Ahhh, mobile. I was trying to think this morning what that vanilla response reminded me of. And then it hit me! (And reminded me of my age, particularly on my birthday.)
The wonderful old TV show M*A*S*H. Hawkeye is trying to help Radar sound intelligent when a woman he likes talks classical music.
HAWKEYE: If she brings him up, you just smile and say, “Ahhh Bach.”
RADAR: Ahhh Bach.
HAWKEYE: Smile a little bit.
(So Radar tries it for the woman and she asks, “What’s that mean, ‘Ah Bach’?”)
RADAR: Just that, “Ah, Bach.”
HAWKEYE: I think once you’ve said that you’ve said it all.
I think we still have a tendency to say, “Ahhh mobile,” yet everything we read points to the need for action. The New York Times hit 50% mobile article views last year, and Robin Williams’ death finally tilted the scale to mobile. The upcoming BIMS Conference in Miami will feature Redesigning Email Campaigns for Mobile with the excellent team of Kim Mateus and Calie Brennan from Real Magnet and a What’s Your Mobile Strategy roundtable with the superb duo of Ed Keating from BLR and Larry Schwartz from Newstex.
“Mobile is no longer a specialty, it’s a requirement” said Alex Hardiman, executive director of mobile at the Times. Yes, it is still harder to monetize from mobile, but we all know that’s going to change—and probably pretty fast. So we must jump on the train now.
The leading Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet attracts 1.8 million mobile users compared to 1.5 million desktop. According to an article on the World News Publishing Focus site, “63 percent of new subscribers pay by SMS on their mobiles. With 11 years experience delivering freemium paid content they have recently managed to massively optimise both the sales funnel and user engagement on mobile…
“To keep users active, they have mapped exactly what kind of topics to sell at different times through the day, a 24/7 chart of reader activity. Entertainment works great as a second screen experience, while crime and mystery is perfect for the weekend.
Here are their 3 main lessons:
1. Full commitment from all levels
2. Consumer insights – e.g. deep interviews, surveys, analytics & CRM
3. A/B testing culture
“We have a mantra at Aftonbladet: any new idea we ask—how do we do it on mobile?” said managing editor Ted Kudinoff.
On another highly regarded global news site, Journalism.co.uk, Martin Ashplant, director of digital and social media at the London business news site City AM, gave advice on doing mobile publishing well. (He said that age and locale of your audience is no excuse—“…we’re finding people are using mobile regardless of ages or demographics.”) They’ve increased mobile visitors 190% in six months.
1.“…never underestimate from a user’s point of view…If the site doesn’t load quick enough on mobile, they will lose interest and they go away.”
2. Editorially, focus “heavily” on data journalism and visualization and “working out how that works on mobile.”
3. They’ve moved away from “desktop-based ad types” such as page skins and MPUs…and instead began doing a lot more around native advertising.” (Native advertising is another session at BIMS.).
4. Get a mobile-friendly CMS (content management system). Ashplant said that editorial needs to see how content appears on smaller screens before publishing. “If it doesn’t work on mobile, it doesn’t go out. You’ve got to start getting into that mentality otherwise you’re always going to be seeing mobile as the second sibling.”
5. Get social media savvy. “Social and mobile are intrinsically linked,” he said. People share content more on mobile so you need to identify that type of content. “If you understand who your audience is and what it is that makes them share, then you’re going to win half the battle straightaway.”
6. Keep it simple. “Whether it’s visual or text, get that message across as easily and simply as you possibly can.”
The numbers may not be there yet—even the Times still sees only 10% of new subscriptions come via mobile—but they will. It’s important to get there now so you’ll be ready. When Radar throws in one last “Ahhh, Bach,” Hawkeye whispers, “okay, hold it.” Such an answer will only work for so long.
Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.