Content on the go: Supporting mobile delivery
By Charlotte Woolard
To media companies grappling with the challenges of multiplatform content management, one thing is clear: The technology and processes they use must serve an increasingly mobile audience.
Currently, less than 20% of Penton's audience visits the company's digital properties using a mobile device, but Senior VP-Content Joe Territo has no doubt about where the market is moving. “That number is going to rise and rise quickly,” he said. “As we do design work, we're focused on mobile.”
At the American Business Media conference in Florida last month, the association presented research showing that 75% of more than 4,500 mobile device users would access industry-related content more often if publishers delivered that content via mobile-optimized websites.
It's a major shift for the industry, and media companies are investing in content management systems and adjusting work flows to better position their brands for mobile platforms.
CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
Penton is developing a mobile-first strategy with a focus on the user experience, Territo said. The company recently converted 60 websites to a CMS using Drupal, replacing its diverse array of legacy technology. The single-system approach makes it easier for Penton to develop mobile offerings and roll out changes across its brands, he said.
Each brand has its own repository of content, but the technology underlying that repository is uniform across the company's digital properties; it comes equipped with features that can be turned on or off based on editorial need. “The databases are separate, but the code base is shared,” said Lisa Schnettler, director-Internet product management at Penton. “When we push out a new photo-sharing option, everybody gets a new photo-sharing option.”
1105 Media employs a similar approach, using a centralized CMS introduced four years ago to support such digital products as mobile-optimized sites, e-newsletters and tablet editions of its properties. “We chose a content management system that can deploy to any digital platform,” said Abraham Langer, COO of 1105 Media's Government Operations Group.
That doesn't mean that the content looks the same on every platform. 1105 Media has also set up a new editorial process to shape content for specific platforms. Reporters create a single package—with text, video, images, infographics and other elements—and editors who specialize in individual channels then filter it for delivery.
For print, a 2,500-word package might be cut to 1,500 words. A tablet version might include more images than a piece slated for mobile delivery. But each channel draws from one centralized resource within the CMS.
Vance Publishing Corp. also coupled the introduction of a new content management system with changes to its editorial practice to help it shape digital assets for delivery to different devices. “We've broken away from the old way of producing content,” said Dean Horowitz, VP-digital and media operations at the media company.
Reporters place packets of information into the CMS as they develop in-depth stories for print editions of Vance's products. These works-in-progress, delivered in digestible chunks, perform well in the mobile environment, Horowitz said. The company has grown its mobile audience with, for example, the salon group seeing 50% of its audience access the site via mobile device.
In addition to the mobile appeal of information packets, the new procedure also gives editors a way to gauge audience interest in a topic, to gather comments and explore new avenues as a final, polished piece takes shape. “That was a big behavioral change,” Horowitz said.
Vance has tied its CMS and analytics together, and can observe near real-time performance of content, he said. Editors can watch engagement throughout the day and also participate in overarching, monthly reviews. The company provides performance-based incentives to encourage innovation.
“We are obsessed with analytics and making sure that we are making informed decisions,” Horowitz said.
The rapid rise of demand for content delivery across multiple platforms means that publishers are working to develop one competency although they already see the need for the next iteration. “I don't know many media companies that have it down,” Horowitz said.
Philip Ramsey, technical design manager at Bloomberg BNA, has led the development of mobile apps that support complex research sites. His focus has been on providing access to content both on- and offline, to saved searches and to other personalized elements while minimizing the impact that an app has on the end user's data plan.
“When you think mobile, you have to think light,” he said. “The biggest demand is trying to minimize data constraints.”
But now, he said, he is also thinking about the editorial process for the next iteration of apps. Right now, editors are tinkering with headlines and formatting articles for better presentation within the interface, he said. But Ramsey wants to allow editors to customize the layout of the interface, for example, when big stories break. He wants them to be able to control the push cycle. “That would be the next step,” he said.
Michael Powell, corporate creative director at BNP Media, is shifting cloud-based service providers for the production of the company's apps. He said he hopes the transition will speed the launch of mobile content, including directories, for 55 brands. The company currently has two apps and will need to rebuild those as it moves forward with the new provider.
BNP uses a centralized CMS, and editors tag content for mobile delivery, Powell said. They focus on readability—tailoring content for an on-the-go audience—and will be looking to deliver content in different formats to phones and tablets under the assumption that those users have different consumption habits.
“All of this is our goal,” Powell said. “We're at the beginning stages.”