Thirty-Six Tips for Developing a Successful Mobile Publishing Strategy
With the expansion of the smartphone market, mobile seems poised to fulfill its promise as the next great frontier in publishing. Whether that primarily means new marketing opportunities or new avenues for monetizing content may depend on the specifics of one's publishing market, but what seems certain is that this new medium—with its unprecedented interactivity, accessibility and, yes, mobility—cannot be ignored.
"The combination of ubiquitous, cheap computing and massive adoption of mobile devices is providing publishers with a dream scenario," says Dani Essindi Behrendt of mobile technology company Ricoh Innovations. "Publishers can finally develop a direct relationship with their readers, thus creating brand experiences around content."
The following tips, coming from a range of publishing perspectives, offer numerous ideas for connecting with readers and conceiving of mobile as a long-term investment.
Tips From … Colleen O'Connell, director of online marketing, HarperCollins Children's Books
HarperCollins has proven a leader in using mobile to market books, making a splash over a year ago by being one of the first U.S. publishers to use QR Codes in book promotion. (QR Codes are two-dimensional bar codes—placed on printed materials such as book covers—that are readable by mobile phones, and used to connect print readers to digital content.)
1. Mobile devices: More than just "another screen."
Content and marketing programs designed for mobile must reflect the medium's distinct characteristics. "You can't just take what you have on a website and automatically put it on this mobile screen," O'Connell says. "It does not work like that." Consider the screen size, the demographic you are trying to reach, and the types of phones [that demographic typically] owns, she says, and design content accordingly.
2. Don't just think smartphone.
They may get all the buzz, but it's likely that a significant percentage of your audience still does not carry a smartphone, O'Connell says. When designing campaigns for teens, Harper Children's offers high-resolution versions of mobile content optimized for smartphones and lower-res versions that "take all the content and displays it in a different way for [non-smartphones]." Whatever the format, start with what you are sure works, she says. "You can always optimize and add to it later."
3. For teens, text messages are social currency.
Teens welcome your SMS (short message service) marketing campaigns because of the importance of texting in their lives, O'Connell says. "They are popular because they are receiving these messages, and it's not always from their friends. It could be from the brand—as long as it's dinging in class, they get that social currency."
4. Use popular platforms to drive audiences.
Knowing that SMS rules among teens, HarperCollins primarily uses text messaging to drive teens to mobile destination sites, such as a call to action, i.e., "Text lcstyle to get tips from [author Lauren Conrad]."
5. Keep content simple and engaging.
Mobile content offered by O'Connell includes videos, quizzes, polls, Q&As with the author, and other exclusive content. "I definitely start small," she says. "These are on-the-go users. They are not there reading for an extended time. They are looking for that basic information—a little interaction and they're off again. So keep it simple."
6. Educate consumers about new technology.
HarperCollins Children's Books began experimenting with QR Codes in book marketing a year ago, when the technology was brand-new to these shores. Since then, use of the technology has grown steadily as the publisher has educated its young consumers (through print and digital channels) on what the codes are and how to use them. "When we launch a feature for a book, we always include a 'What Is This' [icon] with a little picture of the QR Code," she says. "We're starting to educate consumers at all touch points so that when we roll out this technology, they know ... how to interact with it."
7. Mobile can be both a marketing and content delivery tool.
O'Connell conceives of mobile in terms of building long-term relationships with engaged teens, which encompasses both a marketing component (alerts and information on books and authors) and enhancing the reading experience, whether by providing additional content or through interactive experiences, such as a scavenger hunt using geo-targeting and cell phone cameras.
8. Be careful with teens.
While applications like Foursquare, which involves real-world meetups, do have a place in book marketing (such as when used to "check in" at author events to get exclusive content), tread carefully with what you encourage teens to do, O'Connell cautions.
