Partnering and innovating on mobile

Partnership and constant innovation are two of the key success factors for news publishers who are transforming their business for the multiplatform mobile world. That was the main message of the session titled “How to transform your business for the multi-platform mobile world” at the World Newspaper Congress in Torino, Italy.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | June 11, 2014

“Here we are to talk about mobile and innovation, and let’s face it, those are two things we don’t do very well,” says John Paton (in photo at left), CEO of Digital First Media in the USA.

Those two subjects are ones that publishers need to address urgently, he says. “You have to embrace mobile now. Mobile is not a platform, it’s THE platform. If you want to figure out social, then you have to figure out mobile. If you want to figure out video, you have to figure out mobile.”

And as he points out, news publishers tend to be bogged down by legacy issues that hinder their development speed and agility when it comes to emerging technologies and business models. That is why he says partnerships make sense.

“You have to focus on what you do best, and if you are not a mobile company you are not the best. Without partnering, I don’t know how you can do mobile best,” he says. “Your best mobile expert is not as good as a mobile company’s expert. The demand for mobile is immense at the moment, but mobile app development talent is scarce. So partnering with an expert is the best route. And I don’t mean outsourcing – I mean true partnerships.”

For Digital First Media, its true partner is Rumble. The Israel-based company has also helped Digital First build an in-house innovation team. “The innovation lab allows us to test prototypes quickly, and ultimately get to market quickly with the right products. Essentially, it is providing us with the nimbleness and flexibility to address the demands from our customers.”

Luc Tran Thang, President of Starcom Mediavest Group in France, shares Paton’s view, saying, “Partnerships are the way in an open source world.”

For Thang, news publishers must do three things with regard to their end users on mobile: raise interest, build loyalty, and convert users to paying.

To do that, he says, “You should seek partnerships, using startup technology to cover all three of these dimensions. Because the right partner in mobile already has an established businesss model, the necessary flexibility, and adequate timing and speed.”

Test, test, test

Constant innovation has been key for Dagbladet in Norway, says Hildegunn Soldal, Digital Editor at Dagbladet‘s DB Medialab.

She says the company’s business model is built on three core elements: quality content, monetising that content, and development and design. “That last element is so crucial today, but if you don’t have those three elements at your core, you might as well drop it all.”

To succeed today, constant innovation and product development are absolutely necessary. “We as legacy media have failed in the past for a number of reasons, but we have to know where we are going in this mobile world if we really want to succeed. The days of launching a product, letting it just sit there and then moving on to another product are over. Everything needs to be evaluated, developed and refined …constantly.”

Soldal says that while mobile demand and usage were soaring last spring, the company’s own mobile traffic stagnated for some reason. Staff members analysed the situation to figure out a way to test what was the problem. They changed the mobile home page design a number of times, testing it with traffic figures. Nothing changed. Then they gave the home page the same design as its tablet counterpart. That actually caused a drop in traffic.

“We thought, ‘OK, we have reached a peak here, this is good as it gets,’” she says.

But then they discovered that the download time of the mobile home page with that tablet design took a long time, and perhaps that was part of the larger problem. So they focused on the speed issue, simplified the design, and traffic jumped significantly.

Lesson learned? “You have to test, test, test, analyse your data and constantly evolve and innovate your offer, especially on mobile.”

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