The rapid advance of ad-blocking tech turns up the pressure on content owners to seek more engaging and effective ways to monetize their assets. While the results of strategies aimed at delivering content and communications aligned with our context in the mobile moment are impressive, the progress is overshadowed by the steep decline in digital advertising revenues.
While it's essential for companies and marketers to master mobile communication, their focus on amassing technology glosses over the increasing importance of tone. They need to rethink how they should address an audience that's empowered by mobile, eager for new experiences, and feels entitled to personal, relevant, and convenient communications.
The advance of ad-blocking tools on mobile devices and browsers pushes publishers to find new ways to connect with consumers-especially Millennials. It's a generation that was born "in control," with an insatiable urge to experience content, not just consume it. It's also an audience segment that is constantly connected to their preferred social communities and networks--channels that have also become the chief referral sites for news and information.
In 2008, when Seth Godin, marketing wizard, proclaimed that "content marketing is all the marketing left!" it was not a signal to brands and companies to create and distribute reams of messaging disguised as content to their target audience. But in many cases, that is exactly what happened.
From apps that blend games and commerce to apps that encourage media consumption in the mobile moment, it's clear that the app economy is on the move. But it's also a marketplace in which competition is on the rise. Nielsen reveales--in the post "So Many Apps, So Much More Time for Entertainment"--that people are spending more time than ever on their apps, but they are also choosing to spend their time using fewer apps. In 2014's 4Q, Nielsen found that iPhone and Android smartphone users in the U.S. spend more than 37 hours with their apps each month, and they use 26.7 apps per month.
Shoppers can't buy items if they can't find them in the aisles; in the app store, it's no different. The inherent inability of app store search engines to expose users to the "long tail" of apps means the vast majority of apps remain virtually invisible. App store research underlines this imbalance, revealing that only 5% of apps accounted for 92% of downloads in 2013.
For nearly a decade, my work has focused on ways companies can (and should) harness the unique attributes of mobile to engage and re-engage with their audience. Fast-forward, and the advance of tablets, phablets (phones plus tablets), other connected devices, and an avalanche of apps have made mobile much more than the primary way we connect with content.
The number of mobile apps-and consumers who use them on a regular basis-has increased tremendously. A rash of reports suggest app download numbers will continue to break records and hit somewhere between 200 billion and 270 billion in 2017, up from between 70 billion and 100 billion in 2013. Add to that the latest comScore report, which states mobile apps account for more than 50% of all digital media consumption, and it's little wonder that content companies are lining up to launch or revamp their mobile app.
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.
Is mobile apps become the way your audience prefers to access information and content, emerging as an effective way to encourage engagement and build lasting loyalty, it has never been more important for content providers to monitor just how well (or not) their apps are performing. Indeed, the advance of apps-for smartphones, tablets, and even TVs-is redrawing the boundaries of what people can do on the device of their choice. While you need to focus your resources on developing a mobile app experience that delights your customers, you are also under increased pressure to meet (and exceed) customers' expectations that the mobile experience will beat the one delivered by their desktops.
While writing my most recent book, I noticed a new phase of growth and innovation in the mobile app space. It's encouraging to see companies jumping on the app bandwagon and the tremendous capabilities and creativity that they unleash. Take the example of Broadcast Interactive Media (BIM). It just launched mobile apps for the Apple iOS and Android platforms that can be rapidly deployed by its client base of hundreds of local television station websites. Each app has content tabs such as Top Stories, Local News, Weather, or Sports that can be customized by local broadcast and media companies to pull in content from each local station's website and optimized for mobile viewing.
There is no question that social media has gone mobile. According to a new eMarketer, Inc. report, "Social Media Marketing on Mobile Devices: Turning Challenges Into Opportunities," the key opportunity for marketers in the shift toward mobile is engagement. Mobile users not only log in more frequently, they also spend more total time on social media sites. As devices integrate social media more deeply, engagement reinforces the mobile-social virtuous circle, making it even stronger.
Look around you: It's clear that conditions are coming together to produce a "perfect storm" that will rip across the mobile app space, paving the way for apps that enable everything-from games and entertainment, to education and healthcare, to retail and daily productivity-and leave an indelible mark on our daily lives.
This year will go on record as the year that smartphone penetration in the U.S. passed the 50% mark, cementing the importance of mobile apps as a new channel to the customer. For the first time, smartphones and tablets have superseded the browser as the new mainstream platform where content is developed and deployed.
With the advance of mobile applications and services and loads of made-for-mobile destinations and content, mobile does much more than allow people easy and instant access to the information they want, the way they want it. Mobile is fast becoming the lens through which we interact with the world around us.Consumers reach to connected devices-phones, smartphones, and now tablets-to manage their lives, engage with brands, transfer money, and even pray. Because we can do more with our devices and because our devices don't let us down, we are endowing them with new importance and traits.
