Magazine and newspapers will face some stark difficulties as consumers turn ever more often to their smartphones, leading publishers and editors said in London recently during a panel on the final day of Advertising Week Europe.
“The smartphone is so connected to you as a person, and everyone’s got their favourite apps, so the challenge for us as media owners is to have ownership inside that space, and to make sure that you’re one of the things consumers want to look at,” said Kerin O’Connor, CEO of The Week. “When you’re bored, do you want to play Angry Birds or read the Economist?”
Mobile media, however, is simultaneously opening vast new pathways to consumers, argued John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist. The problem so far is the ad experience, with small screens allowing only very small ads.
“It’s possible that the economics are being turned upside down – not just advertising, but also circulation,” Micklethwait said. “You can now reach hundreds of thousands of people at very little extra marginal cost through digital devices. It’s highly possible that more people will rely less on advertising across the media industry as a whole.”
O’Connor predicted that mobile advertising will become a much richer experience for consumers as brands begin to find ways to be useful and supply services that engage readers in a more personal way. “In a magazine, we have 150 pages, but you don’t have that many opportunities on a smartphone to construct a meaningful relationship,” he said. “You’ll be able to go to five or six clients and offer something that really works through deeper integration.”
Gideon Spanier, a media columnist at the Evening Standard, warned that marketers don’t need to rely on publishers for content. “Media brands have no monopoly on being able to put out content,” he said. “If (branded content) is good enough, it’s a strong challenge. The opportunity for advertisers to create content is colossal and it’s very difficult for those of us in pure editorial to compete, because frankly advertisers can spend a lot of money on it. If the quality is good, a lot of consumers are satisfied with that.”
It may not be quite so simple, countered Rupert Turnbull, publisher of Wired in the UK. “I’m not convinced it’s as easy as all that to create content and deliver it,” he said. ‘Not everybody can do it well. If you ask people to give examples, everyone says Red Bull and then trails off.”