iPhone 5
Credit: Image by Alexander Kirch, Dreamtime.com
The news publishing business has endured more than its share of turmoil over the past couple of decades. The Information Age required traditional print publishers to go online and come up with new business models to offset the loss of print advertising revenue that had been the industry's lifeblood for generations. Many papers are still grappling with those challenges, and a media company consolidation trend combined with falling print edition subscription rates have silenced some organisations that had played a vital role in their communities for decades.

Other papers adjusted more quickly, embracing online publishing, cutting costs and focusing on generating ad revenue on their digital platforms. This aggressive strategy paid off for many publishers, who enjoyed double-digit online ad revenue growth after they made the transition. But new challenges have threatened that lifeline recently, including cut-rate electronic advertising exchanges, persistent economic doldrums and a surplus of advertising space that reduced overall value. Recently, online ad revenue growth rates declined to single digits and have showed signs of stalling, though some analysts predict rates will pick up in 2013.

The rise of mobile media

The explosive growth of digital media consumption on mobile devices poses new issues for publishers now relying primarily on online revenueMik Strøyberg, Issuu
As if these challenges weren't enough, the explosive growth of digital media consumption on mobile devices poses new issues for publishers now relying primarily on online revenue. Advertising technology leader Kontera recently surveyed 15,000 U.S. publishers and found that 22 per cent of content is now accessed via smartphones and tablets. With billions of mobile subscriptions currently active, that percentage will undoubtedly grow.

As publishers found during the transition from print to online publishing, creating an effective edition on the internet isn't a matter of simply transferring print edition content to a digital platform. Successful publishers optimized their users' experience online and accommodated different operating systems and browsers to reach the largest audiences.

They face a similar challenge when transforming their strategy to encompass mobile media consumption, with an additional layer of complexity. For publishers who want to succeed in an increasingly mobile world, simply publishing an online edition won't be enough.

Toward an effective mobile media strategy

Publishers need to ensure that readers can access content across multiple device types, screen sizes, operating systems and platforms, including smartphones and tablets produced by a variety of manufacturers. To maximize their mobile publishing strategy, publishers will have to assess reader technology consumption patterns, analyse device distribution and correlate their findings to determine the most effective ways to reach the greatest numbers of readers.

For example, device operating system prevalence varies across global regions. Operating system adoption rates also may differ across key audience segments (e.g. women, technology consumers, mothers, sports enthusiasts, etc.). These insights are valuable for those seeking to formulate an effective mobile media strategy, and publishers who want to succeed in the growing mobile space should explore them.

Other considerations for going mobile

Unfortunately, some publications that in years past earned honours for stunning layouts and illustrations seemingly threw in the towel on design for mobile editionsMik Strøyberg, Issuu
In addition to analysing audience trends and ensuring that their mobile edition can reach audiences on multiple devices and operating systems and seamlessly accommodate varying screen sizes, publishers also need to rethink graphics and format for the mobile space. Unfortunately, some publications that in years past earned honours for stunning layouts and illustrations seemingly threw in the towel on design for mobile editions.

It doesn't have to be that way. It's entirely possible to publish a mobile edition that features a compelling layout and draws readers with high-resolution photos and graphics. Like the transition from print to online editions, moving to a mobile format isn't simply a matter of pushing online content to mobile devices. Publishers who want to succeed in the mobile space need to carefully think through their layout and visual quality standards for the new format.

Online editions aren't enough

Given the rapid growth of mobile media consumption – which already exceeds 20 per cent and is expected to keep growing – online editions aren't enough. Publishers who haven't already done so need to formulate and roll out a mobile strategy that reaches the largest number of readers possible by accommodating mobile device, screen size and operating system variations. Those who want to excel should rethink formats and graphics to ensure they continue to deliver a high-quality product that keeps loyal readers on board and attracts new consumers.

The newspaper publishing industry has endured much adversity over the last 20 years, and many papers are still struggling to adjust to new realities. But instead of viewing evolving technology trends as an obstacle, publishers can choose to see them as a new chance to thrive and grow. Those who do can find success in the mobile space.

Mik Stroyberg Mik Stroyberg is director of consumer engagement and US sales for digital publishing platform Issuu

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