The web is dead. Apps are the future. Is tech blogger Robert Scoble on the mark when he makes this claim? It all depends on strategy.As a channel to the customer, mobile apps offer significant advantages. They allow companies to generate increased awareness, encourage interaction, and boost loyalty. It's no coincidence that media companies around the world are grasping the opportunity with both hands, producing an avalanche of smartphone apps and iPad apps aimed at getting their content in the hands of customers on the move.
From relevant mobile marketing and communications that reach us on every step of the consumer journey to mobile money services that enable us to conduct financial transactions to the advance of cloud-based services that give us easy access to our files and networks anywhere, anytime, mobile is finally taking its cues from people, not just what technology makes possible.
Despite the tiny screens, more consumers than ever before are using their smartphones to do more than ever before. Market research firm IDC reports that sales of smartphones in the final quarter of 2010 outstripped those of PCs for the first time—ever! Moreover, a milestone report from Google, in collaboration with the Mobile Marketing Association, confirms that we increasingly rely on our mobile devices to research products, make purchases, conduct transactions, and connect with social networks.
By Peggy Anne Salz
Posted Dec 13, 2011
The proliferation of connected devices and platforms has encouraged dozens of companies and providers--including online retail giant Amazon--to establish an application storefront and get in on the action. More marketplaces may mean more choice for consumers, but it also turns up the pressure on publishers and marketers to learn how to do business in a new, booming "App Economy."
Despite the worldwide economic slowdown in key markets, mobile spending-as a means to deliver effective marketing messages and campaigns to acquire and retain customers-is unquestionably on the rise. Indeed, from simple display ad campaigns aimed at boosting brand awareness to more ambitious cross-media strategies integrating a mobile call to action, brands and media companies have never been more active in mobile.
The avalanche of new connected devices, including tablets, smartphones, and applications that blur the lines between the two, are paving the way for 2011 to be the year of multiplatform content creation and delivery. he advance of hardware and software products by providers including Google and Apple to leverage the three screens--mobile, TV, and internet--has whet consumers' appetites for new and connected experiences that deliver us content across time, place, and platforms.
The app economy has officially arrived. The hard truth: It's not a single market, and one-size-fits-all app schemes won't deliver. Will app stores be on-deck (operator-managed) or off-deck (direct-2-consumer)? Or will the prevailing model be paid apps or ad-supported apps? So many open questions and the answers are "all of the above" and everything in between.
The personal nature of the mobile phone, the form factor of the mobile device (small keypad, tiny screen), and the obvious shortcomings of PageRank algorithms play in favor of a new approach to mobile search that puts people back in the equation.
Traditional business school doctrine teaches us to delight the customer. But it doesn't tell us how to please empowered consumers and Digital Natives who consider mobile to be integral to their daily routine and an essential part of their personae.
Reams have been written about the impact of the Apple iPhone on content production and content creation, advising content companies, media firms, and major consumer brands to launch apps to reach a larger audience. Now, that hint is becoming a business imperative.
A raft of recent reports and surveys reveal that more brands are running mobile campaigns, a positive trend that plays in favor of media publishers that have the inventory and know how to use (sell) it.
After chairing or otherwise participating in more than 20 conferences and workshops across Europe this year-the vast majority of which focused on hot trends in mobile content-I see a subtle yet seismic shift in the way publishers perceive and promote digital assets.
There is room for innovation and improvement in mobile search. This message came through loud and clear as I prepared a workshop on Mobile Search Future Prospects for the JRC Institute for Prospective Technological Studies of the European Commission. Content (what the individual is searching for) and context (the where, when, and why that may have prompted the query) change all the rules, diminishing the importance of universal search based on keyword queries and with it the chances of Google and Microhoo to dominate the mobile space.
The convergence of communities, content, and communications across a variety of platforms and devices has given rise to a participatory culture in which each individual can co-create the content he or she consumes. The result is an avalanche of content available on websites, podcasts, videocasts, interactive forums, and blogs.
When I was invited to speak on mobile search, advertising, and SEO at ThinkMobile, a new mobile industry conference in New York this March, I expected it (like the majority of mobile events I have attended over the last months) to focus on technology issues first and the potential impact on how we live and work second.
The mobile phone, a personal device we have on us at all times, has gained a new importance at this intersection. As Alan Moore, author and independent consultant, points out, "We are inevitably moving towards the Mobile Society, where our mobile devices become the remote control of our daily lives."
The arrival of Android and the remarkable success of the Apple iPhone have encouraged consumers to explore the mobile internet in record numbers. However, the new interest in mobile content and services is not limited to the 10-plus million consumers who are fortunate enough to own a high-end mobile device. Recent stats show that consumers—even those with low-end devices—are beginning to explore the wealth of content and apps at their fingertips. This shift in user behavior dovetails well with another trend sweeping the mobile content space...
