Unlocking mobile revenue and audience: New ideas and best practices

We have thoroughly entered the age of mobile news.

People are shifting so rapidly to smartphones and tablets, various data suggest, that mobile devices in the last year became the primary platforms for news. With that comes a whole new level of uncertainty and opportunity for news publishers.

The American Press Institute recently gathered more than 40 leaders in mobile journalism for a day-long Thought Leader Summit, in association with Google, to assemble the best current knowledge about mobile strategy and practices.

The event covered many angles — from mobile content choices, business models, technology, to staffing and more. The day featured in-depth discussions, small working groups that made recommendations in areas of their expertise, and participant surveys that explored how mobile works at leading organizations.

Mobile requires news organizations to transform how they function internally, present content, sell advertising and engage users.

Afterward we spent time distilling the work of day into nine key concepts about how publishers should adapt their businesses and content for fast-growing mobile audiences.

The ideas, and in some cases the words themselves, are drawn from the few dozen participants of our summit. We don’t imply that every summit participant endorses every idea or view expressed in this white paper, but collectively they deserve credit for any wisdom you find useful in the chapters that follow.

The nine concepts are these:

  1. A mobile-first organization has editorial, technology and business teams working together in new ways
  2. Mobile news presentation should be different from web or print
  3. Mobile and social media are intricately linked
  4. Mobile apps and mobile websites are for quite different audiences
  5. What it really means to “engage” a mobile user
  6. What you don’t know about the “second screen” and “utility” behaviors of mobile users
  7. Advertisers buy audiences, not publications or platforms, and data is the key
  8. Mobile advertising needs more creative thinking
  9. How to hire or promote for mobile jobs

We know at API from our own research conducted with the the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago that a majority of American adults now get news on mobile phones — and that it not limited to the youngest age groups. At the same time, people continue to use traditional platforms like desktop websites, newspapers, TV and radio as well, but mobile is growing fast and is changing users’ behavior and expectations.

What we heard from our summit participants is that mobile requires news organizations to transform how they function internally, present content, sell advertising and engage users. And they had some pretty good ideas about how to do that, which are explained in the chapters that follow.

The summit participants were:

Libby Bawcombe
Digital Design Director, The Atlantic

Julia Beizer
Director of Mobile, The Washington Post

Cory Bergman
General Manager, Breaking News

Mark Briggs
Director of Digital Media, KING Broadcasting Co.

April Brumley Hinkle
Chief Revenue Officer, Texas Tribune

Greg Carfine
Director, Global Monetization Solutions, Millennial Media

Jeff Carney
Corporate Director Digital Content, BH Media Group

Dan Check
Vice President, Engineering & Product Development, Slate

Kevin Dale
News Director, Denver Post

Anthony De Rosa
Editor-In-Chief, Circa

Jonathan Ellis
Senior Editor for Digital Platforms, The New York Times

Chris Haines
Product Manager of SB Nation, Vox Media

Todd Handy
Vice President, Advertising Strategy & Performance, Deseret Digital Media

Alex Hardiman
Executive Director, Mobile Products, The New York Times

Liz Heron
Emerging Media Editor, Wall Street Journal

Etan Horowitz
Mobile editor, CNN

Emily Ingram
Mobile Product Manager, Washington Post

Sarah Jennings
Director of Creative Strategy, Millennial Media

Jenna Kaufmann
Manager, Developer Marketing, Millennial Media

Damon Kiesow
Senior Product Manager, Boston Globe

Allen Klosowski
Vice President, Mobile & Connected Devices, SpotXchange

Chris Lee
President, Deseret Digital

Clifford Levy
Editor – NYT Now, New York Times

Lisa Lytton
Director, Digital Editions, National Geographic

Kia Makarechi
Senior Editor, Mobile and Innovation, Huffington Post

Clarissa Matthews
Senior Product Manager, The Atlantic

Alyssa Meritt
Digital Strategist, Urban Airship

Patty Michalski
Mobile Managing Editor, USA Today

Brendan Monaghan
General Manager, Slate

Grey Montgomery
Director, Mobile Initiatives, McClatchy Interactive

Kate Myers
Manager, Business Partnerships, NPR

Dao Nguyen
VP of Growth & Data, BuzzFeed

Stephanie Nguyen
Lead Designer, Cofounder, Silica Labs

Jeremy Pennycook
Mobile Technology Manager, NPR

Laura Rodriguez
Mobile Product Manager, Gannett Digital, Gannett

Bob Rose
Deputy Managing Editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Sarah Sampsel
Director of Digital Strategy, Washington Post

