Meeting digital audiences where they are

‘If you build it, they will come’ can no longer be the standard for media companies

By Bethany Chambers | Digital Operations Manager

In the world of digital media, there is no single Field of Dreams. Shoeless Joe wouldn’t make his appearance in one cornfield now; he’d need one for each day of the week—at least.

Digital media has gone through an incredible evolution in the past decade (to put it mildly), but one thing has not changed: We’re still here to serve our audiences. And that means meeting them where they are. Right now, that’s on their smartphones.

At the Folio: Show in New York this past week, Atlantic Media vice president of digital Kim Lau put it best when she said it’s “back to the future” with our content delivery platforms. (It also happened to be Oct. 21 or “Back to the Future” Day, so Lau was helpfully delivering hashtag-friendly quotes to the crowd of journalists.)

Just more than five years ago, when mobile traffic was a small percentage of website visitors, media companies were setting up mobile websites. The trend was to develop mobile sites as a completely different environment than desktop sites, with separate content and separate domains.  (Remember the time when you had to type in “m-dot” before websites on your not-quite-as-smart phone’s browser?) The divergence of platforms was on.

But that was then. Lau’s presentation, “Critical Trends in Mobile Content,” highlighted what a whirlwind we’ve gone through in mobile media in the past year, as the jump in smartphone traffic focused publishers on mobile consolidation before big tech came to throw us for a loop.

By late 2014, the demand of the mobile audience was to consume content on a single responsive website, no longer two separate environments. I’m proud to say North Coast Media’s brands were all responsive before many other publishers, with our last responsive site launching in mid-April, around the same time The Atlantic’s did.

Then came some major announcements – the launch of three new platforms in Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News (which rose from the ashes of the Newsstand and its publisher-developed apps) and Google AMP (short for “accelerated mobile page” project). This means three new distribution points for publishers to figure out in the coming months (none are mass-market yet) and “lots of ongoing maintenance with different templates and different experiences,” as Lau points out.

Also presenting on the mobile topic, Nicholas White, CEO of The Daily Dot, which gets a majority of its traffic from mobile, added that it is critical that competition continues to flourish in order to meet audiences and deliver quality content, calling “a winner take all environment” a “real problem for the industry.”

North Coast Media has 33 social media accounts across our six industries — on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest — where we are engaging with our audiences on some of their favorite platforms at the times it’s most convenient for them. Although our iPad apps went the way of Newsstand, our digital editions of the magazines are mobile responsive to whatever device you’re using. And, while we are continuing to tweak the design and functionality of our mobile responsive websites, we don’t plan to stop there. We’ll be on any platform we can be, delivering the news our audience needs when they need it.

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