Seeing the Mobile Threat as Opportunity
Do you know you have a mobile problem? Because if you’re a traditional print or Web publisher, you likely have a mobile problem -- whether you realize it or not.
Most of the big digital players have already seen mobile become a significant part of monthly audience. In a September 2012 Media Metrix Multi-Platform report, top-ranked Google showed a mobile audience 58 percent as large as its desktop population. For commerce leader Amazon, mobile visitors were 55 percent of desktop. And music site Pandora already has a mobile majority, with an audience size double that of desktop.
The problem for publishers, even if you are among the crowd generating all those mobile pageviews, is that advertiser appetite is not keeping pace. According to analysis from Magna Global (a unit of IPG), although it grew by 53 percent last year, mobile ad spend still commands just 1.3 percent of total ad revenue and 6 percent of digital advertising.
The result of high mobile publisher volumes and low advertiser adoption? A glut of undifferentiated inventory resulting in low CPMs.
Totally depressing? Not really.
Mobile advertising benefits from a unique connection with the consumer -- it reaches them at moments that were previously off-limits to dynamic advertising, whether that’s at a kid's Little League game, boarding an airplane or standing in the checkout line. Click-through rates and engagement outshine Web advertising metrics. And advertisers will, soon enough, follow the consumer to mobile in greater numbers.
On the flip side, publishers that take advantage of the unique characteristics of mobile media -- in both the consumer experiences and integrated advertising opportunities -- are already attracting ad dollars (and at competitive or print-level CPMs). Mobile media’s rapid consumer adoption has clearly left many publishers and advertisers far behind, still focused on TV and print and the classic digital display of the 90s. It's not too late to catch up, however, and draft on the lessons learned so far.
For publishers, here are some of the guiding principles to follow when going mobile:
Leverage the unique capabilities of the mobile device and operating system. Tailor the app experience with mobile content consumption in mind. Make it easy to share your content socially, since most readers will be on a device already signed in to Facebook or Twitter. Take advantage of camera and location functionality. If you have travel content, don’t just encourage users to comment, build in the utility to enable uploading a picture from the camera roll or take a picture immediately and add to an article. Most importantly, align your advertising experiences to the app feature set: social, sharable and with exportable utility.
Map content to consumer intent. Remember used-car listings in your local paper? (Well, maybe not, depending on how old you are.) That teaser print listing started a chain of inefficient tasks, from calling for more information to getting directions, to somehow figuring out a fair price for the vehicle. On a mobile device, that same car listing today is immediately actionable, from researching pricing info to finding it on a dealer lot and placing a quick call to confirm availability. Standout content experiences in mobile don’t stop at the first step. For instance, take how-to articles and enhance them with list functions that are easily exportable, such as developing an "add to shopping list" feature for recipe content.
Help your advertisers make the leap into mobile goodness. Many advertisers are not fully prepared to take advantage of creative opportunities on mobile. They may not understand what’s possible in your app, or with mobile generally. And the lack (until recently) of ad functionality standards has made some agencies wary of the resources required to effectively execute a mobile campaign at scale. Be ready and willing to provide creative support to take standard online campaigns native on the mobile device -- especially if you offer unique ad sizes, functionality or integration.
Think beyond the standards. The mobile industry, through the IAB, has spent the last two years shaping a framework for mobile advertising functionality -- now known as MRAID, for Mobile Rich-Media Ad Interface Definitions. MRAID is basically programmer guidance that ensures an ad unit can execute advanced functionality (such as expanding in size or accessing device features) in a consistent way across publishers. It’s an important milestone for the industry and you should ensure that your apps comply with MRAID guidelines. But don’t stop there. Soon enough, every publisher’s apps will be MRAID compatible, and then where’s your differentiator? Leverage distinctive characteristics of your app or audience through organic ad units, tailored to the app and content experience. (But see point #3 above, and be prepared to build the experience for your best advertisers.)
Go big. And long. Resist the urge to trim your content experience; small screen doesn’t mean small content. It’s counterintuitive, but mobile consumers often have more time to spend with your content than their Web counterparts. Long-form content, video clips and episodes, deep photo galleries all have a place in a mobile experience. And that holds true for advertisers as well -- mobile is a great storefront to distribute the content you’ve already diligently created for “earned” media placements. And it will be consumed on a device that’s the birthplace of viral media.
Magna Global estimates that within five years, mobile will represent more than 20 percent of U.S. media consumption. The players then will likely be the publishers who are creating compelling, differentiated mobile experiences today.