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June 10, 2014, 12:45 p.m.
Mobile & Apps

apimobileThe American Press Institute is out with “Unlocking mobile revenue and audience: New ideas and best practices,” which is part-report, part-sketchbook featuring some of the smartest people who are actively working on mobile products in news organizations around the country. It’s broken into nine parts, which look at mobile advertising, the connection between mobile and social media, how to manage for mobile in the newsroom, and the difference between native apps and mobile browsers.

If you’re interested how to better align the editorial and business sides of your company for mobile audiences you should give the full report a read. Here are five highlights:

Social and mobile work as a team, shifting reading times

According to BuzzFeed’s vice president of growth and data, Dao Nguyen, the link between social and mobile is real. According to the report: “The publisher’s mobile audience is sharing more, reading long-form content for longer periods, growing faster and clicking on native ads more often than its desktop users.” And BuzzFeed’s mobile audience is demonstrating different consumption patterns than desktop readers:

As of early 2014, BuzzFeed gets most of its traffic from mobile devices, Vice President of Growth and Data Dao Nguyen told us. Its peak traffic hour has shifted to the evenings, around 9 p.m., rather than the typical daytime peak of desktop Web traffic.

Making mobile unique

While more news organizations are recognizing the importance of mobile to their future, many still see it as a repository for work that was made with print or desktop screens in mind. Potential solutions for mobile include slicing up stories into smaller units (like Circa or Inside), or finding other ways to take advantage of smaller screens, different interfaces (swiping and tapping), and other parts of the mobile environment. The idea is to capture audiences that might not otherwise read you on mobile:

But as the Boston Globe’s Damon Kiesow pointed out, your highly motivated readers are bound to read content regardless of form. To reach new, larger audiences, you need to make the content an ideal mobile experience. Thus
customizing for mobile is essential for growth.

Publishers need to better use data for mobile advertising

Media companies now have to compete with tech companies like Facebook and Google for digital advertising, who have more far personal data on their users. One way for publishers to gain traction is through better use of targeted data about their mobile audience:

Publishers can send ad networks real-time data about each pageview, such as the Apple or Android device ID, the user’s location, or other common data that will make inventory more valuable when compared with other publishers.

Targeting ads by using the rich data publishers already know about their subscribers could be highly profitable, however technology decisions must be made at the outset on how to collect the data and make it actionable for advertising on the local and national levels.

While better data may help publishers make their ads more effective, the API group says taking advantage of location, providing utility, and better use of a device’s features (like push notifications) could make ads more creative.

Get everyone on the same page

When it comes to mobile, the editorial, technology, and business teams need to be in sync. That allows better planning for mobile from the start: how content is created and executed, how it will be displayed on mobile, and ways it could be potentially monetized. Why is it important to get your ducks in a row? The group pointed out some common problems:

— Isolation of mobile-minded editors into a sort of artisanal, lab-like environment is dangerous because it removes the broader newsroom from mobile priorities and can centralize technology to an unproductive extent.

— On a technology front, outsourcing everything to vendors is a potential trap, as priorities can quickly diverge. In-house development is preferable if resources are available, but vendors can be consulted. (Conversely, over-confidence about in-house resources can slow innovation.)

— Pledging to “focus on mobile” without identifying benchmarks is useless.

— Starting with the similarities between desktop and mobile, as opposed to the differences, is a potential trap.

Pushing a deeper connection with mobile readers

While the overall trends show audiences are going mobile, how can media companies build a better relationship with readers on their devices? The group found two general areas publishers should consider: generating reader engagement and providing better metrics. Personalization, push notifications, and finding a role for user-generated content were among the ideas for better engagement. But measuring how your audience connects with you is equally important, and the group stressed the importance of tracking things like reader loyalty and depth of session.

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