Mobile: The Great Connector

In 2013, we witnessed two important milestones: Mobile phone penetration measured in subscriptions exceeded the total world population, and Gartner, Inc. proclaimed that the number of mobile apps downloaded hit a record 70 billion. That's 10 times the number of people on the planet.

The power of mobile is no longer about its reach or the way it allows us to access and enjoy content, communications, and information anywhere, anytime. The real excitement now centers on mobile's ability to orchestrate new experiences that connect people with other digital screens and the real world around them. Simply put, mobile is at the center of an omnichannel world.

The opportunities for content companies and brands to harness mobile and optimize the consumer experience at every touchpoint (and to achieve new levels of consumer interaction and activation) have never been more compelling or complex. To provide companies with needed guidance, I have researched, written, and produced "Mobile: The Great Connector" in collaboration with the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) in the U.K. The publication draws from research and exclusive brand interviews to identify the key components and approaches companies must embrace in order to fully benefit from mobile's new and unique ability to bridge the physical and digital worlds.

One of the most insightful case studies comes from Telegraph Media Group. In an age when companies and commentators ask if "paid is dead," Telegraph Media Group stands out as a company that has released a successful paid-for iPad app. But the app isn't just making money; it's helping the company to strengthen its relationship with existing readers and attract new ones. What is its algorithm for this amazing success?

Preparation-The media company decided early in the game to ride the wave of technology change rather than be crushed by it. It embraced mobile and invested to produce a mobile-optimized website. (If this seems like a no-brainer, then consider the reams of research that show how many companies still lack a mobile presence.) The company also recognized the transformational power of the iPad and responded by releasing an app in 2010.

Observation-Unlike many companies that falsely assume their work is done when they decide to publish their apps in an app store, Telegraph Media Group consulted with customers and focus groups to find out how they would prefer to interact with technology. The findings were eye-opening.

Mapping the multiscreen journey of the reader allowed the company to discover patterns about its audience. The eureka moment: Readers start the day reading print newspapers, move to their smartphones for breaking news and updates, and then settle back in to access the articles they couldn't finish-or just didn't have time to start-on their iPads. The conclusion: People want choice, convenience, and consistency.

In my interview with Mark Challinor, a digital consultant who was formerly director of mobile platforms at Telegraph Media Group, he called this key customer requirement "finishability." As he puts it: "People want to pick up in the app exactly where they left off reading the newspaper." This led the company to make the deliberate choice to deliver an app that looked exactly like the newspaper, not the website.

It's a decision that has paid dividends, allowing the media company to rack up more than 1 million downloads of its iPad app. What's more, analytics show users are actually spending more time reading the newspaper in total.

To make the user experience valuable to existing customers-and attract new ones-the company also combines the data related to the physical world with analytics related to mobile to identify and cater to new audience segments.

The aim is to create new "packs" of content that combine its digital and physical assets in new ways. One of these is the Digital Pack, an offer that targets younger audiences with a content bundle that emphasizes smartphone and tablet access paired with a loyalty card, offering real-world discounts and promotions. Of the readers who sign up to trial such packages, Challinor reports that 90% have "renewed and paid for content beyond that."

The technology is not the focus here; it's all about the flow. It's a given that content and experiences will have to move across the screens and channels that are now a part of daily life. But it's even better for the customer and the bottom line if they also transcend those barriers that separate our digital and physical worlds.