Sarah Schmalbach
Senior Mobile Product Manager, USA Today

Dan Shanoff
Director of Digital Development, USAT Sports/FTW

Davis Shaver
Technology Strategist, Digital First Media

Merissa Silk
Director of Mobile & Emerging Platforms, New York Daily News

Paul Smalera
Mobile Editor, Opinion, New York Times

Josh West
Lead Developer, The Atlantic

Erin Wilson
Senior Strategist, Mobile and Video, Advance Digital (Advance newspapers)

Antonio Zugaldia
CTO, Silica Labs

Chapter 2

Editorial, technology and business teams must work together

This wasn’t the case in older days, when the newsroom, sales and IT departments were kept apart to avoid conflicts and rarely spoke. That’s now changing, and mobile technology is a big reason why.

Mobile, like online technology in general, ties revenue more directly to content, and content more directly to technology. The people responsible for all three parts of an organization have to work together.

Various participants said newsrooms would benefit from a combination of a nucleus team of mobile experts or leads (who create best practices and guide newsroom strategy) and counterparts in each desk or section vertical who spread that throughout the newsroom.

Mobile ties revenue more directly to content, and content more directly to technology. The people responsible for all three parts of an organization have to work together.

The Washington Post has mobile ambassadors spread throughout its newsroom. This creates tight communication between those doing general news-gathering and those guiding newsroom-wide mobile strategy.

The Post’s mobile product manager Emily Ingram also says she emphasizes specific habits reporters and editors need to develop to make better decisions for mobile presentation. Planning meetings should start with discussion of mobile to avoid repeating the old pattern of just taking “downstream” content from print. Think about the habits and roles of each person in the organization and how to make them more mobile-oriented.

In time, Ingram says, the goal is that resources and training will develop the staff to the point where every editor and reporter is mobile literate.

For instance, persistent surfacing of mobile article previews is important, as is sharing mobile metrics with all editors. BuzzFeed has seen great impact by adding a mobile preview in its CMS, which ensures stories look right for mobile users and just generally presses mobile-first thinking. It also added mobile stats to the analytics dashboard its writers use.

In technology, placing an emphasis on editorial-driven product strategy is important, summit participants said. Speed and fluid interaction between developers and editors is a good recipe for innovation, on mobile and elsewhere. The product side should also clue in the business side on potential opportunities for monetization.

The business side of the organization needs mobile specialists as well — people who understand mobile consumers and behavior and can help advertisers reach them, while resisting flashy ad deals that come at the expense of the user experience.

Common pitfalls

One of the working groups at our summit identified several missteps and common mistakes that prevent the necessary collaboration between newsroom, technology and business staff. The key ones:

  • Isolation of mobile-minded editors into a sort of artisanal, lab-like environment is dangerous because it removes the broader newsroom from mobile priorities and can centralize technology to an unproductive extent.
  • On a technology front, outsourcing everything to vendors is a potential trap, as priorities can quickly diverge. In-house development is preferable if resources are available, but vendors can be consulted. (Conversely, over-confidence about in-house resources can slow innovation.)
  • Pledging to “focus on mobile” without identifying benchmarks is useless.
  • Starting with the similarities between desktop and mobile, as opposed to the differences, is a potential trap.
  • The priorities of technology, editorial and business must be executed in concert, so that the accomplishment of one group’s goals doesn’t undercut those of the other two.

Chapter 3

Mobile news presentation should be different

Every print newspaper article goes through a process of reporting, editing and design to optimize how it appears in print. And most publishers have gotten comfortable with customization of online stories for things like SEO and adding additional content or updates.

But content customization for mobile is scant, the participants at our summit said–even at some of the most advanced publishing outlets.

Your highly motivated readers are bound to read content regardless of form. To reach new, larger audiences, you need to make the content an ideal mobile experience.

