in this new product you no longer create this gigantic zipped file that is your issue, your publication. You now have articles grouped into collections, which are published into the app. Those collections could reflect your print magazine content, it could be the top five articles you must read every day, it could be a steady stream of articles flowing into the app, or whatever it is you want to create and group [for example, particular interest verticals]. 

“The way we will offer our customers the opportunity to sell things is on the collection level, so they can sell access to a collection or they can sell all access-opportunities to all of the content.”

Talking about advertising, in particular native ads, the software will allow producers to create native ad content in the same way they do editorial, then labelling and tagging them as advertising to be measured in depth. 

“What we are also interested in exploring a bit further,” Bogaty said, “is specific ad creative that looks great in the mobile app. The last thing we want to support is horrible banner equivalents in mobile devices. I’ll do anything possible to avoid that in this software. You know if the content looks so good in these apps, to ruin them with poor ads would be a shame, so we’ll do some work there.”

Measuring overall performance will be supported “through Adobe Analytics which is included in the product, offering customers a very deep view of their consumers’ behaviour,” Bogaty said.

Find out more

Adobe’s free webinar to FIPP users on 1 April 2015, at 3pm CET (7am PST and 2 pm GMT). The webinar will be co-presented by Kirsty Duncan, senior product manager for digital publishing at Adobe, Anne Marie O’Keefe, director of consumer marketing at Fast Company, and Morgan Clendaniel, founding editor of Co.Exist at Fast Company. Register for the webinar here. It’s free, and it’s interactive. Join to get an in-depth look into the re-imagined mobile publishing experience.

Adobe will be at FIPP, VDZ and eMediaSF’s Digital Innovators’ Summit (DIS) in Berlin on 23-24 March 2015, where Mitch Green, director of product management for digital publishing at Adobe will, for the first time, do a live public unveiling of and in-depth look into the new solution. The session will also see one or two new announcements from Adobe, promised Bogaty. Register for the DIS here.

Download the new Fast Company app (iOS devices at this stage) here.

About Adobe’s sponsored content series on FIPP.com

Nick Bogaty, senior director and head of digital publishing at Adobe, spoke to FIPP’s chief content officer and marketing manager, Cobus Heyl, via Skype as part of Adobe’s sponsored content series on FIPP.com. This is the first of a three articles from the conversation – the next one answers the question why Adobe talks about “content first”, and the third one “what’s behind Adobe’s quest for a better mobile experience.” Other than this and the webinar, the sponsored content series included news of the launch of the new Adobe app, and the announcement of the webinar.

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