The emergence of empowered consumers, the advance of so-called digital natives, and the abundance of applications designed to give consumers more control over how they create, access, and enjoy content have transformed publishing and content creation.
When Andrew Bud—an outspoken voice in the mobile content industry and executive chairman and co-founder of mobile transaction network mBlox, a company connecting content providers and mobile operators at the heart of the off-portal experience—waved his arms and declared that mobile content was "boring," "stale," and "sorely in need of a rethink" during a recent industry conference in London, you could feel the shock waves.
The number of consumers accessing web content on their mobile phones will likely surpass the number of users accessing the web via fixed PC connections by the end of 2008. But a singular focus on repurposing content for small screens ignores what makes mobile indispensable to our everyday lives: the ability to deliver the right content to the right user in the right context.
Predictably, mobile content delivery scenarios require publishers to develop made-for-mobile sites and destinations. It's not a mammoth task for major publishers, but it can be a huge headache for eager independent publishers or smaller content providers anxious to move their old media into new territory.
If Web 2.0 is all about the tools and technologies that allow users to freely create, share, and connect around content, as well as interact with content companies, then the next evolutionary step is Mobile 3.0, which places location and the mobile device at the core of this exchange.
Search engines are indisputably a potent way to generate value, but it may be recommendation engines, which encourage users to keep coming back for similar content, that actually pay the biggest dividends for content companies and publishers in the long term. In its basic form, recommendation technology—modeled on the approach of online bookseller Amazon—suggests content on the basis of what like-minded customers consume, connecting users with relevant content that their peers recommend. But the paradigm goes far beyond that to link consumers not only with content they like, but ultimately with users who share their interests and passions.
The proliferation of people-powered search engines and social media services, which effectively tap the wisdom of crowds to bubble up the good ideas and good content we care about most, are enabling a profound shift in how we locate, create, and share information.
Offering more content is not only better, it can also be a source of competitive advantage. Put simply, delighting the customer with choice can pay dividends.
Publishers may have been short-changed when they embraced the fixed internet only to see their brands and offerings diluted by major search-engine brands that called the shots and picked the content. Thus, they would be short-sighted not to explore the world of exciting and lucrative opportunities offered by the emerging mobile web.
Caught off guard by the explosive growth of online social networking sites like MySpace and Flickr, many companies are racing to replicate this success in the mobile space. However, building mobile social networks to meet the needs of diverse user communities requires business models and platforms that encourage user acceptance and participation. The technology exists. However, the current range of business models and strategies is limited by a lack of imagination and vision
As spatial boundaries and modes of communication converge, disruptive new technologies emerge to give people the experience of being connected with content from anywhere. But ubiquitous access is no longer just about seamless content portability; it's about empowering individuals to access content on their terms and across devices.
Users can’t buy content if they can’t find it, so an increasing number of mobile operators and content providers are scrambling to offer search capabilities, as well as an array of tools to encourage users to explore more of the content at their fingertips. The raft of recent announcements, involving market giants like Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and a growing number of white-label search providers including InfoSpace, Fast Search & Transfer, Medio Systems, and JumpTap shows that carriers and content companies are excited about mobile search.
Access to simple tools empowers us to mix and mash, blog, and mesh. We create content on our terms and share the results with social networks we have chosen to join based on common interests and expertise. What’s more, the proliferation of social networks means we benefit from an abundance of choice.
Empowered customers—demanding to access or create content tailored to their needs and delivered on their own terms—have turned up the heat on technology and content companies alike, pushing them to bring greater innovation to market. But there’s a catch.
Overwhelmed by the choice of web and mobile content—ranging from news services to video clips—users increasingly gravitate to services that are designed from the ground up to give them content before they ask for it.
With an avalanche of mobile content coming online this year, subscribers can’t say they don’t have choices. They can complain about the tedious navigation process and confusing hierarchical menus they must endure to find and buy content, however. Navigation on mobile devices is particularly cumbersome, and most usability research suggests that users give up after 12 clicks or 30 seconds. Little wonder the industry is so excited about mobile search—thought by many to be a silver-bullet solution that will allow companies to present content within an acceptable click-distance and make that all-important sale.
Mobile technologies are becoming embedded, ubiquitous, and networked—paving the way for an always-on and always-aware society. The enhanced capabilities mobile technologies offer for rich social interaction could totally transform how we work, learn, and live. Yet most content providers remain unimpressed. They focus on delivering a few wireless-enabled enterprise applications with a preponderance of predictable mainstream mobile content like ringtones, wallpapers, and logos, which by definition often appeals to the lowest common denominator. Mobile content can—and must be—much more
In essence, we can create, access, and share what we want, when and how we want it. Increasingly, we are taking charge of our content experiences. The content creation and distribution landscape will never be the same. While this newfound freedom of self-expression is both liberating and invigorating, we’re only beginning to understand what we can achieve when we use technology to create a network of ourselves.