At one time, mobile publishing was reserved for the Conde Nasts and the Time Inc.s of the industry. But slowly that’s changing with the help of mobile hosting companies like Nellymoser, QMobile and Crisp Wireless which are making it both easy and inexpensive for smaller publications to jump on the mobile bandwagon.
Star Media CEO Sandy Vasceannie last month launched her 150,000-circ, urban men’s magazine, Smooth, into the mobile arena with the hope of appealing to the title’s Gen-X and Gen-Y audience. "With the new age of technology, there’s a need and a want for more content and being able to have your content at all times," says Vasceannie. "It’s a way to meet the demands of our readers. This is just another way to get the product."
For its mobile users, Smooth is offering "wallpaper" downloads at $1.99 apiece and, for $10 a month, subscribers will be allowed to download as many articles as they want from the magazine.
Meanwhile, Smooth’s sister publication, Smooth Girl, a largely pictorial magazine dedicated to music video "vixens," and "sexy" celebrities, has also launched in a mobile format. Together, the two magazines plan to introduce original content into the mobile arena, such as the "Be a Smooth Girl" casting call service, as well as dating programs and couples’ counseling programs, and photo and video fan clubs.
QMobile is handling the technology side of Smooth’s mobile venture and Vasceannie says the process requires no special training on the part of her staff. "It’s a smooth transition," she says, no pun intended.
QMobile vice president Fred Francq describes the service as a distribution channel that partners with publishers and others to deliver content through mobile, Web, television, radio and other channels. He says Smooth’s mobile model differs from traditional print in that it will offer multimedia content such as video and audio. "It’s a big piece of the publishing strategy of reaching that younger demographic," he says.
The titles also have entered into a special distribution agreement with mobile carrier Boost Mobile, which will offer Smooth Girl’s portfolio to Boost Mobile’s three million subscribers.
Fee or Free?
Although Smooth is charging for access to its mobile content, other publishers and publications such as Hachette Filipacchi, McGraw-Hill’s Business Week and Rodale’s Runner’s World, have recently announced they would offer content free of charge.
Daniel West, vice president of Nellymoser, which worked with Hachette on its mobile sites for Shock and Car and Driver, says there is no magic bullet for determining whether publishers should offer content for a fee or free of charge. "Certainly, the mass market publications are using ad-driven revenue strategies for their publications, but it really depends on the publishers," he adds.
Publishers that want to launch mobile content sites should have a range of options, say mobile content providers. "The first thing you need to do is understand what kind of mobile offering you want," says Boris Fridman, CEO of Crisp Wireless, which is launching mobile sites for Hachette Filipacchi’s Elle, Ellegirl.com and Premiere titles. "Mobile is a different medium. You can’t just repurpose content from your magazine. It has to be timely and relevant to the mobile user."
West says smaller- and mid-size publications with consumer or enthusiast audiences, such as Hachette’s Premiere, which has a circulation of a little more than 500,000 and competes with publications with audiences in the millions such as TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly, tend to do well on mobile platforms.
Publishers should also consider that mobile users, on average, spend just a few minutes at a time scanning their mobile phones and PDAs for news and information, says Fridman. "I’m not going to read War and Peace on my mobile device. I want to entertain myself when I’m commuting, when I’m waiting at the dentist office. So it’s important to be conscious of what the mobile user wants to do."
Fridman, whose company has also worked on mobile sites for Conde Nast and Time Inc., says wallpaper downloads, graphics, videos and short news items work best in a mobile format. He said publishers also should consider making it easy for mobile users to e-mail articles to themselves that they can read later, and cross-promote their Web sites and magazines through their mobile content. "They should create an ecosystem showcasing the complete brand," he says. "Mobile shouldn’t be looked at as a side business. You have to take a holistic approach. Mobile is one way to generate revenue through advertising, then you get them to your Web site and that’s more revenue. You want to connect people to mobile, to online, to print and then back to mobile."
West says mobile is a great way for publishers to reach every consumer with a mobile phone. That’s 200 million people in the U.S. alone. "Publishers are challenged because consumers have more and more options at their disposal," he says. "A lot of people think, ﾑWell, I can get it free and from multiple sources, but I can’t get it free from your print publication.’ So it’s really about leveraging that information into other channels as an audience strategy."
Purchasing the services from companies like Nellymoser, Crisp and QMobile doesn’t have to break the bank either. "I would say you could spend anywhere from $10,000 and up," says West. "It’s definitely not a huge investment."
Mobile companies often work with publishers to establish a cost that’s right for them. "We let our customers grow and they can adapt their products as time goes on," Fridman says. "It definitely doesn’t have to be an investment that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Fridman believes it’s harder to launch a mobile product than it ever was to launch a Web site. "Mobile is like the Web was in 1992, very fragmented, very complex," he says. "If you think about the Internet, you have three browsers, Internet Explorer, FireFox, Netscape, and that’s it," he says. "On mobile, you have 2,000 different kinds of mobile devices in circulation. With the Internet you don’t have to worry about having relationships with every service provider, like Time Warner or Comcast. With mobile, you have to be compliant with the business models of every provider. And they all have different standards, different billing systems. Mobile today is like is the Internet times 10."
To promote its new mobile products, Star Media plans to launch a high-profile magazine and television advertising campaign on MTV, MTV2, VH1, BET, BETJazz, ESPN, Comedy Central and other television channels, and in magazines such as Vibe, XXL and King.. "We want this to be a huge media campaign," says QMobile’s Francq. "It’s going to be great."
Capturing Ad Dollars
In addition to drawing revenue from subscription and downloading fees, Smooth and Smooth Girl are also hoping to take a bite out of the $78 million mobile advertising pie. And, like the content it’s offering, mobile advertisers like their marketing efforts, which include banner and text ads, to be interactive and in realtime formats, says Laura Marriott, executive director of the Mobile Marketing Association.
Marriott, whose organization’s members include brands such as Coca Cola, Procter & Gamble and Dove, says publishers that provide formats allowing mobile users to interact with both their content and their advertisements will find the most success with mobile marketers. "It’s about getting that engagement from readers," she says. "The Ellegirl mobile site has a great interactive component that allows girls to take pictures with their mobile phones that will appear on Ellegirl’s Web site."
Go outside the typical magazine definition of advertising, Marriot says. Voting, lotteries, promotions, click-to-call banners, and sweepstakes are other good ways to allow mobile readers to immediately connect with mobile marketers and their products.