Almost two-thirds of visits to Tamedia’s largest online news site 20min.ch originate from a mobile device, said Gabriele Ottino, the Swiss company’s project manager for business development. The paper has lost traffic on its desktop site, and Ottino believes that “we are in the midst of a total shift.”
In the UK, 45 percent of traffic to the Guardian’s site now comes from mobile, up from a quarter at the beginning of 2012, said Anthony Sullivan, group product manager at the Guardian. At certain times of day, such as early mornings, traffic from mobile has already passed the 50 percent mark, and he thinks that within the next 12 months this will be the case overall. The fastest growth is on tablets, he said. Alex Kozloff, head of mobile at the UK Internet Advertising Bureau, noted that 32 percent of all page views in the UK now come from mobile devices.
However, revenue isn’t yet following the shift in user habits. On 20min.ch, ad revenue is about 90 percent lower on mobile compared to desktop, Ottino said. The mobile advertising market in the UK is growing fast, Kozloff said: overall, it is driving half of the growth in digital, but there is more progress to be made.
To address this, it is necessary to have mobile specific teams, said Federico Vittadello, from RCS MediaGroup’s Digital Innovation Lab. Ottino agreed, explaining that Tamedia’s online business teams have been integrated into the rest of the sales force but mobile is being brought forward by a specific team.
Another challenge is how to adapt content to mobile. People used an astonishing total of 1,656 different types of handset to access the Guardian’s site just last week, Sullivan said. It is no longer a straightforward matter of making sure that your content is optimized for a couple of key devices. The Guardian is doing responsive design at the moment, he said, but in the future, mobile will be the paper’s primary digital product and it will be designed around touch.
Touchscreens have a profound impact on the way we tell stories, panelists said. “Touch gives us opportunities to find new ways to tell stories,” said Vittadello. “If you really want to engage your audience you want to rethink what digital storytelling looks like,” said Sullivan.
“Building products around users is how publishers will be successful going forward,” said Madhav Chinnappa, head of strategic partnerships at Google News & Magazines, EMEA. “Users’ expectations are so high – they expect everything to work.” Progress needs to be “paced,” however, he stressed: it is necessary to strike a balance between innovating and moving forward without losing track of your own systems and getting ahead of your audience.
Kozloff added that the IAB often hears people say “our systems can’t do mobile,” but the ones that succeed are the ones that are prepared to start again with new systems.
One advantage that publishers have, said Kozloff, is cross-device opportunities offer the subsequent insight into who is doing what on what platform. “Go where your users are,” said Chinnappa.