The New Era of Mobile
The 8:15 a.m. train to Grand Central Terminal was crowded, and, standing in the back of the car, I observed the commuting rituals of 30 suburban New Yorkers. Eight were reading newspapers, five listening to iPods, five on BlackBerrys, and four were engaged in honest-to-goodness, face-to-face conversations. A lone Kindle made an appearance toward the front of the car. The balance spent the 27-minute ride into Manhattan staring out the windows or sleeping.
An unscientific survey, to be sure, but one that lent some insight into where the publishing industry has been, and where it's going in terms of mobile media. Those five BlackBerry users weren't simply checking e-mail; they were on social networking sites, reading industry news or, like me, browsing the morning's mobile edition of The New York Times.
A recent Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) study, "Going Mobile: How Publishers Are Preparing for the Burgeoning Digital Market," indicates that the print media is moving quickly to develop such platforms. Almost 52 percent of publishers surveyed indicated that they are distributing or formatting content for mobile.
But the platform is just the cost of entry into the new era of mobile. The ABC survey also indicates that publishers haven't yet grasped the power of this new channel to generate engagement with customers, revenue from subscribers and, more significantly, advertisers.
Case in point: The survey reported that publishers believed that sponsorships, search, banners and other traditional online advertising formats had the "brightest future" as revenue models for their mobile initiatives. Certainly these, coupled with subscriber fees, will account for the bulk of mobile revenue for the publishing industry, at least in the near term. Indeed, Verizon recently reported mobile banner click- through of 2 percent, much higher than the 0.3 percent it found for traditional online banners. The ABC survey also indicates that publishers "are anxious to tout their brand's extensive distribution platforms" from a circulation-auditing perspective. Ka-ching!