This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.
Dan Rowinski, Mobile Editor at ReadWrite, first offered the advice below in a comment on yesterday’s blog post on mobile opportunities, suggesting that I should have provided more detailed suggestions. He was right. Whatever detail I provided was in previous posts that I acknowledged were outdated. I asked Dan if I could break out his advice as a guest post. I added a few links. How applicable his suggestions are to the editor’s job will vary by newsroom, but the suggestions are valid and helpful.
I think you will find it a little easier to think about if you break it down into tangible categories.
- How does your site look on mobile? There is a good chance it looks like crap. That is probably going to be your first and biggest problem.
- Define your resources. Do you have somebody that can actually build an app for you? How much to get an indie contractor to do so?
- Ask yourself if you really need an app that lives in the various app stores (Apple App Store, Amazon Appstore, Google Play, BlackBerry World, Windows Phone Marketplace). Because, you know what? You probably don’t. Most media properties think app, app, app. But that is not necessarily going to work for you because app discovery in the various stores is bloody awful. Only go to the app stores if your app actually does something unique as opposed to repurposing your content for the app model. Can the user play games on your app? Find directions and local businesses? Take pictures and upload them to your site? Or is it just article and video? If it is the latter, ditch the app. It is not an effective use of resources. Look at the Financial Times model and note how successful it has been without the app stores.
- Seriously consider responsive design. You want your readers to experience the site on their smartphones, tablets, PCs and laptops? Responsive design (a mix of HTML5 and CSS and some other tricks) can make sure your content automatically resizes to the screen the device is on. The Boston Globe was one of the first big newspapers to go completely responsive with BostonGlobe.com. We employ it at ReadWrite.com and completely killed our Android and iOS apps.
- Easy social: People click through on their smartphones and tablets from social sites. Facebook in particular but Twitter too. If you get on the top boards on LinkedIn, you can do surprisingly great traffic. This is actually a lot more about writing headlines for social and making sure the content is unique to the social site than any particular big-ticket strategy.
- Dark social: You know why you don’t need to build an app? Because there are a ton out there that are doing it better than you and can easily find your content. Zite, Flipboard, Pulse, News360 are all apps that millions of people use and are finding your content from. Email is also considered dark social and where do you read most of your email these days? On your smartphone. The morning newsletter from your publication is NOT dead.
If you are an editor in a newsroom or running a media property, you know who knows more about mobile than you do? Just about everybody.
Those apps that are aggregating your content and sending you pageviews? Yeah, you can approach them about your own hosted section. Flipboard and Zite both have branded sections on their apps for specific publications (ReadWrite.com is on both and we love us some Zite).
Also talk to developers that specialize in this type of stuff. The people you get to build that responsive site can be worth more to you than the code and support they apply to your business.
Rethinking the ad model
Ads are different on mobile. And that sucks for most newsrooms and sales forces because they really have no idea what the hell is going on any more. The ad experience is different. Pre-roll ads really upset mobile users, more so than the Web.
Inline ads that scroll with your content (or in your content, but that is still fairly nascent) can work. Engaging ads, like those made by Boston startup Jebbit, show more ROI. Your old banners ads are just not going to work anymore. There is no room for it.
There is also the native/sponsored avenue. Most journos are going to cringe at this, but the marketers love it and it is an easier sell for the sales team. Native ads (articles that are written and paid for by brands or sponsors) can be inserted into a news feed on a mobile device without really disrupting the flow of your own publication. Facebook is employing ads embedded in the stream to great effect on mobile and turned its mobile ad business from nothing to hundreds of millions of dollars basically overnight.
How is your newsroom pursuing mobile opportunities?
Other earlier posts about mobile strategy
- News companies need to help local businesses pursue mobile opportunities
- How news organizations need to change to pursue a mobile-first strategy
- Students’ media use shows journalism’s future
- Tomi T. Ahonen’s view of the present and future of mobile
- Experts’ view of mobile: the opportunity of our lifetime
If you’re another Digital First editor (or a leader or former leader in another organization) and would like to propose a guest post as part of the series, email me at sbuttry (at) digitalfirstmedia (dot) com and we’ll discuss. Sue Burzynski Bullard provided such a post on organizational tools and Nancy March wrote one on balancing work and personal life.
I’m not interested in a post of general leadership tips. I’d rather have a post on a particular leadership topic. Feel free to suggest a post that might address a topic I’ve already covered, but from a different perspective. I welcome posts that disagree with my advice. I will invite a few editors I respect to write posts.
Earlier posts with advice for editors
Here are topics I am planning on covering in this series (the order is tentative). The posts probably will run every few days for the next few weeks. What other topics should I cover?
- Time management
- Discipline and addressing problems
- Developing new leaders