Media owners tackle mobile

18 October 2012

NEW YORK: Media companies including Gannett, ESPN and the Washington Post are seeking to respond to rapidly-evolving consumer habits by leveraging mobile websites and apps.

Gannett's various online platforms currently attract 57.6m visitors a month. The firm's mobile reach is also expanding, with USA Today's app having been downloaded 16.1m times, while traffic to the title's mobile site has leapt by 79% in the last year.

"Mobile isn't the web on a smaller screen," Matt de Ganon, Gannett Digital's vp, mobile product and operations, told DigiDay. "It presents an opportunity to address a user in multiple ways, depending on the context in which they're using a device. This holds true for advertising and advertisers, as well.

"Our job, frankly, is to be smarter than we have been about how we design, publish to and develop apps, and how we talk to and present mobile utility to our users."

Meanwhile ESPN, the sports network, believes it is a category leader terms of mobile website visitors, and recently rolled out a College Football app for both iPhones and Android-powered devices.

"The biggest challenge we face in mobile remains ubiquity," said Michael Bayle, svp and general manager of ESPN Mobile. "We want to build native experiences for our core pillars of content.

"Developing apps across iOS, Android, Windows and RIM has the largest impact on our resources, and it's something we are constantly evaluating on how to improve in order to get to a point of simultaneous launches."

For its part, the Washington Post boasts apps for its main paper and the WP Politics tool for the iPad, as well as more niche offerings, covering areas like going out, exploring and using the metro in the city.

"A big challenge in mobile is differentiation – building distinct user experiences for each, individual mobile platform that are informative and engaging," said Beth Jacobs, its general manager of mobile.

"Whether we are producing browser-based mobile experiences or client apps, we are focused on presenting news content in a more visual, consumable format."

Federated Media, an online publisher specialising in technology, business and living, is also attempting to solve the widespread problem of creating suitably nuanced advertising solutions and delivery systems.

"Many wrestle with the advantages of a mobile-optimised presentation layer because of the tradeoff with more limited monetisation options in the still nascent world of mobile advertisements and targeting," Walter Knapp, evp of platform revenue and operations, Federated Media Publishing, said.

Data sourced from DigiDay; additional content by Warc staff