One reason it’s so hard to pin down mobile advertising is due to the fact that “mobile” is quite possibly the most imprecise term there is when it comes to adverting and media. Tablet? Yes. Phone? Indeed. E-reader? Laptop? Phablet? Sure. Also, that must-have thing that’s coming down the pike next.
The sizes, functions and purposes of a multiplicity of mobile devices vary greatly, meaning there literally cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution to mobile advertising. However is there is one universal truth about mobile, that will hold as true in the future as it does today, it’s that real estate is limited on mobile screens – much more so than on other digital devices. And that’s what’s limiting mobile advertising.
Mary Meeker’s most recent state of the internet presentation proffered the much-cited statistic that ten percent of media consumption now occurs on mobile devices, yet mobile commands a scant one percent of digital revenues. Yes, this is where internet display advertising once languished, back in the day. Eventually things evened out.
Will mobile advertising repeat the pattern? Don’t be so certain that straight display advertising will ever gain the traction on mobile devices that it enjoys on devices connected to monitors and other, larger screens.
Disparate as the world of mobile hardware is, all mobile devices are linked by a common factor: real estate is scarce. Display advertising on mobile screens is proportionately more intrusive, annoying and unwelcome.
What we’re waiting for is the rapidly growing trend of native advertising to spread more effectively to mobile devices and platforms, and we’re not there yet. Currently, most forms of branded content as advertising occur on publisher sites that help to create them (think Buzzfeed, New York Times, Boston Globe, Gawker Media). Technology from companies such as OneSpot and InPowered that pushes relevant, branded content into ad units are pretty nascent on the internet and don’t yet have mobile strategies. Facebook (as everyone knows) is working on the issue. Some have posited large-scale mobile players such as Samsung and Yahoo may tackle mobile native advertising this year.
In other words, hurry up and wait.
Will 2013 finally be the year of mobile advertising? I don’t think so, but that long-awaited era may be on the horizon. The solution to ads on mobile devices that consumers accept and value (as opposed to the 50 percent of clicks on mobile ads purely attributable to “oops“) will be content, not advertising driven.
Predictions can be fascinating, but let’s face it. No one I know is in possession of a working crystal ball, and digital marketing and technology move way too quickly and too erratically to do much more than keep us guessing (not that that isn’t half the fun).
I’m an analyst, not a psychic. So rather than play the “what’s next?” guessing game, let’s instead focus on “what’s important?”
These are the areas I plan to keep a close eye on in 2013. What would you add — or subtract — from this list?
1. Media Convergence The blending of paid, owned and earned media will continue and intensify in 2013 spawning new technological solutions, necessitating new skills, new workflow systems and new partnerships. As the lines continue to blur between what’s paid, owned and earned in digital (and soon, traditional) media, this will be the trend that governs nearly all other major change in the digital marketing and media landscape.
2. Native advertising Between banner blindness and the fact that display, search and social advertising has largely moved toward programmatic buys that are much less profitable for publishers, we’re seeing a number of technologies and solutions emerge to facilitate native advertising, one of many terms for plonking content (often, unbranded content) into ad units (a manifestation of media convergence). Products and solutions in this area will continue to emerge, more publishers will accommodate it, and no doubt we’ll see some interesting, large-scale media partnerships emerge as a result.
3. Demand for broader skills and tighter workflows will intensify intensifies Looping back again to media convergence, the increasing overlap between paid, owned and earned channels is creating a demand to bring in new skills and more closely integrate workflows within disciplines. Take PR, for example. Traditionally, public relations has specialized in owned (content) and earned (in the sense of traditional) media. Throw in native advertising and suddenly PR agencies are faced with the prospect of media buying, a skill that’s always been the exclusive domain of advertising agencies.
And with media buying come other skills such as media optimization and analysis. Put otherwise, digital, which has become increasingly siloed and Balkanized in recent years, will no longer be able to pull the “that’s not my table” routine. All players must develop an understanding of related digital channels (search, social, email, analytics), as well as come together around a table and really, truly play as a team.