9. Think long-term audience development.
Database building and long-term customer relationship management is a key component of HarperCollins' strategy moving forward. "ECRM [electronic customer relationship management] is becoming increasingly important to our industry," O'Connell says. "We have an opportunity to [acquire] a teen subscriber [through mobile] and grow with them—so as they age up, we can, through this ECRM database, start getting their preferences and seeing their changes in reading habits, and deliver content based on those changes and preferences.
"I think long-term is going to be about taking this database and cross-selling e-books and digital product, and that [applies] especially for the adult market," she adds.
Tips From … David-Michel Davies, executive director, The Webby Awards
The Webby Awards have been honoring the best of the Internet on an annual basis since 1995. The awards, held in June (this year's deadline for entries is Dec. 17), include categories for mobile and various forms of online publishing. Here, Davies draws on the best of what he has seen and learned of what works in the digital realm.
10. Involve the authors from the get-go.
"If the author isn't involved, then the process dilutes into just a marketing exercise and won't translate as well," says Davies. "When the author is looped into the process, he or she can think about how to use the medium to better tell a story."
11. Alice can literally go down the rabbit hole.
"Part of the reason people like these mobile apps is that they tell stories with more than just words. Integrating tools such as imagery and audio can provide the audience with a greater, more imaginative work," he says.
12. Avoid gratuitous usage of technology.
"Elements such as video and animation should be used to enhance the storytelling's experience, not clutter it up," Davies advises. "The additional media ought to be relevant to the author's text (rather than an embedded video for video's sake), and, in the case of fiction, original content. An e-book on 'Moby Dick' shouldn't have a stock image of a boat that can be commonly found on Google."
13. Extras can enrich the experience.
"Because the app is connected to the Internet, you can link to all kinds of additional information. What was once a bore to sift through, especially with source material for historical titles and academia, annotations and references can now offer an exciting, multi-layered read. DVDs have done well with including special features like an interview with the director or a behind-the-scenes look of how the film was made," says Davies.
14. Price titles with the long-term in mind.
"Consumers are not responding to books that cost more than their print versions. The publishers should price titles in accordance with the thought of how many readers they think will purchase, not for the limited amount of readers who currently buy," he says. "The mobile format provides an opportunity to find new readerships—people are really into reading things on the iPad and Kindle, and are willing to try books they wouldn't have otherwise considered."
15. Repeat business comes at the click of a button.
"To some extent, an app is like a store. Once someone downloads yours, you have the opportunity to sell them more titles and without competition. There isn't an adjacent shelf with another publisher's books to lure the customer away," he says.
Tips From … Dani Essindi Behrendt, visual search business development, Ricoh Innovations Inc.
Ricoh Innovations, the California-based research subsidiary of Ricoh Co., is developing document-recognition technology for mobile devices that takes readers of print books to publisher-indexed sites. During conversations with publishers and content creators, Behrendt says three pre-requisites emerged as essential for publishers looking to build a mobile strategy.
16. Prepare your content.
"It's not only about digitizing your content," he says. "It's about tagging, indexing and allowing smaller units of content to be consumed by readers. (Think about the 'buying a song versus buying a CD' metaphor.)
17. The experience counts.
"Create a simple user experience around one purpose (like 'find, buy or read similar'). Don't overwhelm readers with too many options. The mobile experience is about narrowing options for your readers so they can expand and navigate further," says Behrendt.
18. Scale and conversation.
"Ride the wave. Allow readers to share, tag and annotate your content. Your content is already part of your readers' conversation. Give yourself the credit by participating," he says.
Tips From … Randy Charles, managing director, global clinical reference, Elsevier Health Sciences
Science and health publisher Elsevier has experienced success with mobile apps targeting audiences in the medical field.
19. In app development, centralize the support process.
While idea generation is driven by editorial, Elsevier has found it works best to create a team of specialists to help bring these ideas to fruition. The company's Mobile Center of Excellence supports the development process with technology and technical support. "Essentially, an editor will come with an idea, and they'll be able to work with the Mobile Center to refine that idea, get the business case ready and then send to the ... appropriate developer to get the product to market," Charles says. "We've effectively created a new role which includes a small group of people that act as consultants and help editors/product managers flesh out ideas for apps."
