How Publishers Can Get Real About Mobile

It's no secret that consumers are migrating in huge numbers from desktops and laptops to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Publishers are now at a critical juncture in which they need to get out in front of the mobile consumer or run the risk of losing an enormous business opportunity. It's not just about building mobile for today, but anticipating where we're going to be 12 to 24 months from now.

As a former publishing exec, I have been accused of being too early to sing the virtues that mobile represents for advertisers and publishers. Well, if there is any lingering doubt, look at Facebook's $306 million growth in mobile advertising revenue last quarter, as opposed to $12 million only two quarters ago, according to JP Morgan estimates.

Similarly, the publishers we work with are seeing a major uptick in mobile paid impressions: There has been 83% growth between Q3 and Q4 for an average total of 40 billion monthly mobile impressions, as well as a 40%-50% increase in mobile-optimized traffic. This data is giving us insights that help provide a distinct point of view on where mobile marketing is going, and what publishers and advertisers need to do to stay current.

Leverage Mobile to Create One Truly Cross-Device Platform

Let's face it -- digital marketing is complicated enough. We need to focus on unified functionality with the emphasis on simplifying the user experience. It starts by making substantive moves to integrate mobile into one real-time and standardized platform, rather than keeping it contained in silos and independent stacks. Adapting to mobile goes way beyond simply displaying ads on smartphones. It’s actually about marrying digital editorial and advertising content being streamlined across PCs, tablets, and smartphones. For instance, Windows OS8 accomplishes this with a touchscreen OS that formats content systematically, no matter what device it's displaying on. That delivery must be consistent, and not segmented across media.

Customize Content in Real-Time, But Don't Neglect Brand Control and Privacy

When thinking beyond platform optimization, there’s a long way to go in identifying the most powerful ways to leverage and integrate mobile into your media strategy. For many publishers, the ability to increase real-time, customized mobile content and advertising will determine their very survival.

Publishers can no longer expect to succeed based on the principles of traditional mass audience advertising. Within mobile, there are a different set of parameters and rules. It’s now more about the old laws of retail: location, location, location. Relevant practices such as geotargeting, location-based advertising, device detection, and integration of rich media ads into existing applications must be integrated to provide flexible functionality and demonstrate results.

It's no longer about building an app and expecting significant user adoption; the focus must shift toward leveraging user data to deliver the personalized content. While obtaining sufficient value for these impressions remains a priority, we can’t forget either brand control or privacy.  More needs to be done to tackle inappropriate ads, and the industry needs to band together and call out a unique identifier when it comes to privacy.

Understand the Data to Scale Impressions Appropriately Across Audiences    

Users who engage with your content will make distinct determinations based on that first impression, giving publishers important lessons on how to scale. Data-driven science will help maximize the impact of that first impression and ensure that the end user is consistently seeing personalized display content, without overwhelming them with too many impressions.  A common mistake that too many make, unfortunately, is turning off the end user.

From the business perspective there are agency concerns, such as the lack of standardization when it comes to ad formats on mobile devices that can make planning ahead difficult. Despite these challenges, the fact that the mobile space is still relatively nascent creates enormous opportunities. Yes, experiment and see what sticks -- but there are already do’s and don'ts that provide a clearer mobile roadmap.

Integrating mobile, and building consistent and integrated programmatic offerings across media will not only separate the publishers who come out ahead, but determine who will still be around 10 years from now. 

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