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Mobile – what it can do for publishers

Media consumption habits are changing. With the proliferation of content on the Internet and the growing capability of mobile devices to allow people to consume content on the move, publishers face a new challenge to retaining readers, but also a wealth of new possibilities, says Christian Louca.

By Christian Louca

We live in an on-demand world; accessing content wherever and whenever we want it. No longer do we need to wait for the morning newspaper to be delivered to view the day’s news. I can view my Twitter feed on my iPhone on the bus on the way to work; I can access the mobile website of my favourite newspaper via my mobile and I can browse the Internet for a wealth of content.

The move from print to online revolutionised the publishing world making it more interactive and allowing readers to engage in a dialogue of interaction with the content in new ways. Yet today’s consumer is constantly on the go and wants content on demand. Online is simply not enough. The challenge facing publishers across the world today is how to communicate with their audience and meet the expectations of this new on-demand readership. As advertising revenues decline, publishers are increasingly turning to new forms of media such as Twitter, Facebook and most interestingly, the mobile channel to reach their readers.

As the media landscape continues to evolve, its fragmentation becomes apparent. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly personal and involved – with social networking sites and media outlets offering contextual or personalised offers, recommendations and services – based on consumer intelligence and the analysis of user habits for example. What’s more, the media is becoming more interactive than ever with brands engaging with consumers, and consumers participating in an open dialogue with both companies and their peers. Just look at how successful The Sun’s mobile barcode service proved to be – over 11,000 people scanned barcodes in the paper to access extra information on their mobiles.

More and more, publishers have been looking to mobile to extend their reach and interact with their audience on a different level. As the mobile web audience continues to grow – and according to Nielsen it has done so by 74% in the past two years in the US alone - the opportunity for publishers is vast. In the U.S. today, nearly 50 million mobile subscribers access the Web via their devices on a monthly basis. That’s a potential further 50 million readers waiting to consume and interact with published content on the move.

And if you look at the mobile, it’s not hard to see why it’s a perfect partner for publishers. With mobile phone sophistication growing to include enhanced battery life, larger screen size and higher resolution amongst other things, it is emerging as one of the clear channels for publishers to reach an extended audience. In particular, as operators offer flat rate data packages and browsing capabilities continue to improve; the mobile Internet experience will continue to develop. For advertisers, the mobile’s exceptional targeting, immediacy and ability to tailor and personalise offers directly to consumers provides an attractive proposition. With mobile, brands can achieve a higher rate of conversion than with any other marketing channel. And according to the IAB, mobile ad spend has doubled in size on a like-for-like basis in 2008, increasing by 99.2%.

We have already seen leading newspapers such as The Guardian, The Independent and The Daily Telegraph turn to mobile to capitalise on the immense growth of the mobile Internet, extend their reach, diversify their revenue streams and attract new mobile customers to the brand and content. The growth of the Internet has invoked an enormous change in the world of publishing, and now the ubiquity of mobile handheld devices and the evolution of the commercial model surrounding them has finally made the medium a viable one for publishers. As more and more newspapers continue the move into the mobile domain, mobile is moving into the mainstream as a publishing tool. The time has come for mobile to sit alongside traditional media outlets as a successful and cost effective method of reaching the consumer.