Today’s column is written by Pete Sheinbaum, CEO of LinkSmart, which provides text-linking optimization solutions for web publishers.
It’s been a long time coming. Those of us in the industry, both as creators and the vendors that serve them, have been waiting for this moment. In 2013, we will all open up our tool box a little wider, take out our hammers, saws and nails, and build the metaphorical chair. Wait, what?
Historically, the technology strategies for publishers have stood on pogo sticks, or possibly stilts; they focus on optimizing one to two networks for sharing content with their users while completely neglecting other viable channels. Typically the ‘end-to-end strategy’ goes by the wayside or is neglected until some imaginary later date (or never). For example, magazines have great brands and loyal readership but many have a tough time moving those brand relationships outside of their print versions or web sites. Other web sites, like Facebook, might have a great application but have not fully taken advantage of mobile.
The problem with a single-tier or even two-tiered business approach is the lack of stability. Pogo sticks and stilts are wobbly and expose vulnerability – increasing the chances you’ll be usurped by another company who is willing to take all four legs into consideration. During the next 12 months I believe we will see companies taking great strides to build a more complete user experience that includes the integration of web sites, mobile applications, push notifications (email, text, tweets, mobile push), and content syndication in a coordinated way. Leaving the biped stilt approach behind, the industry will move toward a four-legged, chair-like strategy that results in a solid way to distribute content to users without the shaky side effects.
The Perfect Storm
With an expected 1.2 billion mobile devices in the hands of consumers next year, marketers everywhere will be laser-focused on providing a strong multiplatform user experience for customers. Content delivery based on time, place, and location will be critical. I believe that in 2013 brands and publishers will begin to marry both the technological advancements in phones, tablets and computers, with the more matured programs and applications (HTML5, etc.) that we use for sharing content. This perfect storm will drive companies to fully embrace an end-to-end consumer experience that delights, satisfies and entertains their customers across devices.
Here are the four legs I believe we’ll focus on building together as content carpenters in 2013:
Leg 1 - Renewed Focus on Push Communications. Since I’m an ex-email guy, I’ve heard over the past 10 years that “this” is the year that email is going to die. Not so. I believe that transactional and promotional alerts will keep on coming for the foreseeable future. Companies recognize this and will take advantage of how, where, and on what device their users consume push-type notifications. By leveraging push as a strategic platform, brands and publishers can connect more frequently with their audience in a service based way.
Leg 2 – Custom Content and Apps for Mobile Devices. All too often when publishers feel the pressure to “go mobile” they simply port applications or content from device to device, ignoring the opportunity to craft a completely new use case based on where users are engaging with the content. I predict that in the next year, publishers will optimize their content for different devices to better target how consumers want to interact with the information. While a mobile app should always include some of a publisher’s basic content, I believe its primary focus moving forward should be to serve the customer’s preferred engagement method. For example, a food site may want to change the delivery of recipes for desktop viewers (who are most likely accessing them at work), versus a mobile user who is viewing the content via a mobile application that ideally, could be built for the kitchen.
Leg 3 – More Engaging, Interactive Web Sites. I see the web site as the third leg of the chair that will transition companies from wobbly stilts to stability. It allows content creators to communicate value proposition, content, and applications in an environment that takes full advantage of large screens and generally more focused attention. In 2013, brands and publishers will embrace that this platform is built for reading, browsing, researching, chatting, pinning, liking, and gaming, and will use it to reinforce the opportunity to showcase their complementing non-desktop channels as well. By showing users how they can continue to interact with a brand on their phone, on demand via push, and on other’s sites, companies can help narrow the interaction gap, providing an anytime anywhere approach to content consumption.
Leg 4 – Supersizing Syndication. One of the lessons I’ve learned over the years is the power of a brand creating a voice and embracing syndication. When I was the CEO at DailyCandy, we were apprehensive of syndication and never allowed our content to be shown or syndicated to other sites. We thought, “if people can get DailyCandy on Yahoo why would they come back to DailyCandy?” Looking back I think we could have done things differently and believe that publishers in 2013 will embrace syndication. Instead of being overly concerned about sharing content, applications, and social votes with potential competitors, publishers will begin to share their content more freely and invest heavily in building credibility and voice amongst their audience. For example, it’s much more expensive to get people to visit a site organically versus sharing that content/brand/application in the wild, in front of millions of potential buyers. While not every passer-by will become a loyal visitor or consumer of a product or service, they will become aware of the content and perhaps share it with their friends.
In 2013 I’m optimistic that companies will start to get the user experience right. They’ll stop wobbling around on pogo sticks or stilts and sit firmly on the ground, providing an integrated and individualized content consumption experience. Content has gone viral between devices and breached the borders of social networks in powerful and disruptive new ways. As content creators and bellwethers of the industry, publishers will be the first to embrace these opportunities, and will reap the rewards from users in terms of viewer loyalty, brand affinity and purchase influence.
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