Mobile Can Lead the Way to the Rebirth of Print Media

As More People Read Books, Newspapers and Magazines on Mobile Devices, Marketers Have a Chance to Extend Print Branding

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We still use mobile devices to communicate with each other, and to find information we need on the go, with access to search, maps and itineraries. But smartphones and tablets are also being used to play games, socialize, listen to music, watch videos and read. There is even a name for the active surfing and exploring that people do during a slow period of the day: "smart boredom."

Traditional and social media and enhanced user experiences all are converging in mobile devices. Yet marketers are still putting mobile in a bucket by itself, as a separate channel. In doing so -- and, remember, the rise in mobile use means that internet access is always nearby for millions of people -- brands are missing a great opportunity to reach engaged consumers.

This is particularly evident if you think of mobile as a rebirth of print media. Consider the smart boredom concept. Intellectually curious individuals -- the kind whom marketers want to reach -- see their downtime with a mobile device as an opportunity to fuel their curiosity. They want to explore and learn. And on their devices they are reading books, magazines and newspapers. This creates an opportunity for advertisers to extend print branding campaigns onto mobile.

Last year U.S. adults spent 65 minutes a day with their mobile devices, compared to 44 minutes a day with print media, according to eMarketer. News consumption is growing on mobile devices, as described by the 2012 Pew Research on the State of News Media. Pew found that 23% of Americans get their news from at least two digital devices, and more than half of tablet owners use their devices to get the news. More people are reading long-form articles and going directly to news sources.

Localytics, a mobile analytics firm, found that consumers are more likely to repeatedly use news applications on their device than they are to visit a news site multiple times on a desktop computer. More importantly, the researchers found that a publication's brand name is crucial when consumers decide where to go for news, especially on the mobile platform. This means that readers are returning to the same sites and apps on their mobile device, rather than surf for this information.

With the rise in connectivity, apps and HTML5 technology, legacy print and news publications can enhance the reader experience on mobile and tablets. Already, studies across the Economist's Ideas People Media network of publishers reported, 25 percent of visits for online publications with a history in print come from smartphones and tablets. Touch screens and dynamic features can heighten the appeal of these websites, making them feel more like reading a print publication, and the addition of video and other multimedia can create an enhanced experience where users will read long-form content, and return again and again.

Consumers keep their mobile devices close at hand throughout the day, creating an untapped opportunity for advertisers to build brands at a national level. Consumers generally don't carry print publications with them all day, and few will pull out a laptop to read the news while riding the bus or waiting to meet a friend. The mobile device is at hand whenever there's downtime, and this accessibility is what drives smart boredom.

Add to this the fact that mobile is a powerful brand-building channel, either on its own or by enhancing the messaging in other media. According to the IAB's Marketer Perceptions of Mobile Advertising report, the majority of marketers' number-one objective in mobile is to increase brand awareness. Then why not turn to something that closely resembles print, which was used for decades to build brand awareness?

Using legacy print publications to dive into mobile also solves many of the fragmentation issues associated with the platform by eliminating the multiple contracts with video providers and app makers. Advertisers can tap into the curious minds of those with smart boredom and deliver their message.

Stephane Pere is Vice President, Head of Ideas People Media, an Economist Group business.
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