4. Real-time marketing & listening platforms Real-time marketing demonstrably works — not just in social channels, but across the marketing spectrum. A recent GolinHarris study finds real-time not only positively impacts standard marketing goals — word-of-mouth, attention, preference, likelihood to try or buy — but it also turbocharges other marketing initiatives, including paid and owned media effectiveness. Event- and news-driven marketing will become increasingly vital as brands work to become more relevant. This requires sophisticated listening and monitoring platforms, and often 24/7 staffing. Teams require tools, and training to respond in accordance with social media policies and in the brand’s voice. They must also be permitted to work in an agile environment, free of the chain-of-approval strictures that are antithetical to real-time marketing.
5. Organizing for content marketing & content strategy As brands recognize the necessity of adding content to the marketing mix, they quickly realize something else. Precious few organizations have a Content Division. In 2013 brands will begin to address this deficiency in earnest. They will hire, reorganize and make room on the org chart for effective content marketing operations that work in concert with existing marketing functions from social to communications to brand, creative and advertising.
6. Visual information takes precedence Research I published in early 2012 demonstrates that when marketers are asked what kind of content they’ll be investing in going forward, anything visual takes precedence over the written word. The unfettered growth of Pinterest, infographics, Instagram, and Tumblr, not to mention the always-growing popularity on online video, bears this out. Visuals capture attention. In a world in which brand messages clamor for consumer attention across screens, devices and channels, a picture is worth the proverbial thousand words. Keep your eyes open in 2013. It’s going to be a colorful and visually arresting year.
7. Online/offline channels converge, i.e. everything becomes more digital As media become more digital, we’re seeing digital messages appear in new places: out-of-home channels such as billboards and digital signage, as well as TV screens, are hosting streaming and social media.
The above are my top seven, but I’ll be keeping an eye on some other trends next year. Mobile is always changing rapidly, gamification is developing and interesting, so is wrangling and making sense of big data.
The single most interesting trend in 2013? Easy. It’s the one we don’t even know about yet.
Characters on packaging sing and dance. Retail inventory “knows” where it is in the store, and when it needs to be restocked. Invisible coupons can be snatched from the ether, and mobile devices can lead shoppers to items that match pre-selected criteria (low-fat, gluten free and strawberry flavored). Open the car door and, as the heat and engine automatically start, the seat slides to your preferred position.
The sentient world is no a radical future vision, it’s present reality. Readily available technologies such as smartphones, Google Goggles (and soon, Glass), augmented reality (AR), smart keys and fobs, even laptops make it increasingly easy to apply layers of content, images and information on top of object, products, and places. And at the same time, to view and experience these additional layers of content. Technology developments will soon enable more and more objects to become sentient, as Corning so elegantly depicted in its highly successful A Day Made of Glass Video:
Brands, particularly those aspiring to a cutting-edge image, have embraced advertising and marketing in the sentient world. Augmented reality almost seems old hat when you start totting up brands that have tried it, including GE, Nestlé, Lego, Kellogg, Mercedes-Benz, and Tesco. Ben & Jerry’s augemented ice cream lids. Starbuck’s experimented with enhanced coffee cups.
An iPhone app created by Dentsu in Japan allows shoppers to see animated butterflies flitting by. Each butterfly contains a coupon for a nearby business. In-store smart kiosks are becoming popular, as are apps that facilitate shopping. IBM has developed an app that finds what shoppers are looking for by scanning the shelves with a smartphone’s video camera
The sentient world goes far beyond in-store and CPG applications, of course. Destination and place marketing creates enormous potential both for data and for marketing and advertising applications. Kia, for example, a US Open sponsor, put a layer of information over last year’s event.
Unquestionably, as technology becomes increasingly sophisticated as well as cheaper, and as consumer adoption of smart devices soars, the world of places and things will become increasingly sentient. This raises a number of questions marketers must begin addressing now in order to intelligently introduce content – literally – into other dimensions.
