US media giants lured onto iPhone

12 August 2009

NEW YORK: A number of major players in the US media industry are seeking to increase their presence on Apple's iPhone, despite the fact an obvious way to drive revenues through this medium has not yet been established.

In its most recent forecast, Magna, part of Interpublic Group, predicted that total mobile adspend would increase by 36% on an annual basis in 2009, to $229 million (€162m; £139m) in all.

While a variety of prominent advertisers, such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble, have sought to utilise Apple's touchphone to engage with consumers, the opportunities, and threats, for media companies appear to be somewhat different.

USA Today, the daily news title owned by Gannett, has developed its own application for the smartphone, in recognition that this channel is rapidly growing in importance.

Matt Jones, vp for mobile strategy and operations at Gannett Digital-USA Today, said "the iPhone has really been a phenomenon, so I think most media brands, at least the national ones, are thinking it's a place they have to be."

"We're all trying to figure out as we go: is there a subscription model here, is it an advertising model, is there a monthly recurring revenue stream, is it a one-time payment model? It's a very fluid model." has not only launched an app for its main web portal, but also produced them for some of its biggest programmes, such as the Today show and Rachel Maddow, in recent months.

Catherine Captain, general manager of the Today show's website, argued these devices are "mainly a branding and content play, getting our content out in additional platforms."

"I do believe you get a circular effect: someone interested in you in mobile is exposed to the brand and to your great content. They may then be more likely to tune in to the show or go to the website."

The application for the Today show does feature display advertising, and sold its entire inventory in June, although Captain said this was a "healthy side benefit" rather than "the reason for being in the space."

CBS, the broadcast network, has also established apps covering a wide range of its portfolio, including CBS Sports, CBS News, Entertainment Tonight, Harper's Island and

Stephen Howard-Sarin, vp for business and finance brands at CBS Interactive, said "we do mobile user experiences to make money, so we have no interest in funding mobile as a loss leader just for some intangible brand benefit."

"It is experimental — no one's moving their TV budget to mobile — but it is a part of every conversation we have with business advertisers. We have a lot of oars in the mobile water because we think there's money there," he added.

Late last year, Clear Channel Radio

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff