Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mobile demands more from B2Bs; offers huge opportunities to reclaim readers and advertisers

From inserts to CDs, publishers have often used giveaways to entice readers. The practice, though, has not translated to mobile media because few publishers are also developers and thus are dependent on the ad community -- another group trying to catch up with the fast growth of mobile media -- to bring them new ideas and products.

Whether it is smart phones or tablet readers, mobile media allows readers to carry their media with them, allowing them not only to read the content on the go, but to access other information and applications, as well (obvious, I know). Because of this, media companies, especially B2Bs need to stop thinking of their products as only a series of articles, but incorporate other information and services into their mobile editions.
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← An app from Creamer Media's Engineering News,
a South African B2B weekly news magazine.

An example would be Buyer's Guides. Once upon a time these annual issues were like Black Friday for retailers: the issue that made the year. Some believed that bringing these products online would be hugely profitable but it hasn't turned out that way. The reason for this is that consumers now have many search options, a print buyer's guide is just one of them.

One of my browsers, Chrome has done away with the search box -- just type in your search into the address line and Google provides the search results (Google makes the Chrome browser). The point being that it is even easier to type in "skid steer dealer" "Chicago" in a browser address bar than to go to the Construction Equipment web site and navigate their online directory.

But on my iPhone which is easier: opening a browser and typing in my search into the Google bar? or pressing an app with a built-in buyer's guide? I don't know if the app approach is clearly easier, but it is at least on a level playing field again. (A search of the iTunes app stores shows no Construction Equipment app, maybe this will come from the magazine's new owner.)

Another opportunity that can be revisited is embedded content. Early in their web experiments a few B2Bs brought on partners to provide additional information and business content. Often these efforts simply resulted in microsites for advertisers, but the concept was sound -- that is, until the advertisers started building their own sites. (VerticalNet used this as a sales approach early on: offering microsites to companies that, up until then, had no web presence. The effort was doomed to failure once the web matured, but it got these companies thinking about what they wanted to do online.)

On mobile, however, no one wants hundreds of vendor apps crowding their phones. If I am in the construction business, to return to that industry, do I want separate apps for Caterpillar, Deere and Case? Maybe, but one app might be better.

For now, the emphasis appears to be on out-of-the-box app solutions: each magazine app identical to the other, each based on RSS feeds and little else. I can certainly understand the challenge of app development for small publishers. But the danger here is that print, already endangered by media fragmentation, could be endangered even more if the competition were to come from mobile media-only start-ups -- companies built around programming rather than content generation. Some old time B2Bs may find their editors fleeing to electronic media start-ups much like they did in the late nineties.