1. Whose data surrounds your product? From a marketing perspective, the sentient world fundamentally means Things + Places = Media. OK, but what content is appropriate for which things, where? This is where content strategists and marketers face new challenges. Will they create it? Aggregate it? Allow users to contribute it? What are the paramenters of the “what”? (How comes later).
2. How will user-generated content be considered and handled? It’s already easy for users to add layers of content to the sentient world. How will brands cope with virtual UGC? As with social media, brands face a lack of control in many aspects of the sentient world. AR is something consumers can do already. Smart devices such as keys have been hacked. Negative sentiment is inevitable. UGC will soon literally spill out of the web and into if not everything, then many things that will affect brands.
3. What data should or could be layered on your product, service or brand? What information, images, data and media should surround a carton of yogurt? A cinema box office? A hammer? What goes on the label, the package, and what constitutes an invisible but discoverable layer in the virtual world? Here, content strategy merges with merchandising, packaging, point of purchase and other marketing functions in a highly complex interchange not yet informed with best practices and cases studies.
4. What’s appropriate, in line with marketing and content strategy and makes sense for the target audience? Currently, augmented reality is the dominant channel for marketing in the sentient world (though technology developments could shift this paradigm, and quickly). AR is opt-in. It requires a call-to-action to impel a consumer to whip out a device, fire up an app and experience the data layer. Will it be worth the effort? What’s the payoff? What’s the appropriate form of the call-to-action? More open questions that will only be resolved by extensive trial and error.
5. Data will be experienced in real-time. Do you have real-time ability? Real time marketing and advertising are becoming commonplace for many brands such as Pepsi and Applebee’s. Their marketers have always-on war rooms in which highly trained social media and analytics teams monitor digital sentiment and interaction 24/7, reacting and optimizing messaging in real time. The sentient world will rapidly become part of this intense, pressurized marketing function.
6. How will workflow be managed? Whose job is it to oversee these virtual layers of data? As with other forms of content marketing, clear roles haven’t yet emerged. The sentient world calls for developers, content creators, multimedia producers, strategist, creatives and more. Staffing, relationships with vendors and outside agencies and technology investments will all be affected – and require investment and ongoing budget.
7. What metrics will be applied to the sentient world? Interactions in the sentient world can be measured, but marketers have always had difficulty determining what to measure, particularly in new digital channels. Very little in this realm conforms to simple direct marketing metrics. Instead, more complex KPIs (key performance indicators) must be developed.
8. Who partners in this ecosystem? Who will brand align with to leverage the possibilities of this new ecosystem? If your refrigerator tells you it’s time to buy a fresh carton of milk, will the alert be accompanied by a coupon? When your car wants oil or fuel, will it recommend a preferred brand? Perhaps your phone will “know” there’s a nearby McDonalds where you can recharge – both the battery and yourself. Brands will soon explore newly-logical alliances.
9. What platforms matter now, and what must be accommodated in the future? A tough but persistent question in mobile has always been around platform. iPhone? iPad? Android, Blackberry, other tablets? What devices will consumers carry, and how will they use them to interact with places and objects? Yesterdays cameras, MP3 players and e-readers are consolidating into phones now. What will tomorrow bring – and how will you bring your data to that platform?
10. After the first wave of doing it because it’s cool, what’s next? As with all new technologies, the sentient world is a novelty now. Any reasonably serious brand initiative is almost guaranteed to have a novelty factor, PR amplification, buzz – the whole first-mover advantage package. More strategic brands will be asking themselves what comes next. How will we work, play, shop, travel and interact with the sentient world when it’s just another part of…the world?
It almost had to happen. Ad stacks are proliferating across the digital media landscape, and corporate behemoths such as IBM and Adobe are refining and growing their suites of digital marketing and advertising software offerings. All the while, Google’s been very quiet on the display advertising front.
No longer. Today at DoubleClick Insights, Google announced its commitment to going full-bore into the stack wars with what Vice President, Display Advertising Neal Mohan described to me in an advance briefing is “the biggest upgrade in DoubleClick history.”
