Print media has always been a case of survival of the fittest. Much like when media entrepreneur William R. Hearst was battling newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, or when Pulitzer was battling rival newspaper publisher Charles A. Dana, new media companies are constantly popping up and competing to lure away the readers of current media publications.
It’s our job to help client publications build mobile experiences that either gain new audiences or retain current ones. Here are three patterns that are crucial to publication innovation and influence mobile reader engagement and reach:
The Rise of Paywalls
“The era of completely free content is probably winding down,” says Susan Bidel, a senior analyst at Forrester in an interview with Mashable. “It’s time for people to test [paid alternatives]. There has to be some kind of value exchange for all this work that publishers do… They can’t [support their operations] at current CPMs.” In order for more established media companies such as The New York Times, with larger staff and more varied expertise, to continue creating original content, they have created paywalls that encourage readers to subscribe and support their content.
However, if people are going to pay for your content, they’re also paying for the reading experience that’s unique to both the user and brand. A generic HTML5 solution simply won’t do. For example, you could tailor your news to the reader after getting an idea of the articles they click through and prefer. If the subscriber is a loyal reader who follows specific columnists, you can ensure those articles appear on subscribers’ feeds.
The real challenge, as always, is getting non-readers to try out content; this is doubly hard when the content is behind a paywall. How do can you balance this with a paywall? Financial Times is trying an interesting experiment where subscribers can gift articles and share them with friends through e-mail. However, after the link is clicked once, it expires and is no longer valid. This could be an interesting way to expose their high-quality content to non-subscribers and grow their current base.
Augmented Reality Advertisements
Augmented reality has opened up new avenues for marketers to interact with consumers. For example, Maxim magazine is innovating how its publication is presented; readers can download the Maxim Motion mobile app for iOS and Android. When they scan magazine covers with this app, rich-media and animations are displayed on the mobile device’s screen.
This creates new opportunities for advertisers to communicate their marketing messages with readers. Because they’re interactive, these advertisements are much more engaging, interesting, and relevant, than traditional display ads.
One thing’s for certain: we’ll be exploring similar types of innovative multimedia interactions with our clients in the upcoming year.
Scrolling Instead of Pages
We don’t use pages on mobile in most of the publications projects we work on; instead, we’ve found readers engage much more significantly with scrolling. The audience understands content displayed in feeds because of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Users scroll down on the feed until they see something they recognize. (Flipboard’s natural user interface is one of the few outstanding exceptions to this trend in publishing.)
With the rise of native advertisements, this creates the opportunity to embed advertisements and sponsored posts within the feed. For example, Buzzfeed features sponsored content right within their categories and positions it amongst their regular writing. Publishers can do the same thing with native advertisements; they can be placed right next to editorial content, which follows the growing popularity of native advertising – advertising placed within the context of the publication.
Most importantly, the scrolling creates the habit of short, consistent engagement with users. Their curiosity gets the best of them. Unlike the monthly magazine issues of the past, scrolling allows for a more steady, consistent, flow of content every day. This is the type of user interaction that advertisers will pay for.
Innovating is crucial to staying alive. It’s not a preventative medication; if you try addressing the problem when you start losing audiences, it will already be too late. Through the rise of paywalls, more engaging methods of advertising, and improved navigation, you can continue to delight and inform your readers and win at the game of publishing.
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