Mobile Demands of the People
Will apps ultimately replace the web? "Yein," says Salz, who is based in Germany. It's a word that means both "yes" and "no." She says apps make sense for content that can be constantly updated or refreshed. In that mode, she notes, people are open to the concept of either the freemium model -- read this content for free and then you can read the next piece of content if you pay a certain amount -- or they may be interested in an app-funded model.
"Apps make sense if your content is being refreshed or if your content is very niche," says Salz, who points out that there are currently more than 100 app stores-a long tail of app stores.
Salz says she sees more opportunities than threats for publishers. "I'm of the opinion that there's a lot of opportunity there if you understand the mechanics of the mobile web," she says. "iPhone apps are not cheap, and there are other ways to extend your content to mobile without having to pay $20,000-$30,000 upward for an app."
This is where content and context collide. "One of the things we're learning at CoreMedia is that people who are accessing the web through these other, non-desktop devices often have very different needs and expectations," says Heise.
"Obviously, if I'm a content creator, I want to embrace not just static content, but I want to take advantage of as much of the capability of any given device as it has to offer," says Tom Puorro, senior director of product management at Cisco Systems. "I want to take advantage of more than just a pretty screen. I want to take advantage of the audio capability, the interactive capability of the device, the cameras-all of these things." Content providers, says Puorro, are able to push more rich content in a much more real-time fashion.
"There's a whole school of thought about once you have an app you have to make it so content can be refreshed, you have to make it interactive, and, increasingly, you have to make it social," says Salz. She points to a May 2011 blog post on trendwatching.com -- "The F-Factor" (where "F" stands for friends, fans, and followers who are exerting increasingly sophisticated influence on others' buying decisions). Mobile content, she says, has to be social. And it has to be fresh and interactive. "It's not just putting pages on a small screen," she says.
Content providers now have the opportunity to consider new ways of repurposing content in ways that consumers may be willing to pay for, as well as the challenge of finding those applications that represent value, and compete with myriad other options that are emerging.
It is not an option of whether content providers need to repurpose their content for access in different environments, says Wentworth. It's a matter of "how quickly you're going to address it."
Hassan agrees. Experimentation is important, and content providers should embrace the ability to try different things in these new environments, he says. "Any time you start to move into a new approach, it's [like dipping a] toe in the water," says Hassan. "It can be intimidating, but I think in this environment, the bigger fear is not trying new things. As marketers we have to do a lot of test and learn, which is the approach HP is taking. We're trying a lot of new things."
Bill Schick is the principal of the MESH Interactive Agency in Nashua. The front page of MESH's website provocatively asks: "Has Multi-Channel Messaging Made Branding a Pain in the Ass?" (appropriately illustrated with an image of a donkey). Schick notes that while a sense of urgency is certainly important, there's no need for panic.
While the technology may be different and constantly evolving, the process of delivering content to consumers relies on the same principles that it always has, he notes. "Focus on your audience, who's accessing your information, and what you're trying to achieve."
"It obviously all starts with understanding your audience," agrees Wentworth. "That's something that technology doesn't really help solve. You have to understand the personas of who's coming to your site and how they're using each of the channels."
Then, he says, it's all about trying to match the right experience to each of those visitor personas based on their current context.
While the shift from a wide-open web to semi-closed platforms may complicate business for search engines that have long depended on the web to make money, it seems that opportunities may abound for content providers who have long been challenged by the devaluation of their content. Increasingly, if the success of apps is any indication, consumers seem to be willing to pay for online experiences that can be delivered to the right place at the right time.
Resources Featured in this Article
5W Public Relations - www.5wpr.com
Cisco Systems, Inc. - www.cisco.com
CoreMedia AG - www.coremedia.com
Ektron, Inc. - www.ektron.com
Healthline Networks, Inc. - www.healthline.com
MESH Interactive Agency - www.meshagency.com
MSearchGroove (MSG) - www.msearchgroove.com
ShopVisible - www.shopvisible.com