Rather than just letting content flow “downstream” unchanged from web to mobile, publishers to thrive in the new era have to begin delivering new forms of news tailored to the unique mobile reading experience.

There’s a different screen size (smaller), user interface (swiping and tapping), and surrounding environment (may be things going on around them). So stories for mobile could be different. More scannable. More summarized information. Paragraphs limited in length.

It probably seems a big task — yet another on a long list. And publishers who see a growing mobile audience for what they already have may think they’re doing just fine. But as the Boston Globe’s Damon Kiesow pointed out, your highly motivated readers are bound to read content regardless of form. To reach new, larger audiences, you need to make the content an ideal mobile experience. Thus customizing for mobile is essential for growth.

Many of the organizations represented at our summit, including For The Win, Circa and Breaking News, are reimagining the “atomic unit” of mobile news, or the smallest component that can stand alone.

Circa breaks news into digestible pieces, consumed one at a time.

Circa breaks news into digestible pieces, consumed one at a time.

Traditionally that unit has been an article. But new mobile publishers are imagining news chunks as simple as a paragraph, image, sentence or fact, which can be chained together with others or consumed by itself.

Circa, a mobile-first news publisher founded in late 2011, has its journalists build “atoms” of news that can be used in different ways or repurposed, Editor in Chief Anthony De Rosa explained. Pieces that first appeared in a live blog can then be used in a full article.

De Rosa thinks of the format as similar to Cliffs Notes or the president’s daily briefing. It’s a helpful way to break down hard news stories, though it’s not appropriate for every piece of content. Opinion and commentary, for instance, may benefit from preserving the narrative structure.

Regardless of whether one agrees with how Circa reformats its news, the most important idea is that this mobile first publisher sees the format of the news as an ongoing evolution that is largely still to be shaped. The staff there is composed of about half editorial and half technologists, two teams that work closely to iterate the product and the news format the same way an editor iteratively improves the words of a news story.

The Wall Street Journal also has tried a new mobile-friendly format with The Short Answer video series.

The series was conceived with both social and mobile audiences in mind, summit participant Liz Heron told us. Social because it aims to explain what everyone is talking about on a given day, and because it’s short, conversational and built to use the best of the rapid-fire Q&A style of YouTube’s most popular vlogs. And mobile because it’s designed to be consumed on a small screen — big graphics, up-close head shots and short running times.

In addition to rethinking the format of news content, publishers should consider user-experience factors like quick loading times and powerful visual elements as important aspects of the mobile products they create for users.

Chapter 4

Mobile and social media are intricately linked

Any discussion about how to reach and serve people using smartphones almost certainly must begin with social media. This was a major point of consensus among mobile leaders at our summit.

Using social media to connect with other people is the most popular purpose of smartphone app usage other than gaming. More popular than utilities or games or shopping, or news.


According to Nielsen data, U.S. smartphone users spend about 14 times more minutes using social media apps like Facebook than they do using news apps. Facebook mobile users spend more than 15 hours (914 minutes) a month on mobile usage.

It’s difficult to overstate the implications for news publishers.

BuzzFeed, which thinks of itself as a “social-first” organization, is now inherently “mobile-first” as well, because social is mobile, especially mobile Web.

As of early 2014, BuzzFeed gets most of its traffic from mobile devices, Vice President of Growth and Data Dao Nguyen told us. Its peak traffic hour has shifted to the evenings, around 9 p.m., rather than the typical daytime peak of desktop Web traffic.

A ‘social-first’ organization is now inherently ‘mobile-first’ as well, because social is mobile.

BuzzFeed has to care a lot about its mobile experience. This means everyone in the newsroom has to think about it, not just the technology team. Its content management system now includes a “mobile preview” — before publishing a story the journalist sees how it would appear on a smartphone.

The results of the strategy have proven encouraging. The publisher’s mobile audience is sharing more, reading long-form content for longer periods, growing faster and clicking on native ads more often than its desktop users, Nguyen said.

Another example of twinned mobile-social strategy came from the Wall Street Journal, where the two fields were combined under the oversight of Emerging Media Editor Liz Heron.

Heron (who has since left the Journal for a job at Facebook) argued that mobile and social functions should be linked because the audience behavior, and audience itself, often overlaps. They are also the most disruptive aspects of newsgathering and production at the moment, and the areas with the most potential and need for innovation.

