Inland news

Tallent offers keys to mobile success

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Most publishers know that the market for mobile content continues to grow. But making sense of these massive numbers—22 million smart phone users, according to eMarketer.com—is another matter.

Bill Tallent, CEO of Mercury Intermedia in Brentwood, Tenn.—who spoke at Inland’s annual meeting in October—can help. Here are the elements of effective mobile content delivery, which can form the foundation of a mobile content strategy that can attract new audiences to newspapers.

Get in on the ground floor

Mobile platforms are the largest new medium in history, Tallent said, in terms of number, speed of adoption and potential for disruption of current technology. Smartphones and tablets function more like fourth-generation computers. Understanding this is the first key to successfully delivering mobile content. This expands the market for news and brings papers a larger audience that accesses news more frequently, Tallent said.

Computers, smart phones and the like will continue to evolve, he said. They will expand to the size of tables or even rooms (Google is already in the TV market), as well as shrink to wristwatch size. Newspapers must be able to adapt to different screen sizes or risk losing audience.

Adapting to multiple screens sounds daunting. However, it is probably a cheaper task than maintaining a printing press and delivery system.

“Most newsmen have trouble admitting the printing press is moving increasingly toward extinction every year,” he said. “The cost for adapting (content) to six or eight screens is still a small fraction of their investment in printing presses and delivery trucks.”

Apps have now surpassed websites in usage because they offer a superior user experience and better availability, Tallent said. Tablets are a growing favorite for news consumption. He said Apple sells two iPhones for every Pad it sells, but customers install two iPad news apps for every iPhone news app.

Tallent also said newspapers can expect, if they offer a news app, that half the downloads will be for tablets and the other half will be split between iPhone and Android platforms. iPad revenue is expected to be 10 times that of the iPhone and Android platforms combined, he added.

As audiences grow, silos merge

The second key point is that these fourth generation computers dramatically increase content audience size, Tallent said. For example, USA Today took 28 years to grow its circulation to its current 1.6 million, but it took less than 28 months to amass 10 million downloads of its news app.

The third key point is understanding that media silos are merging: Print, TV, radio and digital are already merged in consumers’ minds. “News must be available when it happens, wherever they are, whatever screen they are using,” Tallent said.

The making of a successful app

Lastly, successful mobile media apps share six common traits:

1. Maximum ROI: To do mobile effectively, newspapers need to have the mindset of maximizing investment rather than minimizing expense.

2. Superb user experience: This grows audience and, thus, revenue.

3. Multidimensional: Content should include multimedia and be adaptable to different screen sizes.

4. Monetized: Content should be supported through multiple revenue streams, including subscriptions, coupons, ads, e-commerce and referrals.

5. Breaking news: This traffic driver is second in overall importance to audience size.

6. Responsive and reliable: This is a function of “mobile middleware,” the infrastructure used to deliver the content to mobile devices. (Think of how a story gets from a reporter’s desk to the reader’s hands and digitize it.)

Newspapers also have to ensure they have enough bandwidth to support mobile content, Tallent said. Photos and videos form an important part of mobile content, and if newspapers don’t have enough bandwidth to transmit this content to users, they will drive their users’ carrier charges through the roof.

Finally, Tallent has this crucial bit of advice: Don’t look at mobile content as an expense. “Look at this as investment,” he said. “Use the same lens you use to purchase a printing press. You always look at a printing press as an investment. You don’t try to get out cheap.”

Mobile platform delivery tips

Bill Tallent of Mercury Intermedia offers these tips for newspapers considering delivering content for mobile platforms:

  • Tablets are increasingly popular for news consumption.
  • Successful apps provide a superior user experience compared to websites.
  • Apps need plenty of bandwidth to support growing usage.
  • Look at mobile content as an investment, not an expense.
  • Compare what it costs to maintain a press and delivery force to what it will cost to adapt content to different-sized screens.
  • Start now because there is a learning process and audience tastes change quickly: What users wanted last year is not what they want again this year.