Join thousands of weekly readers and receive practical marketing advice for FREE.
MarketingSherpa's Case Studies, New Research Data, How-tos, Interviews and Articles

Enter your email below to join thousands of marketers and get FREE weekly newsletters with practical Case Studies, research and training, as well as MarketingSherpa updates and promotions.


Please refer to our Privacy Policy and About Us page for contact details.

No thanks, take me to MarketingSherpa

First Name:
Last Name:
Mar 06, 2008
Case Study

How Hachette Filipacchi Created Mobile Content from Scratch: 9 Strategies to Get 15% Monthly Growth

SUMMARY: Mobile is not the Web. Publishers who leap into offering content on wireless devices quickly face a whole new set of challenges … starting with the technology itself.

See how Hachette Filipacchi created from scratch mobile publications for some of its top magazine titles. Includes 9 strategies on demographics, content, carrier distribution and technology to drive traffic -- which is growing 15% monthly.
Olivier Griot, Managing Director, Mobile, Hachette Filipacchi, joined the publishing company two years ago with a mandate: Create a mobile business for the firm, whose titles include Elle, Car and Driver and Flying. The publisher didn’t want to miss a chance to establish a presence in the burgeoning mobile space.

“I was really trying to make sense of this unruly environment and figure out what we could do in that space that would be meaningful, rely on the assets we have in place and generate a profitable business,” Griot says.

Compared to the Web, mobile content faces some technology constraints. Screens and keyboards are smaller, there are no mice to allow for easy browsing and clicking, handsets have varying levels of functionality and bandwidth is limited.

Griot and his team also needed to examine how consumers interact with their mobile devices, identify the type of mobile content that matches that behavior and design a platform to handle it.

The team began by analyzing everything from content and technology approaches to advertising and marketing techniques. Here are nine strategies they used to develop and shape their mobile content initiative.

-> Strategy #1. Analyze demographics and ad base

Griot’s team looked at the magazine titles that were the best fit for mobile. They based their analysis on two primary factors:

- Demographics that overlap with mobile media usage.
Teens and young adults -- particularly urban professionals -- use mobile the most. The team looked for pubs with strong readership among 13-44 year olds.

- Advertisers willing to experiment with mobile.
They looked for advertisers in industry verticals with cash to experiment with new media placements and a good understanding of customer behavior to leverage advertising in a new channel.

Based on his experience in the mobile field, Griot’s ad targets included:
o Health and beauty
o Automotive
o Entertainment and media

As a result of their analysis, the team chose four titles for the mobile network:
o Car and Driver, which reaches affluent, male auto enthusiasts ages 18-44
o Elle, which reaches single women ages 18-34
o Ellegirl/Ellegirl Latina, which reaches teen girls ages 13-19
o Premiere, which reaches male and female movie fans ages 18-44

-> Strategy #2. Develop content to encourage frequent visits

To determine content for the mobile channel, they identified two primary types of mobile users:

- Entertainment and quick-hit news consumers with busy lives who use mobile in 10-20 minute snippets.
- Utilitarian consumers who use mobile for a specific need, such as stock quotes, weather or traffic information.

They focused initially on users with a few minutes of downtime who were looking for quick bits of information. “We wanted to build a loyal user base that would come on a regular basis to check what’s new on our sites,” says Griot.

Content offerings included:
o Car and Driver’s Car News - daily updates on the auto market, including photos of new car releases
o Ellegirl’s StarWatch - daily celebrity gossip updates
o Elle’s Daily Essential - editor’s picks for must-have new products and services

-> Strategy #3. Choose WAP infrastructure

Publishers can provide mobile content in several formats, including:
o Text messaging
o Downloadable Java applications
o Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) sites

Griot and his team chose WAP sites because the format offered:
- Graphics and photo support to maintain the magazine brands’ look and feel.
- Depth and breadth of content on different pages and site sections, similar to a website.
- Adaptability for testing new features and services on an ongoing basis.

“We realized that a Java application can look very nice, but it’s also very inflexible. You spend time building it, it’s expensive to launch and then you can’t really change it.”

WAP sites allowed the team to create a hybrid content-management system that combined automated feeds from the company’s Web properties with manual update capabilities.

-> Strategy #4. Adapt WAP sites to each device

Mobile devices offer differing levels of technological functionality. As a result, WAP sites may look and perform differently depending on the user’s handset.

For instance, some carriers, such as Verizon, don’t support mobile video and keep text messaging and WAP separate on their networks. Users can receive text messages but can’t click through those messages to get directly to WAP sites. They can access WAP sites from their phones but can’t watch video that’s hosted on those sites.

Griot and his team wanted to make sure their WAP sites worked with the broadest range of user devices, so they chose a platform that uses built-in intelligence to automatically format those sites to an individual user’s capabilities.

The system works like this:
- When a user accesses a Hachette Filipacchi WAP site, the server detects what kind of device is being used.
- The system checks that device against a database of available handsets to determine its functionality.
- It automatically formats the page according to the features and functions of each device, disabling functions like video if it can’t handle them.

-> Strategy #5. Sign content-distribution deals

Mobile content providers can reach users in two ways:
- Content-distribution deals with major carriers, who place links within relevant categories in portals.
- So-called “off deck” marketing, which lets users search or browse for mobile content without going through a carrier portal.

