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Monetizing Mobility: The New Vision of a Digital Future - 5/18/2010 -

The big question facing publishers today: How do I further monetize my content? In the association world where organizations run the gamut from keeping content hidden behind members-only "walls” to those who give practically it away for free, the idea of how to capitalize on trends in mobile content is an interesting one to consider.

By Nick Cifuentes

The idea that there is an overabundance of content in today's digital spectrum is no surprise. Once the Web turned circles in the early 2000s, newspapers, magazines, and other content distributors rushed to get their publications online. This rush has since grown and seen an extreme swell of content on the Web—much of it free, much of it paid—and creating the big issue that stands in front of publishers today: How do I further monetize?

Digital media might be popular, but from a marketing standpoint, it has not been easy on publications. Ad rates on the web could not match what was being garnered in print, essentially endangering the publication's lifespan because of a lack of monetization. What saving grace could be sitting in the weeds waiting to peek its head over? The answer is the mobile device, and by that, I mean devices that are mobile.

As mobile devices increase in use (seen in the eMarketer.comstudy above), publications are flocking to create applications that can live and function within this new space. Everything from portable phones to the hot new e-readers, tablets, and other wireless internet devices have spurred content distributors and association publishers to see these "apps” as the opportunity to expand their reach and monetize their content at the same time.

Mobility in Play
Conde' Naste Publications was one of the first to deliver full magazine issues on apps, starting with GQ's December 2009 issue. By mid-February, according to Advertising Age, it sold nearly 7,000 copies of the December issue app and more than 15,000 copies of the February issue app at $2.99 each.

Comparing this to the magazine's print publication, which averaged nearly 194,000 single-copy sales per issue over the second half of last year, it's not anything mind-blowing – yet. But publishers have to imagine that a number of people who might download single issues of a publication will most likely be non-subscribers. In the association world, if you charge $3 for one download, think of the number of non-members that might apply it to their app collection—and the numbers start to add up.

Consider this: Zinio, which has been selling digitized copies of its magazines for display on computer screens for years, recently created a free iPhone app that optimizes digital editions of its publications for the iPhone. Within the first few weeks of release and 20,000 downloads later, it surpassed the New York Times app as the number-one news application.

It's also interesting to see how a number of publishers are not just "unlocking the safe” of web content to a mobile application, but actually releasing specialized apps that draw in related information, but still sell and monetize the brand at the same time. All of this is not just a timely craze being built in branded modules that will live for just a period of time; advertisers see the potential behind these types of apps and the ability to reach more targeted users outside of something like Facebook or Web widgets.

E-readers, Tablets—and the iPad!
This isn't just all hype – there is something very serious brewing behind the potential of advanced e-readers and tablets. Apple's iPad and other similar devices are going to be a new source of potential income for newspapers, magazines, and other print publications looking to make a big push.

E-readers and tablets are going to become effective content distributors for content publishers, and will grow in terms of advertising revenue and further branded distribution. Major news companies will be focused on creating customized content standards for e-readers and tablets, and many predict that within 10 years, a majority of newspaper and magazine subscribers will be reading digital editions delivered to mobile reading devices.

More than 100 newspapers from around the world already available on Amazon's Kindle – and this current Kindle model is subscription-based without advertising. Newspapers get about 30 percent of the revenue from having their content on the Kindle, which is likely to change because publishers have some leverage: E-reader vendors must have content to succeed, and newspapers will have the ability to do richer presentations.

From a marketing and advertising standpoint, users that gravitate toward the e-reader subscriptions are looking for an experience similar to the one they draw from print publications. Those who want to get even more out of that experience will be more attracted to the iPad. That being said, there's likely to develop a harmonious relationship between the two, rather than one trumpeting over another – and this is good news based on what experts reveal could be separate advertising models on each device.

New Medium = New Content
With the advancement of the iPad and many competitive devices similar in functionality, media companies won't simply be able to re-purpose content. According to Alan Mutter, an independent media analyst who spoke to Mashable.comin a recent article, content needs to be:

  • Richer;
  • Offer more user control and interaction; and
  • Let the user manipulate it in a way that it becomes highly individualized.
Mutter said it will take time before a mass amount of publishers go running to this new platform and spend a healthy investment to create these new formats. That will not happen until proof is made that they can generate significant revenue and ultimately become a clear marketing and advertising channel, he added.

It's All Dollars and Cents
In the end, however, these are all cutting-edge devices that are clearly going to shake the content distribution channels at their very core. The hope is to generate not only additional advertising revenue, but also separate subscriptions and potential syndication from other websites – all could be included in a new model of "charging for service.”

Largely, it is about two pieces to this paradigm: one, the idea of having content optimized for the platform (whether it is an iPad, e-reader, tablet, iPhone, Android, other mobile device, or even a gaming device), and most importantly, coming up with the model that people will pay for.
Nick Cifuentesis director of social media for the Loomis Group.

Don't miss Signaturemagazine's in depth interview and webinar with Jeff De Cagna, chief strategist and found of Principled Innovation, on the future of mobile content in the association publishing world. The same issue contains a feature on digital publications and mobile apps and should reach Association Media & Publishing members about one week from now.


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