E-marketing Strategy: Content Consumption is Moving Beyond the Web Browser
Here's your strategy landmine for the day: The web browser is dying off.
It may be difficult to fathom, but in a few years, no program we use on our tablets, phones or computers will resemble the web browsers we're using today. Digital services, social platforms and most importantly, digital content are all steadily migrating away from the web browser and into the world of apps. This means that your content must be ready for its migration into the most popular content-consumption apps of the day—Zite, Currents, Pulse and Flipboard. Today we'll explore what that means for you, the content publisher, and how you can make sure you're ready for the transition.
The Reasons for the Migration to Mobile
"Mobile" may not be the best term to use when we're talking about tablets, phones and e-readers. No longer are these devices used as a degraded desktop-replacement while on the road or away from the office. These devices are becoming so stunning and powerful that, in some cases, these so-called "lean-back devices" are doing a far better job than a desktop computer. And therefore, they're not so much "mobile devices" anymore, but rather the default devices for content consumption. But, since "mobile" is the term we're still using at the moment, I'll go with it.
Now, despite the fact that I'm a web developer at my core and that I have a geeky love-affair with my desk, iMac, jQuery and WordPress—the classic "lean-forward" environment—I can see that this migration away from the desktop and web browser is happening for good reasons:
1. First, and most importantly, the act of content consumption is migrating to devices that have been specifically designed for consumption—as opposed to desktop and notebook computers which were originally designed for content creation. The rise of tablets, e-readers and smartphones with impressive speakers and bright colorful screens has changed the way people "surf." People are no longer plunking down in their desk chair to browse the headlines and read their email. Folks now prefer to plunk down on the softer surfaces in their house as the computer is no longer necessary for surfing—the at-hand hand-held devices are just as good, and often better, at presenting content.
3. The web is overrun with advertising. Browsing the web for your favorite sites and content is too much like running through a gauntlet. You are bomdarded with ads—and if that weren't annoying enough, the advertisers track your movements and sell your data. People are fed up and are ditching the web browser, and apps have filled the void by providing a better alternative to bombardment from advertisers. Most content apps, such as Google's Currents, Zite, Pulse and Flipboard, are ad-free. People are switching over.
4. There's a new phenomenon bouncing around the digital world called "social news." "Social news" would be more appropriately called "social browsing." This act is the spark of social discovery. Would-be "opinion-makers" dig through their content apps searching for important, entertaining or humorous content. Once found, they then promote it out to their followers in the hopes that they will come to be seen as a source for this compelling content, and therefore win more followers. It's a digital form of gold-mining, and you—as publisher—have plenty of gold to offer in exchange for the social promotion.
For these reasons, your content marketing tools—which include your site's content blogs, your author blogs, your social media feeds, etc.—must now take content apps into consideration. Here's how.
Optimizing Your Content for Mobile Discovery
Content discovered in these apps is never by means of a search engine. Google and the like do not point people from their search engine results pages (SERPs) to any particular app—like Zite or Flipboard or even Google's own Currents. Search engines are still limited to the web browser. Therefore, you must do some extra work.
1. Make sure your content is available from within these apps. Each of these apps has a method for collecting content. Some are more automated than others. Visit the websites for each service and check out their "For Publishers" pages. Each service will tell you how they choose the content to feature or promote and how you can optimize your content to play along.
2. Make sure your content is presented correctly in these apps. The four apps mentioned above are basically the next generation of RSS feed readers—breathing new life into an old technology. It has probably been several years since you've thought about your RSS feed, but it's now time to feed it through Google's Feedburner service, optimize it and clean it up. You will want to make sure your entire articles are fed out through the RSS feed, that each article has a featured image, and that all the links contained within have been created using a third-party link tracking service such as bit.ly.
You've no doubt seen that some content-producers feed out only article excerpts through their RSS feeds. This this is a mistake. If your readers are using these apps to read content, they've chosen these apps to read your content! Feeding out a partial article with a link to read the rest through a web browser —will only frustrate your readers, leaving them with an unfavorable impression of your company and leaving them less likely to add you to their daily routine.
Download the four major content apps I mentioned above and figure out how they work. They are all based on the same premise: a personalized collection of web content displayed more beautifully and with better organization. They all flip and swipe and scroll in wonderful ways that the web is just now beginning to figure out. Add your newly spruced feed into the app and check out your content presented more beautifully than you're used to seeing. Make sure it looks as good—if not better—than the feeds from the major media outlets.
3. Let your audience know that they can read your wonderful content from within these apps. There are currently people reading your web site who would prefer to be reading your content in one of their favorite apps. But, since you're not yet a "Zite Featured Feed," for example, these people haven't yet thought to add you to their daily content app routine. In your emails, web site sidebars, tweets and status updates, let people know that you've optimized your content for reading in Zite, Flipboard, Pulse and Currents. If this is the app your readers open every day to browse content, you want your content to be there. Encourage your readers to make the migration.
J.S. McDougall cofounded and recently sold Catalyst Webworks, a web design and marketing firm specializing in the book industry. He is the author of eight books about conducting business online, including "#tweetsmart," "Start Your Own Blogging Business" and "Content Marketing." He is currently a content strategy consultant and living with his wife in Massachusetts.