While tablets and smartphones offer a great opportunity to present content and drive engagement through unique, touch-enabled experiences, most publishers have failed to capitalize on this opportunity. Many are still grappling with how to best leverage tablets by approaching this new medium with more traditional strategies that just won't cut it on touch devices like the iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, and Android phones and tablets, where readers expect a very specific experience.
So how can publishers create fun and dynamic environments that harness all the power of touch technology and make an addictive experience for readers? Let's take a look at three common mistakes publishers make on tablets and how they can turn their strategies around.
Optimizing for mobile instead of touch
One of the key mistakes publishers are making when optimizing their content for tablets and smartphones is reformatting their regular desktop displays and simply replacing the mouse with someone's finger. And many are doing this by using responsive design, but this one-size-fits-all strategy completely misses the opportunities that make touch screens so great.
We are no longer in a world where we need to point and click to get what we need. We now live in a world of touch, where people expect the ability to do things like swipe and pinch pages closed. Touch technology is made for displaying and interacting with great content, and by not taking advantage of this crucial functionality that's driving the popularity of tablets and smartphones, publishers are missing a great opportunity to boost engagement.
While responsive design has been embraced as the solution for optimizing mobile content, it presents a number of flaws. It treats everything as the same, resizes the content to fit different devices, and does not provide a different user experience to someone using a PC versus someone using a smartphone or seven- or 10-inch tablet. While responsive design is appealing in the promise of publishing the same website once for all devices, publishers need to understand that by not offering users touch features, like the ability to swipe from page to page or pinch content to close, they are leaving page views, time on site, and revenue on the table. As a publisher, you want to make sure you're taking advantage of touch and not just reformatting the content to make sure it fits the screen.
The Financial Times is a great example of a publisher that is embracing touch across all devices. Its tablet strategy is centered on HTML5-enabled web apps that bypass app stores entirely, enabling the majority of readers to access content through the browser. This is a smart strategy that brings us to the second mistake publishers make.
Making your tablet strategy an app strategy
It is clear that readers want to engage with touch experiences. And in the recent past, apps were the easier way to take advantage of all of these touch capabilities on devices. But, let's face it, apps are expensive to build and have had limited success for ad-supported content publishers. Even those publishers that have had successful adoption of users downloading and actually using their apps are still seeing a substantial portion of their traffic via the mobile web.
It's not that apps don't make sense at all. They make a ton of sense for games, utilities, etc. But for the vast majority of news, entertainment, and other editorial content, the app isn't the solution. In today's world, where HTML5 enables you to deliver a rich, app-like experience in the browser, are apps even necessary? The more scalable model is a browser-based approach -- as opposed to hoping readers download your app and keep coming back every day.
Apps can be great for your loyal readers, but you will fail to reach a majority of potential traffic with an app-only approach. Publishers also fail to capture search and referral traffic via apps. According to a recent report by The Pew Research Center, 60 percent of tablet news users mainly use the browser to get news and 61 percent of smartphone users get news mostly through a browser. Publishers need to ensure they are providing readers with experiences that leverage touch technology in the browser to capture this audience.
A one-size-fits-all ad strategy
Similar to mistake No. 1, another misstep is that publishers continue to approach their tablet ad strategy with a desktop mentality. But this next stage in the digital ad evolution is no longer just about mobile, it's about touch.
Currently, ad monetization on mobile -- especially phones -- is bad. Mobile ads are tiny, obnoxious ads that most people ignore. You know the ones -- direct response 320x50 banner ads -- most of which weren't made for touch. Mobile should be a premium experience -- it's a medium with a big opportunity to deliver relevant ads that are fun to interact with, so publishers should take advantage of this opportunity to engage their readers.
Because it's mobile, publishers think that by simply plugging in 320x50s or shrinking their desktop ads down to fit the screen will make them optimized for their readers' phones and tablets. What they should be thinking about is how to make these ads optimized for the touch experience and bring in more revenue. Publications that are able to support rich media touch experiences and come up with innovative ads, bring in premium CPMs.
It's time for publishers to wake up to the fact that it's no longer just about reaching mobile readers. It's now about designing and presenting content and advertisements that embrace the touch experience that consumers have all come to love. A publisher's strategy should be focused on creating beautiful content and experiences which users want to engage with and return to.
Rich Bloom is the COO at Onswipe.
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