Thursday, January 14, 2010

Going mobile: learn from your web mistakes

Ah, if we only had a time machine imagine what we could do -- like avoid all the mistakes we made when we launched our first online publishing efforts.

Well, it turns out that we can do that as we contemplate moving our products onto mobile devices, readers and ultimately tablets. For many publishers this will be their second chance, and this time maybe we can get it right.
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Original Yahoo site.

Mistake #1: putting the wrong people in charge.

My early memories of internet launches at some of the publishing firms I worked for seem to revolve around turf wars, sad as that is.  At one company web development ended up being the responsibility of the son of the owner; at another it was some guy in a small office who never talked to the publishers or editors (and never the sales people!); and at another the job ended up . . .  well, you wouldn't believe me if I told you.

So who is the right person?  You won't know until you cast the net has widely as possible. Maybe you could have an open meeting and invite everyone in to discuss mobile media. You might be surprised to find out that the only one in the room with a smartphone or a Kindle is your intern. The fact that your staff is completely unprepared for entering the new space might depress you, but at least you will know, and you'll have identified the only person who knows what they are talking about and are enthusiastic about moving forward.

Mistake #2: politics.

A major newspaper company announced recently that they had named someone to head internet strategy for their company. My immediate response to the release was "what makes this person qualified for the spot?" (I'm not naming the person because it may well be that they are the perfect choice.)

Like the boss that names their brother-in-law to head up sales to bring peace to his family, decisions based on expediency or politics are bound to be bad decisions.

Mistake #3: protecting one product by hobbling another.

Many publishers jumped on the online bandwagon with enthusiasm, then reacted in horror when they realized that their online products might offer readers things that could adversely effect their print products. Management then jumped in to put the kibosh on things like publishing stories online before they appeared in print, etc.

But now, here we are many years later and our web sites have evolved, grown, and hopefully improved. But what else would do if you were to launch that site today? What is missing? Ask these questions of your new launch now so you can't say you didn't discuss these things.

Mistake #4: not visualizing the end user.

If this was important when building web sites, it will be even more important when launching mobile media. Web users read differently than print uses, and mobile users read differently than web readers (and in other ways similarly).

Also, what will the end user want on their phone or tablet that they don't get from your web site or print product? One of these things I mentioned the other day, location based advertising. Someone who reads your product, or uses your app on their phone, is not sitting at their desk, are they? Maybe they are out in the field working, or in their car waiting to pick up their child -- in any case, where they are becomes an important part of the equation.

Mistake #5:  so how do we make money at this anyway?
(to be continued)