NAA mediaXchange 2014

Panel: Mobile Gives Papers Second Chance

Mobile is now media's main event and it's giving newspapers a chance to make up for their digital missteps. A panel of newspaper executives speaking at the NAA's mediaXchnage in Denver on Monday stressed the importance of mobile development and warned publishers to act quickly on the platform before the battle is lost to nimbler mobile pureplays.

DENVER -- Newspapers have a second chance with mobile to make up for their initially sluggish embrace of digital, but they'd better evolve fast.

Opportunity "is knocking on our door," Joe Weir, chief revenue officer for The Dallas Morning News' DMN Media told attendees of the Newspaper Association of America's mediaXchange here on Monday. "The consumer is already telling us where they're going."

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Weir was among a panel of executives making an impassioned case for mobile development and warning publishers to act quickly on the platform before the battle is lost to nimbler mobile pureplays.

"We need to operate like a pureplay," Weir says, noting he has a product team making every effort to build mass and scale on mobile. He says only 5% of U.S. ad spend was on mobile last year, but that is projected to shoot to 25% by 2017 or 2018, underscoring the urgency to build fast.

"For us, it's all about how we take more market share," Weir says.

ESPN's John Kosner, executive VP of digital and print media, says 40% of his audience is coming in through mobile, and the company has pivoted around that platform.

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"This is the main event," Kosner says. "Our focus is on mobile."

And even more so on apps, he adds. "I would focus first and foremost on creating fantastic native applications," he says, particularly for younger audiences whose app experience is critical to how they see the news brand as a whole. He says that 80% of ESPN's mobile traffic comes in via its iOS and Android apps.

ESPN has also been paring down its number of apps from about 40 to 6, Kosner says, noting the company has been on "a mobile consolidation march" to streamline its offerings.

He adds that ESPN's digital design approach now begins on the mobile level and scales up to desktop, an approach other news organizations such as NPR have been adopting over the past year.

On the editorial side, Jim Brady, editor in chief of Digital First Media, says his company's newsrooms are accelerating their adoption of a mobile-first workflow.

"Are you discussing mobile in your daily news meetings?" he asked attendees. "You have to start looking at your mobile apps all day long."

Brady says he now has staffers focused on mobile on both the editorial and development sides. Digital First also announced a partnership with Rumble's smart mobile publishing platform on Monday to relaunch its mobile apps, giving editors better access to news apps across the company.

The most exciting prospect in mobile is its ability to locate users, Brady notes. "It's the first real development that plays to the hands of the local publisher" who he says is ideally positioned to then serve the most relevant content. "We have to own that space below 10,000 feet," he says.

On the monetization side, Joe McCambley, co-founder and creative director of The Wonderfactory, says, "We're about to enter one of the most creative periods in the history of advertising" as new ad units and creative approaches evolve to keep up with the traffic.

Many advertisers may not get it yet, he concedes, "but it's gonna happen. They all want what you've got, and they want to be in the space."


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