Wednesday, January 5, 2011

While many publishers worry about the death of print, smart publishers are concerned about their websites

Is the web dying? Wired's controversial article notwithstanding, few media professionals are losing much sleep concerned that tomorrow no one will be surfing the web and finding their web properties.

But the reality is that the growth of mobile devices, and the soon to be exploding tablet market, will change the way most of us "surf" the web. While many publishers are only now finally comfortable knowing their staffs can sell leaderboards and tower ads, the usefulness of this kind of display advertising on a website begins to decline as readers begin reading your site on a mobile device or tablet.
Look at how this site looks today on an iPad. See that medium rectangle ad in the lower right hand corner? Barely, that's for sure. That is because this site is designed to be read on a computer monitor. I see TalkingNewMedia generally on a 20 inch display.

But on the iPad's 9.7 inch display the site generally looks the same. Pinch to zoom or tapping allows the reader to pretty much see the site the way it is intended. But the ads, coming in from Technorati, are not really as visible on a tablet screen as they would be on a computer monitor. But it still works, kind of.

Now read this site on a Samsung Galaxy Tab. A seven inch screen pretty much transforms the site into an eye test chart. Worse, your advertising no longer is effective and worth the price you are charging.

Both Samsung and RIM are bragging that their new tablets will quickly and accurately render the web, but a video that zooms into the display hides the simple fact that the displays are small and will not really be the same experience as many computer users, who currently do not own an iPad, are used to.

While creating a mobile site may appear to be a solution, the simple fact is that many publishers are making a mess of those supposed solutions.

I recently tested out the website of a B2B magazine I used to publish. That magazine currently says that it has a mobile website. But navigating to the site on my iPhone still brings up the old website -- there is no sniffer that detects that I am on a mobile device. There, on the page, incredibly small -- far too small to actually see on my phone -- was a bug that said "Mobile". Clicking it would take you to the mobile site, assuming you found the bug on the phone's small screen.

But even at the mobile site, the advertising is missing, and there are no network ads. What's the purpose of such a site, other than to increase the publisher's costs?

(TNM has had a mobile site with network ads since its launch last year. But as of yesterday MoFuse, the provider, no longer is giving away free mobile sites to bloggers -- so there went the site!)

But how many publishers are examining their websites on the various devices currently being used -- mobile phones, tablets, netbooks? The web may not be going away, but the way we all read on the web is changing fast.