These mobile users who discover news via a social network app are in most cases landing on a publisher’s website rather than using a news app, a trend we discuss further in the next chapter.

Chapter 5

Apps and mobile sites are for different audiences

News publishers need to think about their mobile audience as consisting of two quite distinct groups.

One is made up of possibly longtime readers or subscribers of legacy products, people who know the publication in its other forms. They often like the notion of a complete and finite bundle of news, organized under a brand’s editorial judgment, that they can complete regularly. These people are most likely to install and use apps, and to pay for access.

The other group is people who come to publishers sideways through social media or other referrals. These people may know little about a brand or be infrequent readers. They are most likely to land on a publication’s mobile website, on an article page, and to not see a reason to pay for ongoing access. But they can be loyal readers of the future.

Mobile web goals = easy, simple, sticky

The primary goal of a good mobile news website is to give the mobile visitor a seamless path to the information they have come for, the Wall Street Journal’s Liz Heron told us.

Don’t introduce choices or interruptions or delays. The user should land on an uncluttered article page that loads quickly and makes the content easy to read. Then immediately give the user something to read next.

Many of our participants agreed on the importance of “recirculation” of mobile visitors — getting them to keep browsing more content after landing on a particular article page.

The user should land on an uncluttered article page that loads quickly and makes the content easy to read.

The consensus about how to achieve this may surprise many in news publishing. Most participants agreed that it seems better to show readers completing a story links to a brand’s other most popular content, rather than try to show closely related content.

In fact, we know from a variety of research that the biggest reason most people look at news is to have something to discuss with other people. And if they’re hunting for things to talk about, it’s likely the content that many other people have been reading and sharing. The topic matters less.

Dan Shanoff of USA Today explained that its social-optimized sports vertical For The Win averages about four pages per visit by recommending the overall most popular content from the site to each reader.

Mobile app goals = judgment, familiar, completable

A publisher’s mobile app tends to have a different audience and should have a different purpose than a mobile website.

Simplicity and recirculation are still fine things to achieve in an app, but unlike the mobile website, the app is where you serve a loyal, familiar audience. They know you, and they’ve come here thinking, “Let’s open up the app and see what you have for me today.”

Unlike the mobile website, the app is where you serve a loyal, familiar audience.

Mobile apps users are more interested in your editorial judgement — what do you consider the top story of the moment, what to read first, and so on. These app users are more interested in seeing each session as a journey that can be completed, rather than as an endless stream of content.

The app users, at least in part, may also prefer a digital experience that is visually similar to the publisher’s print or other products, but still with smart improvements that take advantage of what a mobile device can do better than paper.

Chapter 6

What it really means to ‘engage’ a mobile user

There are many ways of defining “engagement,” but those working in mobile emphasized that they all are about making valuable connections with mobile users to build loyalty or create content.

Engagement issues form the core of a news organization’s strategy, journalism values and business model.

The word engagement is thrown around so often that it’s easy to dismiss, but drill deeper and the concept actually gets at essential aspects of the relationship between the publisher and the audience.

How do you get the audience to use the mobile product more often and more deeply? How can you get them to take actions that benefit the news organization? These are engagement issues that form the core of a news organization’s strategy, journalism values and business model.

The working group on mobile engagement at our summit listed a spectrum of goals and metrics that may fall under the general discussion of engagement:

  • Contributing content from a mobile device. This could mean uploading photos or video to a news organization in response to a specific request, or more simply applying a designated hashtag to their own Vine videos or Instagram photos. To succeed at this goal, it’s important to know that while desktop web users often contribute text-based responses, mobile users are more likely to submit audio or visual content. Cameras are built-in and easy to use on mobile phones, while typing long messages is harder.
  • Amplifying content. Not every user has to create content to be helpful. Mobile users who comment, share or otherwise enrich and distribute the existing content are very valuable to growing your audience.
  • Session-depth metrics are a way to measure engagement, such as how much time is spent or how much content is consumed per visit. Meaningful metrics include number of content views and unique visitors, the average length of a usage session, and the percentage of the screen the users scroll down.
  • Long-term loyalty, or user retention over time, is another important metric. Do users keep coming back for more sessions consistently? Meaningful metrics include monthly churn, or the rate at which new users come in while old users stop returning. Having your users register and log in helps you track their behavior more accurately over time.
  • Cross-platform interaction, or measuring the different levels of interaction across platforms like mobile, tablet and desktop, or apps and web. Keeping a cross-platform profile of a user’s total engagement helps truly identify the most valuable and engaged users. It also helps the news organization understand users distinct behaviors by platform, and devise tailored approaches for each one.
  • Financial contributions are perhaps an ultimate measure of engagement. Users who feel a deep connection to the publisher are most likely to be subscribers or donors. One way to analyze this is to track users down a conversion “funnel,” or the progression from download to registration to subscription.

