With newspapers and other content organizations around the country under pressure, many critics are beginning to question the future of news. But is it really that the interest or news is waning? I don’t think so.
What it means is the old business model is suffering and that news and content organizations must quickly adapt and leverage new technologies not just to stay relevant, but to thrive.
The truth is people are actually consuming more information from more sources than ever. The problem for traditional print businesses is that, over the years, newspapers have poured an incredible amount of money into building and enhancing their print and distribution facilities while revenues from paper distribution are falling due to various digital outlets. Craig’s List and eBay are siphoning off classified ad revenue, ad agencies are directing budgets to a wider array of alternatives, and people are turning to blogs, Twitter and other alternative methods to stay in touch with current events.
That being said, let’s imagine if you were able to get into Dr. Emmett Brown’s DeLorean (for you Back to the Future buffs) and go back in time 20 years to visit with the owner of any major news publication to tell them the following:
• People are going to be consuming five times as much news in the future.
• Your costs of distributing news are going to drop by 95 percent. Oh, and the environmental damage that Greenpeace keeps bugging you about? You will have them off your backs as well.
• The time from when your news is gathered to when it gets into a reader’s hands (news is only news when it’s new) is going to drop from 36 hours to 15 minutes.
• You are going to be able to get the right news to the right people, targeted and tailored to the reader – versus making all those guesses in the editorial room about what the average Joe wants to read.
• You are going to have the ability to dynamically sell and place ads based on segments or particular readers.
What publisher would not get excited about that? It’s only bad news if you are in the pulp and paper business, right?
The question is not whether news and information will be more important than ever – the question is really who will have the content, the brand to attract readers, and the technology to deliver against this fantastic opportunity.
Mobile capabilities are clearly part of this opportunity. As one of the fastest growing mediums for accessing news, mobile opens up a fresh new channel for news organizations to help support their business. It offers a fast, targeted, cost-effective medium for delivering content and helps “spread the news” in innovative ways that can promote brands, connect people and provide dynamic information anywhere.
However, mobile is not simply an extension of Internet. Mobile is a fragmented world with multiple platforms, devices and capabilities – much different from the Web where someone can develop a Web site that generally works across all computers. Development requires expertise across multiple device platforms to reach the largest possible audience in a simple and productive format.
As a mobile developer, it pains me to hear about news organizations and content companies paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop an “enhanced” mobile Web or WAP site with the hopes it will be the solution to mobile. While the Web browsing experience will continue to improve and evolve, I don’t expect it to replace applications anytime soon. Look at the iPhone or an Android-based device offering some of the best mobile browsers, and you will find that they are leading the charge in downloading thousands of applications every day.
Rich connected applications are key to the future of news organizations as well as our industry. And the good news is, even the best applications don’t have to cost an arm and a leg to develop and maintain. The solution is leveraging a fast, cost effective development platform with a partner who has true mobile experience in creating and distributing connected information services.
Many leading news brands like The Wall Street Journal, Thompson Reuters and Forbes have very successfully partnered to launch their own branded mobile applications utilizing a unique development platform. As a result, they have reported 10-20 times the number of page views versus traditional mobile Web sites. It has also been clear from monitoring various “open” stores that recognizable brands that embrace mobile with strong application are popular with end users.
Mobile applications (when done right) reinforce a traditional brand and demonstrate the ability to remain relevant and timely. They are capable of bringing in revenue from advertising, sponsorships and additional subscription or application sales, but they do much more. A strong mobile application connects a user to a content provider. The application is not the story itself, but rather a part of a much larger picture as an extension of a brand that can drive usage well beyond the mobile application itself. It connects to social networks, branded Web site and traditional media sources. Again, it is part of keeping traditional news relevant in an increasingly mobile and fast paced environment.
It is a critical time for the news industry and they should be proactively partnering to develop mobile applications that can extend brands, connect people and expand the reach of some of the best news content available. And to thrive … it should do so boldly and now.
I submit to you that 10 years from now when you ask people about their primary source of news, you will get a list of brands and those brands are going to have one thing in common. They will all have successfully partnered to build and promote a well-designed application across every major mobile platform in 2009 and 2010.