Are you ready to have a billion people around the world reading your articles, watching your videos and playing your games on mobile? You'd better be. Chances are you've seen the charts about the growth of smartphone use, with those steep curves zooming upward. People have embraced mobile at an unprecedented clip. We're glued to the devices, and we're constantly engaged with what we broadly call "content" anywhere and everywhere.
For publishers, this is great news. More smartphones and more mobile engagement mean more opportunities to reach and build one's core audience through mobile websites and applications.
That is a step in the right direction, but there's still a lot of room for improvement. Our survey results show that many online publishers are not investing quickly enough in mobile:
--More than half the respondents said that more than 5% of their Web traffic originated from mobile devices, yet only one in four were focusing 5% or more of their budget on mobile development.
--15% of respondents didn't even know how much traffic originated from mobile.
--Of the respondents that do not have a site or app, 30% are still unsure of the value of having a mobile presence.
It is, of course, still early, and many online content providers are just getting started in mobile. But that's all the more reason to take the gloves off, remove budget constraints, and build a dynamite mobile presence before your competitors do. The successes we've already seen reflect the tremendous opportunities for publishers. TV Guide Digital's story is illustrative. TV Guide started with a simple mobile goal, to enable users to access its content regardless of the screen they used. Relying largely on a cross-platform mobile strategy and mobile advertising, TV Guide Digital has seen very positive results since it launched its iPhone app in October 2009--more than 1 million downloads of the app within six months of launch, and a total of 3.5 million downloads so far across iPhone, iPad and Android.
What was the strategy? Christy Tanner, the general manager of TV Guide Digital, used existing online properties to promote the initial mobile app and then worked to improve it as her team learned how people were using it. She remarked, "The feedback loop for a mobile app is much better than on the Web. By monitoring ratings and reviews we were able to promptly identify the features that customers expected in the app." TV Guide's success with mobile is the result, at least in part, of its deep understanding of the platform and its mobile customers.
Of course it can be daunting to tackle a new platform and adapt your business to it, particularly when the platform itself is evolving at a dizzying pace. But with more than 60% of our survey respondents already implementing mobile strategies, now's the time for you to be bold and take action. Your customers are already on mobile, and they are likely already looking to interact with your content on it. Make sure you continue to delight them on the new screen. With that in mind, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you build out your mobile presence:
Build for mobile.
Mobile is different from online, so you should think about the ways you can engage users with unique mobile features like location services, voice commands and the use of touch screens and embedded cameras.Think about when, why and how people will interact with your content on mobile versus online. OpenTable is a company that built for the mobile consumer and now handles 10% of its reservations on mobile. Its location feature allows you to search for restaurants nearby and book a table instantly. OpenTable understands that people on computers may be looking for reservations several days out, but on mobile they want a reservation tonight.
Don't worry about monetizing--at first.
We've seen great success at companies that build for the user and wrap a monetization model around their apps only after they've achieved scale. Fight the urge to port your existing business model to mobile. It may work, but mobile, again, may require something different. With the explosion of apps we've seen a greater willingness for consumers to buy content. A combination of ad-supported content, paid content and in-app purchases may be the best mix, but it all depends on how your users engage with your content.
Test and iterate.
Developing a mobile presence is step one. Next you need to make it great. There is no silver bullet, so get something to market quickly and focus on learning from your users and updating both your presence and your business model based on how people interact with your content. If you're doing a mobile website, build in a feedback mechanism. With an app, monitor the user reviews, both to learn what people want and to understand how to improve your ratings. With apps I also recommend that you prompt users to rate the app after using it for a while. Otherwise, they'll only be asked to rate it when they uninstall, and that can drive down your rating score.
Learn from the innovators.
Entrepreneurs are finding new ways to engage mobile consumers. Shorten your own learning curve by understanding how mobile pioneers have achieved success. Rovio's Angry Birds app has more than 100 million downloads, and Backflip Studios has more 85 million across its app portfolio. These mobile experts understand what metrics to track and how to build a large user base and maintain user engagement well beyond the initial download. Rovio, for example, tracks retention by looking at the number of people who update the app when new releases are available. Often the causes of success on mobiletranscend app categories, so check out our video interviews with Rovio, Backflip and TV Guide Digital to see how they think about mobile.
Let me end on a note that will help you rest easy at night as your mobile team reinvents your business for mobile consumption. We've seen that mobile use peaks when desktop wanes, during mornings and evenings and on the weekends, making it complementary to your existing business. People now want to be connected wherever they are--at lunch, on the bus, on the beach and more. For a content provider, that's good, even great news.
Chris LaSala is the director of mobile partnerships for Google.
Thanks to Forbes