To read all three of my “mobile-first strategy” posts as a pdf with a table of contents, scroll to the end of this post.
News organizations are belatedly, reluctantly and often awkwardly pursuing “web-first” strategies. As we fight these web battles, I am increasingly coming to believe that “web first” is what the military would call fighting the last war. News organizations need a mobile-first strategy.
“Web first” was a tremendously difficult concept for journalists and newspaper companies.
Publishers and editors worried about “scooping ourselves” and “cannibalizing” our core product. Editors and reporters thought “web first” meant posting our newspaper stories online before the press rolled (but often after the late newscast). Advertising staffs thought web strategies meant upselling print customers into annoying pop-up ads or ineffective banners.
We wasted energy and time fretting over whether and how to move online and then went about it wrong, as the world moved ever swifter to the web and got more things right than we did and learned more lessons than we did from mistakes.
Newspaper companies are so thoroughly rooted in print and so devoted to ink and paper that we missed opportunities and held back as digital technology revolutionized communication, leaving us behind.
We can’t waste that much time in mastering the mobile market. We need to start thinking mobile first. Now. The world is moving swiftly to smart phones and we can’t afford to be as far behind this time (in truth, it’s too late to be ahead, but not too late to pursue opportunities that can lead us to a prosperous future). We need to make mobile innovation the top priority and the first thing we think of when we plan change in our organizations.
(I should note that web-first meant content would be published online before in the print edition, and that the organization should start thinking first about the web, though most didn’t, regardless of what they were saying. When I say we must shift to a mobile-first strategy, I’m not talking about where content appears when, but about the priorities of the organization: what you place first in your thinking and acting.)
I heard someone recently cite figures on the low (in his view) percentage of people who actually own iPhones (I won’t cite the figure he gave because it’s out of date and the relevant numbers are those about growth of iPhone sales and apps). Actually, the penetration percentage is a great reason to get moving swiftly into iPhone opportunities. If we wait until nearly everyone has some sort of smart phone, someone else will be filling the roles that we can and should fill.
“Mobile first” needs to change how we think and act throughout our organizations. Reporters, editors and visual journalists need to think first about how to package and deliver news for mobile devices. Information technology staffs need to work first on development of mobile applications for popular devices. Sales staffs need to make it a top priority to guide business customers in using our mobile apps and platforms to reach customers with advertising and direct-sales opportunities. Designers need to present content that is clear and easy to read on the small screen (even if this means spending less staff resources on design of print or web products). Executives need to redirect resources and set priorities so that we pursue mobile opportunities as aggressively as we pursue the most important news stories in our communities.
We try to make one size fit all in many aspects of our business, but that will not work in a mobile-first world. We need to become the mobile news, information and commerce connection for people with the latest iPhone, BlackBerry or Droid (and whatever comes next), but also for people with simpler phones that handle only phone calls and text messages and for non-phone devices such as iPods.
We need to figure the best ways to deliver news and conduct commerce effectively on mobile devices: text messages, email, mobile applications, tweets, easy-to-use mobile web sites, podcasts, location-based news and commercial information.
Whatever your role in your media organization, consider how you would change your work, your priorities and your thinking to support a mobile-first strategy. This will either be our future or our next squandered opportunity.
Read all three of my “mobile-first strategy” posts together, with their comments, and a table of contents:
Or, if you prefer, you can read the other posts on the blog:
- News companies need to help local businesses pursue mobile opportunities
- How news organizations need to change to pursue a mobile-first strategy
- A mobile-first project for your community on the go (a more recent post not in the pdf)