Mary Meeker's latest internet trends presentation revealed that 29 percent of adults in the United States now own a tablet or e-reader, up from 2 percent less than 3 years. Of those surveyed, 48 percent of children wanted an iPad for Christmas, and another 36 percent wanted an iPad Mini.
As the popularity of tablets continues to grow, publishers are grappling with how to optimize their content for these mobile devices. For publishers, 2013 is the year to truly leverage mobile. Here are a few resolutions that publishers should adopt to make sure they are "tablet first" in 2013.
Stop relying on responsive design as your mobile strategy
Get proactive and optimize your content for touch
Over the last year, responsive web design has grown in adoption and has become the method many publishers are pursuing to "optimize" for mobile. But this is just a band aid approach and, to be frank, is just plain lazy. When I consider the number of publishers that are using responsive design as a solution to deal with the proliferation of tablets, these analogies always pop into my mind: Back in the early 1920s, would you have considered producing silent films after talkies became possible? Would you have continued to shoot in black and white after color film became accessible? No, you would need to change and adapt to the amazing new technology that made your content better and more engaging for your audience.
Publishers, like the early film business, need to realize that the tablet isn't just another screen they can post content on. Instead, it is a unique platform that lends itself to specific action -- touch. And to ensure that you're taking full advantage of what's now available, you need to optimize your content for those touch actions and build for how people want to interact with your content. Simply shrinking down your content and replacing your mouse with your finger isn't the answer.
It's no longer about the screen size. It's about how people interact with your content on these devices. Rather than simply re-sizing your content, publishers need to strive to make that content fun and engaging to users -- make your articles swipeable, let readers pinch articles to close, and make your site and content something that a reader will want to return to. Responsive design has been a first step for publishers towards embracing mobile -- but at its core, it's not the right solution. Make 2013 the year for making your content touchable and fully leveraging the tablet to its potential.
Do the math and set higher standards
Ad visibility +premium units + high engagement of tablet audience = premium mobile advertising
Mobile advertising is poised to become an important part of company ad spend in 2013. According to eMarketer, overall spending on mobile advertising in the U.S. will rise 180 percent for 2012 to top $4 billion. By 2016, the U.S. mobile advertising market is expected to reach $7.19 billion in 2013 and nearly $21 billion by 2016. IDC thinks that tablet ad spending will overtake smartphone spending for the first time and predicts that by 2016, it will be a $14.8 billion industry (IDC, Worldwide and U.S. Mobile Advertising 2012–2016 Forecast Update: Year-End Review).
Tablets are the perfect environment to embrace mobile advertising and make engagement with consumers dynamic, portable, location aware, and beautiful. Publishers clearly have the market in 2013 and beyond to achieve some great ad revenues, but all stakeholders need to raise our standards for ads on mobile.
Ad visibility is one of the most critical areas to improve. There has been a lot of buzz recently about ad visibility lately and for good reason. Ad tech companies are launching products that track ad visibility and as an industry we appear to be moving towards a system where advertisers pay only for "visible" ads. But, we still have a long way to go. The fact that "visibility" is often defined as having at least 50 percent of the ad in view for at least a second is a poor standard that we should be ashamed about.
Tablets present an opportunity to create swipeable experiences where there is no above-the-fold or below-the-fold distinction. There is a huge opportunity to create significantly more premium inventory in which publishers can be assured that ads will be 100 percent visible. While tablet inventory might account for 5 to 10 percent of your traffic, due to the tablet's growing share of traffic it can now account for a far higher percentage of your revenue if it is executed well.
So, set your expectations higher and don't become complacent with current ad standards. Tablets can be the ideal spot to showcase premium ad inventory and derive incremental revenue.
Get prepped to monetize video on mobile
Both users and advertisers love video on mobile and in 2013, there will be even more demand for high quality mobile video plays in advertising. eMarketer estimates that by 2016, more than 110 million Americans (one-third of the total U.S. population) will watch video content on a mobile phone at least once per month (eMarketer, April 2012). Spending on mobile video advertising will grow an estimated 122 percent to $151.5 million in 2012, up from $68.2 in 2011 (eMarketer, January 2012) and Cisco expects that by 2016 two-thirds of worldwide mobile data traffic will be video content (Cisco, February 2012).
It's table stakes to simply ensure your video works on all mobile devices, yet a shocking number of publishers continue to feature videos on their mobile sites that simply don't work. There is significant advertiser demand for pre-rolls on high quality professional videos on mobile. With this market demand in mind, it is essential that you are prepared to satisfy clear desire from users while also increasing your inventory for a premium mobile unit -- pre-roll.
Yeah, I know you're likely thinking that you don't have the time to care about doing this now. Maybe tablets don't make up a big part of your audience yet. But, even if it's a small percentage, if you start focusing on optimizing that 5 to 10 percent of your audience that is coming to your site via tablets, it can count for a higher percentage of page views and revenues in the long run.
Tablets are proving to have higher engagement than the desktop web, and with branded and performance advertising, your small audience can have a big impact on overall revenue and traffic. So, what are you waiting for? Let's get tablet-ready for 2013!
Richard Bloom is the COO of Onswipe.
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"Man with blue jeans working on a tablet" image via Shutterstock.