Everything digital advertising at Google: search, the Google Display Network, AdSense, text ads, rich media, YouTube, and mobile advertising (AdMob) will be integrated. A new brand encompassing all of DoubleClick’s platform technology has been created. The components include:
DoubleClick Digital Marketing Manager – an upgraded version of the DoubleClick ad server, the control panel for ad scheduling, delivery, reporting and more across premium media.
DoubleClick Bid Manager – a revamp of media buying platform Invite Media. Google promises faster processing and better reporting to manage audience buying across ad exchanges.
DoubleClick Search (launched last year) enables buying across multiple search engines.
DoubleClick Studio – a rich media solution that now incorporates Teracent.
Google Analytics integration.
“It’s a rolling thunder kind of rollout,” Mohan explained. Workflow, reporting and portfolio management components won’t be released for several weeks. “We invested very heavily in building out a unified stack instead of kluging together existing products.”
Mohan identifies three core benefits of turning all Google’s ad products into a unified stack (and DoubleClick is the platform used by most top agencies and advertisers). The first is “giving time back to our advertisers and agencies.” In a typical week, Mohan estimates, up to two full days are spent in various digital platforms that don’t talk to each other. “By bringing all these pieces together we can save up to six working weeks per person per year,” he claims.
Unified reporting and attribution is the second benefit. DoubleClick promises its suite will provide perspective and insights across campaigns and channels. How did display influence search, or vice versa?
Finally, Google says it’s offering cross-channel campaign optimization that will encompass bidding and campaign management.
How will Google’s stack differ from the other major players, notably Adobe and IBM? Most notably, DoubleClick includes an ad server – those two players don’t serve ads (AppNexus, however, does). Critically, the stack will maintain an open API to enable integrations of other software packages.
An open API is a desirable feature in any ad technology stack, but here it’s critical as (Google+ excepted), social support is something earmarked for an unspecified future date, not the present. Moreover, it’s hardly a secret that Google’s relationship with Twitter is tenuous, and with Facebook openly competitive. Both can be viewed as significant shortcomings in a truly integrated stack – though clearly no stack out there is all things to all advertisers.
Social isn’t Google’s only long-term goal. “Digital, whether on the search or display side, has been a result of performance marketing,” notes Mohan, “The brand opportunity still remains untapped.”
Smashing silos and making digital processes easier, more streamlined and unified is a good thing. What remains to be seen is if the digital brand opportunity lies in display advertising, or in social channels including earned and owned media.
How many devices do you have within reach right this second?
How many screens? How many apps and tabs are open on each screen? Is one of them TV? An ebook? A smartphone or a tablet? Which one(s) are you paying the most attention to? How long does that attention last, and what causes you to switch channels – or devices?
As consumers flit like hummingbirds between a plethora of devices, screens and messages simultaneously, even private space is invaded with as many messages as a virtual Times Square. How can marketers and publishers harness attention when it’s so fleeting? What causes distractions? How do customers determine which channel they’ll use for what information – a search engine? A social network? SoLoMo?
What influences the dynamic customer journey, and how do experiences across channels and devices shift – or remain consistent?
These are the questions the bulk of my research will attempt to answer in the coming months, so it was interesting to see a report publish this week that also examines the dynamic customer journey. The survey, published by PulsePoint terms the phenomenon the Digital Divide. That term traditionally refers to digital technology haves and have-nots, generally divided by socio-economic lines. The survey reframes “digital divide” to refer to the rift “between consumers engaging in real-time across channels, versus the digital marketing industry that is still largely siloed and not executing in real-time.”
PulsePoint’s survey places a great deal of emphasis on the need for improved real-time marketing capabilities to address the dynamic customer journey: real-time data and analytics; dynamic content delivery systems, the ability to make faster decisions and take immediate action. Always-on has never felt so ‘always,’ or so ‘on.’
But real-time, while critical to addressing the dynamic customer journey, is far from the only element that must be mastered in terms of technology, ability and best practices.
The growing complexity of digital advertising, marketing and publishing has led to increased vertical silo-ization and channel specialization. Customers expect integration and consistency as they pursue content across multiple channels and devices, but cross- and multichannel integration is not yet one of those areas boasting its own specialists. These specialists will doubtless soon be required, and they will have to be vested with considerable power to bring disparate players to the table and encourage them to cooperate.