How to generate engagement

There are many effective ways to create this meaningful engagement of mobile users. The participants at our summit offered these suggestions.

Think about the first-time user welcome. Our summit working group on mobile engagement said great design can help make a mobile product intuitive to use, but some new users may appreciate a one-time welcome that shows them what the product offers and how to use it. On the second visit, perhaps a different welcome message that emphasizes lesser-known features.

Always offer a next story. When a user finishes one piece of content, the mobile product should immediately present additional things to see next. This could be a list of closely related content, or a list of editors’ top picks, or a list of the current most popular content. This process of “recirculating” a user from one thing to the next is vital to sustaining engagement.

Create mobile-first (or mobile-equal) content, meaning news and interactive content that is optimized for the best mobile experience possible rather than being repurposed from a print or web product.

Personalization of content. Mobile devices are intensely personal — they have only one owner, one user. They are almost always with the owner. And they are navigated by touch and voice — very personal, human interactions. All of this creates a high expectation of personalization for users. Their phone knows them and adapts to them in many ways. And they come to expect mobile content to be geographically relevant, targeted to their interests, and built with their needs in mind.

Use push notifications. There may be no more powerful way to pull users back into your mobile app than to use push notifications well. The power to reach out and grab the user’s attention is tempting. But this power must be used responsibly. BuzzFeed’s No. 1 reason for app uninstalls is the user feeling that they get too many push notifications.

It helps to let users customize which types of notifications they receive, so they don’t feel manipulated or frustrated with irrelevant alerts. Mobile-first news apps like Breaking News and Circa also let users subscribe to updates to a particular story, so they get notifications whenever new information is added.

Offer service-oriented tools, like user-generated listings or classifieds, mapping tools, etc. Mobile products that help a user accomplish a task or save time in some specific way are more likely to be used. (We’ve written an in-depth strategy guide to creating these kinds of niche mobile apps.)

Use the technology features built into the phone. Phones can gather a lot of data (location, movement, etc.) and conduct a lot of tasks (make a call, send a text, share to social media, etc.). Apps can take advantage of this. For instance rather than just offer movie times as text listings, an app can get the user’s location and show nearby theaters.

The revenue connection to engagement

The direct effect of strong user engagement on monetization is complicated to show. But engagement clearly helps your efforts to generate mobile revenue.

On the advertising side, mobile engagement is a great story to tell on a sales call. But don’t forget the engaging capabilities of mobile ads themselves can lead to mobile revenue. Mobile ads can be personalized, interactive and device-integrated the same way your mobile content should be.

For subscriptions, engagement creates the strong relationship and value proposition that a user knows as “loyalty.” And that sense of loyalty to a publisher is what drives membership or subscriptions for paid content.

Chapter 7

‘Second screen’ and ‘utility’ behaviors of mobile users

Much has been made of the concept that mobile devices are a “second screen” companion to watching television. But those working in mobile also caution there’s more to understand than that.

Mobile devices are a “second screen” at work as well. The desktop computer is equivalent to the TV — it’s supposed to be the main focus, but people simultaneously use their phones for complementary services or diversions.

Outside a workplace, when people are on their free time, the mobile device increasingly becomes a primary screen. Certainly this is true on-the-go when people are away from other devices. But even at home, the smartphone is increasingly a primary screen for many users, with the TV on in the background as a second screen, according to the internal data shared at the summit. The phone may actually command more attention than the TV program, or certainly the commercials.

When people are on their free time, the mobile device increasingly becomes a primary screen.

