INK+BEYOND: Mobile experts discuss what it takes to succeed in an increasingly portable world

Mobile content is the wave of the future. This is the one of the messages that all three speakers agreed could upon at the Readers on the Go: Mobile Models for Success panel discussion during the INK+BEYOND conference.

About 200 newspaper staff, from editorial to pusblihers, attended the session moderated by Brady Murphy (pictured far right), vice president of mobile solutions sales at Transcontinental.

Murphy began the discussion by introducing the mobile experts (pictured left to right): Nikolay Malyarov, vice president of publishing and legal affairs at NewspaperDirect; Anthony Novac, CEO of Spreed Inc and Paul Hecht, vice president of digital media at Glacier Media Group.

In a fast-paced back-and-forth session that included plenty of audience particiapation, Novac kicked things off by saying that mobile business models are finally starting to generate significant revenue, and that newspaper companies make prime clients for developers like Spreed to produce apps for devices like the Apple iPhone and iPad.

Hecht spoke about the importance of offering variety.“I like having the diversity because we can learn,” said Hecht of Glacier’s products as well as their company as a whole, with clients ranging from small community newspapers to high-circulation dailies like the Prince George Citizen and The Kamloops Daily News. One of Glacier’s specialties is creating mobile websites for publications tailored to smart phones.

Malyarov said NewspaperDirect, a company that provides publishers with international access to their newspapers in a variety of formats, found success by taking existing client subscriptions and adapting them to new technology like iPad. “Once you start adding value by providing multi-platform access for users, you see a growth,” he said.

Other highlights from the discussion:

  • Freemium, a tech buzzword for free apps that are also offered as a paid app with more features, is a relatively new model that is showing promise.
  • “I think QR codes [similar to a barcode that can be scanned with a smart phone app that reveals additional information or links you to a website] will be very prevalent and ubiquitous in the near future.”
  • Resourcing has been challenging: anticipating the speed of penetration and activity across mobile space.
  • Clients shouldn’t look to sites like the New York Times as a model to replicate — they are not the norm.
  • Apps have the stickiest user base than any other industry.
  • News apps are number one in popularity by a longshot – better than games and sports.
  • Too much time is spent on what an app looks like, that’s the least important part. First ask questions like ‘what kind of platform should we be on?’ ‘How much money are we going to make from this app?
  • You can’t look at mobiles as the savior. It’s just another channel, like print.
  • Your app reader has 10 times the value of your mobile web reader, which doesn’t leave a footprint.
  • Statistics show a user downloads 60 apps on average, and uses only six. Usability is not up to par, it’s the content that comes with it.
  • It’s hard to promote apps in print.

To finish off the session, Hecht said all this up-and-coming technology is going to affect not only media advertising and sales, but editorial as well. “[It’s going to require] the evolution of a new journalist.”