A changing media landscape is a major factor in the dynamic customer journey. I’m currently looking, together with my research partner Jeremiah Owyang, at how paid, earned and owned media are conflating. Customer reviews and community posts are incorporated into ad units – both examples of earned media becoming paid media. Ads become content in online channels, particularly campaigns with high viral or entertainment value. Facebook wall posts (owned media) morph into paid ad units.
As fluidly as consumers switch screens, so does content flit between paid, earned and owned channels. Do consumers differentiate between these channels? We believe less and less, if at all. In the end, content is what matters because content is, after all, what these dynamic, fast-moving consumers are pursuing.
How can marketers influence these journeys? Through users’ social graphs, via experts, commercial media or through their own owned channels?
That’s what we’re trying to uncover and we want to hear from you. Tell us on your blog or website how the dynamic customer journey is impacting your business, and we’ll cross-link to the conversation here and on the Altimeter Group blog.
Reading. It’s a fundamentally solitary pastime that’s becoming increasingly more social given the baked-in functionalities of e-reading devices (Tweet this!).
It’s also – surprise! – an activity on the upswing for a couple of reasons: a proliferation of e-reading devices that are plummeting in price, and consumers’ broad acceptance of reading content on phones and computers (not necessarily on Kindles and Nooks), as a new e-reading study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project reveals.
Let’s look at some of the findings from The Rise of e-Reading, then indulge in a bit of speculation about where all this digital content consumption might be headed.
Pew found that consumers who read on digital devices not only read more stuff (not just books, but magazines and other long-form content), but they also buy significantly more reading material. This cohort is growing in numbers at an astonishing rate.
There are three types of content marketing: the two types everyone immediately ‘gets’ (entertainment content and educational content), and #3, which generally takes a while to sink it. I call it utility content. It’s not narrative. It doesn’t tell a story or teach you how to do something. Instead, it does something for you.
Think online mortgage calculators, or those forms that figure out what you should weigh based on height, age and gender. They’re wonderful content for sites that sell financial instruments or diet-related products. Yet increasingly often, utility content is mobile. Apps help consumers find goods and services on the go, deposit a check in the bank, and perhaps first and foremost, to shop.
My colleague Chris Silva has just published a research report “Make An App For That: Mobile Strategies For Retailers” (embedded below). Marketers can learn a lot from reading it, too. Outlining successful mobile strategies from the likes of Best Buy, Starbucks and Zappos.
The report divides retail mobile app strategy into two umbrella channels; Enrich, or drive transactions; and Engage, to improve user interaction and brand affinity. It then walks readers through the strategy and development steps for turning a concept into an app.
If you’re a retailer, you need to read this report. If you’re a marketer working in, or considering mobile channels, you really ought to.
Many of us grew up with Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. For the past few years the refrain has been Google, Google, Google. But this past week, it’s been all Facebook, all the time.
As we wait for the biggest IPO in tech history to shake out, the question I’m being asked most by clients and especially the mainstream media is, by far, “what’s Facebook going to do with all that money?”
I’d love it if “One Buck Zuck” would send me a check. Barring that, some reasonable conjectures can be drawn.
1). Mobile Facebook’s S-1 filing contained all the usual risk disclaimers: changing market conditions, loss of key executives, that stuff. But there was one zinger in the boilerplate – Facebook’s statement that mobile is growing fast, and that the company can’t yet monetize it. It’s not too much of a leap from there to the conclusion that multiple millions of dollars can be applied to figuring this one out. An article published the day after the filing suggests we’ll see the first Facebook mobile ads in March. Yet mobile means different things to different users, fast as the channel is growing. Smartphones, tablets…when it comes to mobile advertising, Facebook will require more than one solution. And that’s to say nothing of Facebook Credits and other commerce opportunities on mobile platforms. There’s plenty of R&D opportunity for Facebook across the mobile spectrum.
2). Data Data is Facebook’s core product. Not only do they have more of it every day on their users, that data is getting increasingly complex. In addition to basic demographic data, there’s friends and friends-of-friends. Groups they’re a part of, companies worked at, Likes, and soon, Actions, what they’re reading, listening to, eating and buying are only the beginning. Managing this data, parsing it, and making it useful and actionable to advertisers and marketers in ways that can help increase user engagement, create newer and more premium advertising products, extract deeper meaning and clarity from stores of data so complex it very nearly qualifies as big data is challenging, to say the least. It’s also critical to Facebook’s future. Data is what Facebook sells.
3). Platform What’s next for Facebook’s platform? It’s currently central to a vital Facebook economy. Without that platform, companies ranging from Zynga to Buddy Media would hardly exist as we know them today. Media companies from the Wall Street Journal to Spotfiy wouldn’t be able to reach and interact with Facebook users. It’s critical to keep that platform open and to continually expand upon its scope. Is social commerce the next comer? Features that link Facebook more deeply into the real world? Without the platform, Facebook doesn’t have the data, so watch for new developments in this arena, too.
4). Acquisitions Remember when Google was just a search engine? That was years ago, before YouTube, Blogger, Analytics and a host of other features that now seem integral to the company, but once upon a time were acquisitions. Google has largely become a roll-up, and Facebook could begin to follow that path as well (maybe by buying a search engine and finally incorporating real search into its platform?). Sure, Facebook’s made some small acquisitions in the past, but these are broadly viewed as more a bid to acquire talent, not technology. With a mind-boggling bank balance, that may well change.
5). Talent Silicon Valley engineers are high in demand, and you have to find a way to bring them to your company. In Facebook’s case, it’s not longer possible to do this with the lure of pre-IPO stock options. Facebook will soon be forced to pay a premium for new talent, particularly as some of an estimated 500 to 1,000 newly minted millionaires cash out. Sure, some will buy houses and cars. But others will yearn to get back to start-up culture. They’ll start new ventures, or even finance them. Facebook will pay more for talent in the long run, but their IPO will help to spark Silicon Valley’s economy, and that can only mean good things for innovation.
Plenty of sobering news about the print industry has been released over the past week.
Yes, print is in steep decline. So is print advertising. It’s important not only to ponder and understand why print is declining so precipitously now, but also to draw some lines into the future and understand how this trend might impact digital media going forward. The implications are big for advertisers and publishers alike.
The most stunning story is from eMarketer, predicting that online advertising will surpass print ad spend — this year.
The firm estimates digital newspaper ad revenue in the U.S. grew 8.3 percent to $3.3 billion in 2011. Meanwhile, newspaper print ad revenue dropped 9.3 percent to $20.7 billion. Magazines fare only slightly better. In the U.S., print ad revenue is expected to rise a below-anemic 0.5 percent to $15.34 billion this year, up from $15.3 billion last year. Digital magazine ad spending grew 18.8 percent to $2.7 billion last year.
This is due not only to the internet, of course, but to a proliferation of mobile devices that decouple newspapers and magazines from dead-tree publishing. It’s already happened with books; e-reader editions outsell both paperbacks and hardcover books on Amazon, and have for some time.
As e-reader devices conflate with tablets (think: Kindle Fire), readers are inevitably eschewing print in higher numbers still. Among tablet owners, according to a recent International Data Group survey, 72 percent of professionals worldwide say they’re buying less since owning a tablet. Seventy percent buy fewer physical books, and 49 percent buy fewer DVDs. (And naturally, readers who can afford tablets are in a much more desirable demographic to most advertisers than those who cannot.)
Like Facebook adoption a few years ago, tablet adoption is in its hockey-stick phase. There were 64.7 million tablets in the world globally at the end of 2011, according to IHS iSuppli. By the end of 2015, that number will metastasize to 287.2 million.
What can be interpolated from all these trends — a proliferation of tablets, content migrating to digital formats, advertising dollars accelerating their shift to digital from print — is that not only print is changing. The ways that print adopts to digital formats is changing as well in ways that will fundamentally change the use and perception of the written word over the next few years. Writing has always been literally flat and two-dimensional. That’s going to change — and very soon.