Another common misconception is that people mainly use their smartphones for utility, to save time and accomplish tasks. They certainly do sometimes, but people also use their phones to waste time with entertainment or games, BuzzFeed’s Dao Nguyen explained.

The better way to think about it, we heard, is that people use their phones to take control of their time and to spend it how they want. Whether busy or bored, the smartphone helps a user restore control over how their time is spent.

This understanding presents opportunities for publishers on either end of a spectrum — helping people save time or improve their lives through useful news and services, or helping people pass time through entertainment and indulging their passions.

Whether busy or bored, the smartphone helps a user restore control over how their time is spent.

Chapter 8

Advertisers buy audiences, not publications

Publishers are traditionally used to selling advertisers space in their publications. But that model is working less and less as major advertisers stop buying publications and start buying audiences. And that concept may be more important now, as mobile pricing poses even greater challenges to publishing revenue.

Mobile ad buys, especially, often occur via ad networks and in real time. The advertiser on the other end may not know or care which publisher is serving the ad, they only care whom their ad is reaching. They are looking for people with a certain purchase intent, income segment, location, age or other factors.

The advertiser may not know or care which publisher is serving the ad, they only care whom their ad is reaching.

The only way for publishers to compete effectively in that environment is to possess and exchange that kind of detailed targeting data about their individual audience members, the mobile ad experts at our summit said.

That’s a new challenge, but fortunately mobile technology can help with gathering that kind of individual data.

The phone is intensely personal. It’s not a shared device in the same the same way as TVs or tablets are. This enables individual targeting because you know unique device identification numbers represent unique individuals you can track over time.

But most publishers are underinvested in ad targeting based on data, said Allen Klosowski, mobile vice president for ad network SpotXchange. Tech companies like Facebook and Google are using personal data to target ads better, and the prices show it. Any publisher with no data to target ads against is living at the bottom of the ad pricing food chain.

For standards on how to collect and offer reader targeting data to advertisers, look at Interactive Advertising Bureau guidelines, particularly the real-time bidding standards for programmatic buying.

Publishers can send ad networks real-time data about each pageview, such as the Apple or Android device ID, the user’s location, or other common data that will make inventory more valuable when compared with other publishers.

Targeting ads by using the rich data publishers already know about their subscribers could be highly profitable, however technology decisions must be made at the outset on how to collect the data and make it actionable for advertising on the local and national levels.

Sales staff should span multiple platforms

The audience-first interest of advertisers also means that publishers should tightly integrate mobile ad sales with the organization’s overall sales strategy.

Some organizations have success at building separate mobile sales teams, which works at large scale. But to get started, it helps to bundle mobile buys into every ad deal, which helps get advertisers comfortable with results and sellers able to speak to it.

The ad staff at Vox, for example, tries to sell its whole audience rather than specific platforms, said product manager Chris Haines. Rather than selling “mobile” or “desktop,” the pitch is that Vox reaches a valuable audience in many ways and an advertiser should use all of them.

The Washington Post also has integrated its mobile sales with other digital ad sales staff, said Director of Mobile Julia Beizer. This took a lot of work to unify the ad product lines, but now clients can buy ads across platforms, which has helped grow the business greatly.

As mobile revenue grows, publisher may think about potentially building separate mobile initiatives, profit-and-loss statements, and make sure there is responsibility in the organization to deliver both mobile audience and mobile revenue results.

Chapter 9

Mobile advertising needs more creative thinking

Rather than just think ‘advertising,’ think of ‘useful services’ for readers and sponsors

Publishers should fundamentally rethink how to monetize mobile products, beyond just conventional display ads shrunk to smaller screens. That was a universal message among the participants in our mobile summit.

Publishers moving into mobile have to figure out how they can be useful to the user. And the same goes for mobile advertising and marketing. If publishers better understand what utility they provide to the audience, they can charge sponsors to provide their own version of that same utility.

If publishers understand what utility they provide to the audience, they can charge sponsors to provide their own version of that same utility.

For example, Google Maps helps users locate and navigate to places. That is its utility. And to make money, it helps sponsors embrace that same utility through premium listings for their businesses that are more visible than others and offer deals and incentives.

