Mobile Fix - Publisher disruption

28 Sep 2012  |  Simon Andrews 

Simon Andrews, founder of the full service mobile agency addictive!, looks at how publishers are being affected by the changing mobile landscape....

We were asked this week which verticals were showing the keenest interest in mobile. Now everyone has read the memo, most people know mobile is huge and still growing fast. But it's those businesses that can already see real disruption that are moving past conversations into doing something. They recognise that - just as we saw with digital - there will be winners and losers, and that doing nothing puts you firmly in the potential losers pile.

So retail is a key sector and so is publishing. Someone from the Guardian recently tweeted that around 40% of their traffic is now mobile - and that's only going one way. This week the Mail shared some stats showing that around a third of their daily visitors come via mobile. Most publishers have already evolved once or twice for digital and are now looking at further shifts.

But the publishers this week have come out and blamed agencies for the slow growth of mobile advertising. Which seems a little harsh. There are still agencies that treat mobile as an emerging media (dealt with by one man and a dog eared Mary Meeker deck), but most of the good ones are now taking it seriously - witnessed by the number of agency people who subscribe to Fix.

When you dig into the research there are two key issues - price and creative.

On price, publishers blame agencies for paying too little and being overly keen on ad networks. This is largely that the industry has yet to articulate the value of mobile advertising; only when we understand how mobile drives both brand and response metrics will prices rise. And publishers need to demonstrate that context is valuable - ie that reaching a New York Times reader when he is reading the NYT is more valuable that reaching the same person when they are checking their email or in a third party app. We're working on a research initiative around this, so watch this space

On creative too many brands are outsourcing mobile creative work to the publisher, with the result that they have different messaging running on each network - with the idea watered down. Just as we eventually learnt in digital, effective mobile advertising requires dedicated creative talent, with real brand insight as well as deep understanding of mobile.

Traditional agencies struggle to make money on mobile and their business models favour doing more of the same, as the margin on a complicated mobile programme costing £250k is the same as booking one spot in the middle of The X Factor. So specialists will thrive.

As we keep stressing, everyone in mobile is in the ad business - operators, device manufacturers, brands and agencies rely on content to get people to use their smart-phones. If the creators of content can't get paid, then the flow of content we rely on to read, share, comment on and advertise within, will dry up. We all need to fix the model where the value of content in print worth $100 per thousand drops to $10 in digital and just $1 in mobile.

Another key issue within publishing is how mobile offers new ways of delivering their content - but these tend to be expensive. As well as the spiralling cost of producing native apps for proliferating platforms and devices, it is expensive to enhance the format of content with video and interactive content. We did some consultancy for Yahoo last year on who is getting tablet content right and looked back at the early promise of tablet magazines.

Our friends at Wonder Factory produced a great concept video for Sports Illustrated. But if you look at the digital edition of Sports Illustrated now, it's quite underwhelming.

Viv magazine produced a wonderful concept video around the same time. They said Viv Magazine is a good example of what magazines could look like on the iPad. The magazine features beautiful motion graphic transitions when you flip between pages. It gives you the feeling of reading a book while the background sets the overall mood. But the iPad version now is virtually the same as the print title.

Publishers need to find affordable ways to take advantage of these new opportunities. And advertisers need to find new ad formats that will fund these innovations. So publishers and agencies must work together, rather than point fingers.

Click here for your full Mobile Fix (complete with links to background articles).

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