Making the most of mobile
With digital readership on the rise, media company offerings increase
By Sean Callahan
The statistics are gathering like a storm. In December, eMarketer released a study indicating that mobile has surpassed print readership. Mobile usage increased 30% in 2011, to 65 minutes per day, compared with just 44 minutes for magazine and newspaper reading, which were down a combined 12%.
Individual magazine titles have found that mobile consumption of their content on smartphones and tablets is beginning to boom. For example, the Economist Group said digital-only subscriptions for The Economist on tablets, e-readers and the Web eclipsed 100,000 as of the end of October. That figure was more than double the number of digital-only subscriptions a year earlier. The Economist also reported more than 3 million downloads of its app to tablets and smartphones.
Summit Media Group discovered in a survey of subscribers to its Packaging World that 46% of them own a tablet and 78% planned to own one by May. Of those who currently own tablets, 74% said they read work-related digital magazines on the devices.
With this statistical cloud on the horizon, media companies are preparing for the mobile storm in a variety of ways—even if advertising from b-to-b marketers on the devices so far has only been a drizzle.
“The real challenge as an industry—and we're seeing it and I'm sure others are seeing it—is we really are in the infancy in how marketers think about using tablet advertising,” said Paul Rossi, managing director of the Economist Group. “I think it's fair to say that the readers have migrated faster to tablets than the advertisers.”
More statistics support that assessment. According to eMarketer, print accounts for just 6.8% of the time U.S. adults spend with media, but it garners 24.7% of media advertising dollars. Mobile accounts for 10.1% of time spent, but just 0.9% of ad spending.
AD DOLLARS WILL SHIFT
Many companies are betting that ad dollars will soon follow this shift in usage to mobile. Crisp Media is one such enterprise. Late last year, Crisp acquired Smart Device Media, a mobile ad network for premium brands. Jason Young, who was CEO of Smart Device Media, leads the combined company.
Young compared the rise of the mobile Web to that of the desktop Web. “It's very similar, except that [mobile is] happening in a much more compressed time frame,” he said. “There's a sharp acceleration.”
Crisp Media expects to get its fair share of the $4 billion that Forrester Research estimates will be spent on mobile advertising in 2013. It's no accident the primary vertical ad network that Crisp acquired from Smart Device Media is focused on technology. Most observers expect that tech marketers will adopt the mobile Web before most other industries. For example, b-to-b tech media company Ziff Davis Enterprise is moving all its print magazines to digital and mobile. As of this month, ZDE's Baseline, CIO Insight and eWeek will appear only in digital/mobile formats. Channel Insider, an online sibling brand, is also making the transition.
ZDE has already begun to introduce digital editions, websites and native apps specifically geared for a number of smartphones—such as the Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and Windows Phone 7—as well as the iPad, Rim Playbook and Android tablets.
“For publishers, certainly Ziff Davis Enterprise is a leader with their seven apps for each of their four brands,” said Chuck Richard, VP-lead analyst at Outsell Inc.
The embrace of mobile isn't limited to the tech sector. The Economist is moving aggressively to make its content readable on any tablet or smartphone. Rossi envisions the tablet as transformative not only for magazine reading but for magazine advertising.
“What magazines have always struggled with is accountability and ROI,” he said. “With the tablet you could end up with this perfect world where you can think of branding and you can think of ROI and data in the immersive environment of the magazine. I think the tablet is lean-back reading 2.0, but I sort of half hope that the tablet will be print brand advertising 2.0.”
Trade publishers are also moving ahead with mobile initiatives. Summit Media Group has incorporated “responsive design” into its websites, meaning the sites automatically adapt for optimum readability on almost any smartphone or tablet, said David Newcorn, VP-digital and custom media.
Summit has developed two apps specifically for the tablet for Packaging World and Automation World.
For the same price, marketers' ads run in both the print and digital versions of the magazines. Packaging World also sells an exclusive sponsorship opportunity for its digital edition, which offers a marketer a “corner cut violator,” an acknowledgement on the front cover of the print version of an advertiser's sponsorship of the free digital edition. Markem-Imaje, a packaging equipment supplier, is the current sponsor.
Cygnus Business Media is another traditional b-to-b publisher experimenting with tablets. For example, it is creating custom digital magazines formatted for the iPad for marketers such as Case IH.
“We've had a fair amount of success on the tablet side of it,” said Paul Caplan, senior VP-digital revenue at Cygnus.