News publishers’ utility is informing and entertaining people with accurate, creative content. So for sponsors it makes sense to offer them a commercial version of that same utility — sponsored content that tells the stories of a brand willing to pay for it. This leads to something like native advertising or sponsored content (which we held a previous summit on and wrote about extensively here).

If you inform people, you help brands inform people too. If you entertain people through videos or GIFs, you help brands do that too.

Successful mobile publishers will align their advertising offerings with their unique content strengths. The result is a mobile service where both the editorial and commercial content are useful and relevant. And where none of the limited screen space is lost to ad banners people learn to ignore.

Location-based advertising is not just about where the user is right now

Looking at location prediction is powerful and is the direction that Google is trending with its Google Now products.

For example, serve an ad for a restaurant on where someone is going to be at lunchtime, not where they are right now. By lunchtime when I’m there, it’s already too late — the person’s plans have been made.

At least for certain kinds of advertisers and ads, those that are not instantaneous impulse buys, location patterns over time matter more than a user’s current location.

Use ads that embrace the device

Mobile devices have so much more to offer advertising than just porting ads from the desktop environment. Mobile ads can take advantage what users can do with phones.

Ads can respond to what the user is doing via sensors, the most useful of which is GPS and location tracking. Knowing where a user is can help a publisher target ads that offer services and deals in their vicinity.

Ads can also take advantage of other functions smartphones are capable of performing.

A simple click-to-view-more ad may not be the best way to approach some campaigns, when instead the ad could let the user click to call a business, or even to add an event to their calendar, set an appointment to visit a store, view locations on a map, or to get a push notification reminder of something in the future.

One example of embracing what mobile devices do comes from KING-5 in Seattle, which worked with the area’s top car wash business to trigger a push notification about getting a wash when the forecast called for it to be dry for the next four days.

One key to these approaches is to make sure specific calls to action are outlined for the user. And make sure you can track whether and how users take those actions. Think through the entire campaign from ad view to end of experience.


Chapter 10

How to hire or promote for mobile jobs

News organizations aren’t the only ones trying to adapt to mobile technology. There are many other industries bidding for the limited pool of people with experience and expertise in mobile jobs.

As a result, mid-size or small newsrooms likely won’t win a bidding war for the obvious mobile talent out on the job market. They have to look elsewhere to develop and identify mobile talent.

How do they know what to look for?

In editorial roles, an excitement for technology is key, as is a knack for experimentation. Anyone who is going to excel at mobile journalism, however, has to be able to excel at journalism in general. Anyone working on mobile should have a thorough understanding of the work other editors at the company do (including newsgathering, story production and staffing). An understanding how to use metrics also is important.

Mid-size or small newsrooms likely won’t win a bidding war for the obvious mobile talent out on the job market. They have to look elsewhere to develop and identify mobile talent.

Even at The New York Times, hiring for mobile jobs is not about hiring for mobile-specific experience, Jonathan Ellis (who just left the Times to become managing editor of Mashable) told us. There just aren’t enough of those people out there. Instead, they are hiring good thinkers — people who understand digital, news and products, and can see around corners to what’s coming next.

For business jobs, similar to editorial the business-side mobile staff should be nimble and adaptable, given the fluid nature of the mobile advertising business. They will need to be spotting trends and entering poorly charted territory on a regular basis.

In technology roles, a person with diverse experience and skills is helpful, as they may be asked to do quite different projects at different times. In many cases you may look look outside the news industry to other sectors that build products for users and consumers.

Hire good thinkers — people who understand digital, news and products, and can see around corners to what’s coming next.

Cory Bergman of Breaking News told us he likes to hire technology people from gaming backgrounds because they are great at understanding user interaction and incentives.

After hiring occurs, managers should also have a plan for measurement and improvement. Breaking News sets performance goals for employees after hiring, for example, everyone on the editorial team is required to conduct three “experiments” per quarter, and one has to be good enough to convert into a new product or feature.

* * *

Mobile news consumption continues to grow and change rapidly. These nine ideas captured at our Thought Leader Summit provide a foothold, a sense of what a mobile-optimized news organization should be doing and thinking at this point.

The best practices will continue to evolve. The search for large streams of revenue is still in progress, but seems certain to come as audiences grow. The American Press Institute will continue to follow mobile trends and new ideas closely. Here are some resources for more information: