Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mobile Strategies for Newspapers

The following are a few of my ideas for ways in which newspapers can take advantage of new mobile media and new technology to enhance the offerings they currently have, maintain a valuable connection to their readers, and begin to hybridize traditional and new ways of publishing news content.

For the most part, people in the advertising, marketing, and brand sectors of the media-sphere still consider mobile to be a new medium for reaching their customers. I think this is completely wrong for a number of reasons. For one, many companies have already jumped on-board in a big way with mobile marketing and advertising (yes, they're very different). Think about Google, The Weather Network, and to dabble into the world of print; The New York Times. The NYT is a particularly important example because they represent the only newspaper on the planet that is actually dictating to their advertisers how they should be reaching their customers through the NYT properties. In many ways the NYT acts like a full service agency for their advertisers; educating, planning, designing, executing, and analyzing the campaigns they feature within their various properties.
In the mobile realm, The New York Times has always been at the forefront of development and implementation of new technologies and strategies. Let's look at a few reasons why:
- launched the first iPhone news app (presently downloaded over 2 million times)
- one of the first sites to optimize for a host of mobile devices (they have a database of hundreds of phones)
- they sell mobile as standalone and as a part of larger, more robust ad buys
- they constantly update and improve their mobile offerings based on constant user feedback

These four points are big because they all trace back to the key criteria for a successful mobile execution; Innovation, usability and compatibility, Value-add, and longevity/repeat engagement. Many mobile campaigns that operated a number of years ago were focussed too much on making a big splash and then counting the ripples. This is a poor way to utilize mobile because it undermines the basic idea behind the entire medium. Once you've got someone's information, you have to put it to continued good use! I mean come on... you're in their pocket 24-7, don't just be the one night stand that keeps texting you to hook up again, bring something to the table and show some commitment! As Ben Gaddis, Director of mobile and emerging media strategy at T3 said, "thread campaigns together and create an ongoing conversation with your customers, not just a series of one-offs."

Like any form of marketing or advertising, mobile works best when it provides the user with something of value. More importantly though, this added value has to be easily accessible. As devices get simpler and more ubiquitous, people's willingness to take part in a mobile campaign is shaped more and more by a core group of variables. Namely; how fast and easily they can get something of value, how easy it is to spread the word about it, and whether or not it will affect their cell phone bill. Another qualifier that I would suggest based on my own perspective is how easily the value-add can be shared by someone with friends and family. Everyone likes to share cool, interesting, new and potentially valuable information with others, and everyone likes to be the first to break the news. Making it easy for someone to be the hero is a pretty great way to build brand confidence and create a relationship with your customers.

So to wrap up, mobile isn't new, it's here to stay, you better be on board, and you better think long and hard about how to maintain your rapport with your mobile users... just not too long. After all, our attention spans are the only thing too short for Google to track.