Already, there’s a growing market for enhanced ebooks, books created for digital formats that go beyond flat text into video, audio, games, and other multimedia and interactive features. As prices for tablets plummet (the Kindle Fire is priced at just over $100, and you can get a free Nook by signing up for a year of The New York Times), books will become more like apps. In fact, it will soon be hard to delineate where “book” stops and “digital platform” begins.
Before purists get all up in arms, don’t worry. There will always be plain-text versions of the Bible, Shakespeare, “War and Peace,” and other classics of literature. But going forward, publishers will look very closely at how they can enhance the titles in their catalogues, or turn books into a single component of transmedia storytelling.
Marketers, take note. These changes in the written word — how it’s conceived, presented, and experienced — apply to you, too. For a soon to be published research report on content marketing, we recently interviewed 56 marketers, many of them at Fortune 500 companies, about the content channels they’re using. They were asked what’s important now, what channels are diminishing in effectiveness, and where they plan to place more marketing emphasis in both the short and long term future.
Overwhelmingly, these marketers say they’re looking to video in the future (with mobile running a close second). “Visual information” is on the rise overall. What’s on the decline? Articles. Columns. Digital PR. Long-form content. White papers.
Do you see a trend here? I do. The written word is in decline in digital channels. It won’t ever vanish, but it is diminishing and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Publishers and marketers alike are compelled to start considering, now, how to add more visual and multimedia material to written pieces to make them stand out, to encourage opt-in and tune-in from target audiences, to deliver appropriate content to mobile platforms, and to make complex information easily and visually digestible — in a hurry. (Infographics are becoming very, very popular with marketers, as are charticles with publishers.)
Now, this is not a call for hysteria (the written word is dead!) or over-reactive fiats (nothing we produce can contain words anymore, ever!). Both those statements are utterly false and nonsensical.
But we are seeing some very real and very fast moving trends here: a shift away from paper and on to digital devices; advertisers following those eyeballs; changing consumer expectations as they consume written content on faster, cheaper, multimedia-capable devices; and marketers’ need to create and deliver messaging that’s experiential, compelling, engaging, and that drives the message home in an easily digestible format.
So, that white paper your department is working on? By all means publish it as a written document. But at the same time, you’d better start concocting ways to deliver its message in interactive, digital, visual, and multimedia environments.
Or risk being the sound of the proverbial dead tree falling in a very dense forest.
This question has been on my mind a lot lately (in part because I’ll be addressing it at Publishing Apps Expo in a keynote tomorrow). There’s a lot that stands between mobile, its audience and advertisers: platform incompatibility, development problems, and just plain old lack of a real advertising model. Mobile tends to conflate utility and content into new hybrids we don’t intuitively understand yet.
So it was interesting being briefed yesterday on Flipboard’s next foray out of the iPad and into the iPhone. As you’d expect from one of the most visually stunning iPad apps, great care was taken to adopt Flipboard to its new and inherently more mobile home on a smaller screen.
Co-founder Evan Doll expained the new app is intended to “fill in the gaps in daily moments,” like standing in line at the coffee shop. Browsing is therefore one-handed, flipping is vertical.
What’s really compelling is how this new Flipboard aggregates content into just one app. Not just newspapers and magazines, but also social activity from multiple sources including Facebook and Twitter. This indicates the iPhone version of Flipboard could be the go-to app for iPhone owners. It puts a lot of information into one place with one very pleasing and intuitive interface.
Why this matters from a media perspective is that we’re a long way – a very long way – from mobile mass media. In fact, we’ll likely never get there. But by migrating to the iPhone from the iPad, Flipboard has put itself with reach of millions more users than it’s already more-than-respectable 4M user base. And it’s built compelling content into a beautiful, intuitive UX.
Exactly the direction mobile needs to take to become attractive to advertisers.
Update: The service has proven so popular that Flipboard services have gone down. See what I mean?