20. Stick to your strengths.
Elsevier uses apps to strategically target its existing core audience of physicians and medical students. "We continuously conduct extensive customer-needs research and strive to gain a better understanding of the workflow and demanding needs of that client base," Charles says. "Though we're always looking for new audiences, our loyalty will continue to be with the physicians and medical students and being able to provide them with the richest content available."
21. Maximize mobile's ability to fill needs.
Elsevier's most successful mobile products to date are the Netter's Flash Cards apps, which allow medical students to study and review information on their smartphones. These apps build on Elsevier's established and trusted Netter's brand to fill a critical student workflow need, Charles says, and also capitalize on young medical students' enthusiasm for mobile devices and content.
22. Brand awareness is key to app success.
"The biggest challenge people have when they go to the App Store is knowing what they're buying," Charles notes. "Because of the sheer amount of apps available, it's hard to have anyone know you exist. By having content with a brand name that someone might search for, as well as the ability to reach potential customers directly (and not just in the App Store), you maximize your chances for success."
Tips From … Hugh Park Jedwill, CEO, Mobile Anthem
Mobile Anthem is a mobile marketing agency specializing in helping companies match brands to mobile consumers.
23. Understand reader habits.
If you know that 50 percent of Britons sleep with their phones, and 25 percent of couples sleep in separate beds because their partners keep them up texting (which, according to one survey, is true), "what's the implication for book publishing?" Jedwill asks. Understanding people's habits and needs (such as reading to help fall asleep) can go a long way to helping publishers decide what type of content and distribution modes to offer.
24. Enable existing behavior.
Don't try to offer products to change behaviors and habits. "It's like rolling a boulder up a hill. It's impossible," Jedwill says. "What I tell people is: 'What you need to do to find the next big thing is [enable existing behavior].'"
25. Don't wait to jump in.
"You need to get in in some way and start learning [about mobile]," he says. This is a way to test your market and get a handle on trends related to your audience, including which types of phones they use and which delivery platforms they are most receptive to.
26. Align knowledge with strategy.
Longer term, "align your strategy so that mobile becomes just another channel you are interacting with consumers through," he says. In other words, think of mobile as a component of an integrated marketing campaign.
27. Recognize mobile's distinct value.
With unmatched potential for proximity and interactivity with engaged customers, mobile has unique strengths that need to be played to, Jedwill says. "The proximity that you have creates far more immediacy than any other communication device," he says. "If you recognize the value that it has, which is the ability to be more interactive, you will be connecting with fewer people, but those 10 percent of people you will be interacting with through your phone [could be] 90 percent of your business."
28. Enhance the reading experience.
Mobile can enable immediate interaction with a reader, or it can add value to a book, such as by offering enhanced features (such as video) or additional information in response to a text, Jedwill says. "Whether it's a slide show, a link to a mobile website with information on a specific topic ... [or] extra pictures viewable on the phone, expand the experience of print past the moment into the mobile realm to enrich the reading consumption experience itself."
29. It's a big, big world.
Gain a broader understanding of the mobile universe, in terms of types of devices available, which audiences use them and in what percentage. And, don't rely on anecdotal evidence (e.g., "everyone I see has one"); look to actual data. Jedwill notes that iPhones are currently 6 percent of the total market, but that percentage might be much higher (or lower) among certain groups, such as doctors. "If you are a medical publisher, you should know ... what kind of phones your doctors have. If you design for the iPhone and most of them have Blackberries, guess what ...?"
30. Understand the legal side.
The notorious instance of Stephen King publisher Simon & Schuster's SMS promotional campaign for "The Cell," which led to a lawsuit after a teenager allegedly received a threatening promotional text message, should remind all publishers to be mindful of any legal implications of mobile marketing efforts, Jedwill cautions. BB