Approximately 75% of mobile traffic still comes through carrier portals. So, Griot’s team made deals with major wireless networks, including:
o AT&T
o Boost Mobile
o Sprint
o Verizon
o Virgin Mobile

“It is possible to bypass the portals, but deals with carriers are a quick and valuable source of traffic.”

-> Strategy #6. Establish ad-placement options

The team followed guidelines from the Mobile Marketing Association to build an ad model for their channel. It includes standards for size and placement of banner and text-link ads. They adapted those guidelines in two ways:

o Created space for one clickable banner ad at the top of each WAP page -- instead of the two banners per page allowed by the MMA
o Created space for two text ads per page, per MMA guidelines

-> Strategy #7. Create text alert programs to drive traffic

For each title in their mobile network, the team created text messaging clubs that allow subscribers to opt in for regular content updates. “We view text clubs as a marketing tool in exactly the same way email newsletters are to a website.”

The text clubs:
o Car and Driver Car News Alerts
o Elle Fashion News and Tips Alerts
o Ellegirl Fashion Tips and Celeb Gossip Alerts
o Premiere Movie New Alerts

Subscribers receive one to three alerts each week. Each alert contains a clickable link that sends users back to the WAP site for more information.

-> Strategy #8. Promote mobile sites

The team also used existing print and Web publications to encourage users to try the mobile network. Techniques they tested:
o Print magazine campaigns that promoted text clubs and WAP sites
o Mobile text alert signups on magazine websites
o Natural and paid search campaigns on mobile search engines

-> Strategy #9. Track relevant traffic metrics

Griot’s team tracked a series of metrics to determine the success of their mobile sites. The metrics highlighted the best performing types of content to support advertising sales. Metric reporting is more complex in the mobile environment, however. Publishers face issues of reliability and standardization similar to the ones seen in the Web environment several years ago, he says.

His team identified several metrics where the reporting standards are relatively clear:
o Ad impressions
o Page views
o Session length
o Page views per session

Tracking unique visitors is still tricky because some handsets don’t support cookie technology. The team developed a methodology that provides a general estimate for unique visitors by analyzing the number of sessions per unique user from carriers that provide that data, then extrapolating the number for traffic that comes from carriers who only provide the total number of sessions.


After launching in February 2007, the mobile network grew 15% a month through the end of the year. “Overall, we’re pretty happy with where we are,” Griot says. “After two years, we’ve now built an infrastructure that gives us all the tools to continue growing our business.”

Other numbers:
o Total page views reached 4.2 million last December
o Unique visitors reached 1.5 million that month

About 75% to 80% of their traffic comes from carrier portals through the content-distribution deals. In recent months, Griot has seen promising potential from their off-deck marketing efforts, such as in paid and natural search.

Although search still contributes a small percentage of the network’s overall traffic, between the end of Q2 2007 and Q4 2007 the volume of clicks the team saw from its keywords on Yahoo! and Google approximately quadrupled.

Text clubs have been an important driver of traffic. Although he wouldn’t disclose subscriber information, they’re seeing an average clickthrough rate of 6% on links in text alerts. He’s particularly happy about that number, considering Verizon does not support text to WAP links.

“If you remove the roughly one quarter of our subscribers who are Verizon customers, you can see we’re getting some pretty healthy returns.”

The majority of text-alert subscribers have signed up directly from the WAP sites. This indicates that these users are already familiar with the mobile sites and are used to browsing content on their phones.

Griot and his team this year are concentrating on expanding content. They recently added more utilitarian content for users with a specific need. For example, in January they added car-buying guides to the Car and Driver WAP site. They also intend to experiment with more direct-to-consumer marketing strategies to boost off-deck traffic.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Hachette Filipacchi':

Mobile Marketing Association:

Crisp Wireless - provided the technology infrastructure and handset database that powers Hachette’s WAP sites:

Hachette Filipacchi:

See Also:

Comments about this Case Study

Mar 10, 2008 - David Culbertson of LightBulb Interactive says:
This is a great success, but I wonder if we won't look back in a couple of years and see this as equivalent to improving gift shop sales on the titanic. With the emergence of true mobile web browsing on the iPhone and numerous iPhone competitors on the horizon, WAP websites might ultimately be a victim of bad timing - kind of like APS film cameras seemingly being the replacement for 35MM but digital cameras exploded and relegated APS to the dustbin. Optimizing current websites for mobile web browsers such as the iPhone and the ASUS eec pc is probably the way forward.

Post a Comment

Note: Comments are lightly moderated. We post all comments without editing as long as they
(a) relate to the topic at hand,
(b) do not contain offensive content, and
(c) are not overt sales pitches for your company's own products/services.

To help us prevent spam, please type the numbers
(including dashes) you see in the image below.*

Invalid entry - please re-enter

*Please Note: Your comment will not appear immediately --
article comments are approved by a moderator.

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly Case Study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions

Best of the Week:
Marketing case studies and research

Chart Of The Week

B2B Marketing

Consumer Marketing

Email marketing

Inbound Marketing

SherpaStore Alerts


We value your privacy and will not rent or sell your email address. Visit our About Us page for contact details.