October 16, 2007

Time Inc.’s Mobile Marketing Approach: 4 Strategies & Mobile 101 Tips

SUMMARY: Mobile marketing is on the verge of exploding as a specialty channel, but technology limitations and the marketplace aren’t quite in place yet. So do you want to be ahead of the curve or behind the times playing catch-up?

Here’s an inside look at how publishing giant Time Inc. plans to be among the leaders as mobile marketing evolves. Includes brand strategies for Sports Illustrated, People and InStyle; vendor selection help; 10 Mobile 101 tips and four real-life examples.
For the publishing industry, the future of mobile rests in original content that’s not available elsewhere, says Scott Williams, Director Business Development & Mobile, Time Inc. Interactive.

Today, however, technology limitations and the consumer marketplace aren’t yet ready for mobile to be a specialty channel. Publishers need to be satisfied right now with transferring relevant information from their Web sites to their mobile audiences.

“Consumers are going to be the ultimate arbiter on this platform just like they are anywhere else,” says Williams, who oversees interactive for noteworthy editorial brands such as Time, People, Sports Illustrated, CNN and InStyle. “One thing I can tell you right off the bat is that anything that’s important editorially to a Web site is important to mobile.”

Here are four strategies, 10 Mobile 101 tips and a peek at Time’s wireless efforts:

-> Strategy #1. Integrate mobile into your brand

“At [Time], we integrate our brand sites with our mobile Web whenever possible,” Williams says. “Right now, we are aiming to get one overall digital experience for the brand -- whether the consumer is using the Web, a cell phone, a PDA or even set-top boxes.”

Getting consumers to know what and where mobile information is available is the industry’s No. 1 problem, Williams says. He recommends that marketers move wireless application protocol (WAP) sites away from “mobile.brandX.com” or “wap.brandX.com” to regular URLs. For instance, his team has transitioned from “mobile.time.com” to “time.com.”

People and InStyle have launched Java and downloadable applications on Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and other wireless carriers. These apps let end users share favorite products or news articles with their friends. In terms of products, this allows them to send photos, prices and messages about why they purchased an item, among other examples.

Williams buckets relevant Web-to-mobile transitional content in the following fashion:
o What’s happening right now, such as news, weather and sports scores.
o Ringtones, wallpaper and other items that brand the mobile experience as your own.
o Time-killer entertainment features, including games, video, photos and fun lists.
o All other types of useful consumer services.

-> Strategy #2. 10 Mobile 101 tips

The newness of the medium can make mobile intimidating, so we asked Williams to give us his top 10 tips for marketers who want to test the waters.

Tip #1. People want more specific and more time-conscious experiences with mobile than online. For instance, publishers should deliver only the headline and a paragraph or two with a WAP site but allow the viewer to click to read the entire article.

Tip #2. Cell phones are not always on the fastest networks, so keep things easy. “You are not creating a browsing experience. You are delivering information to someone on the go. There’s no question that function thrives over form right now.”

Tip #3. Don’t expect to accurately measure the overlap between your Web audience and mobile crowd. “One of the hardest things in mobile right now is to get good [user] data.”

Tip #4. Williams and his team keep about three dozen phones and other wireless devices handy to regularly test WAP sites and text messages. Earmark a decent chunk of money so you have the same capability.

Tip #5. Be ready to eventually start building mobile sites specifically for iPhones. Yes, the hype appears to be real.

Tip #6. Try sweepstakes and other incentives to get people to download your mobile applications onto their phones or wireless devices. You’ll need to work with the carriers to make the test campaign a success.

Tip #7. Set strong in-house privacy standards when it comes to text-message marketing. If it wants to, the industry can learn from the missteps of email and get mobile off on the right foot in terms of spam issues.

Tip #8. Push your mobile and WAP presence in a multichannel sense -- on the homepage, in email, in print ads and various other promotions where you can require the consumer to respond with a text message to participate.

Tip #9. Work with your vendors to increase your discoverability. As Time has done with its flagship mobile URL, you should eliminate WAP redirects. The extra characters in the URL only confuse consumers.

Tip #10. No one wants a repeat of the Internet heydays, so spend responsibly. Your CFO will continue to see the ROI get better and better. As your audience increases, so will your budget.

-> Strategy #3. Choosing a vendor

Since Williams and his team couldn’t customize all the content for various Web applications, they have done their share of assessing and hiring third-party service providers.

He offered two suggestions on how to choose the right WAP vendor for your brand:

- For text-messaging providers, look at their marketing skills as much as anything else. “A lot of vendors out there can provide the underlying technology. The differentiating factor should be their understanding of speaking to consumers on this platform.”

- For mobile Web or WAP vendors, assess how well they do on-site optimization. Ask for examples that they are publishing and identify the brands most like yours. Use this information to decide if the provider appears to be a good fit.

-> Strategy #4. Examples of mobile content on Time properties

While adapting Web content to mobile for their top brands, Williams and his team have worked to integrate the brands as much as possible. For instance:

- People magazine. Its service offers a bevy of online features, such as the content-based “News Now” and photo-oriented “Star Tracks” and “Style Watch.”

- Time magazine. Its mobile content includes quotes of the day, latest news, blog snippets, lists such as the 100 best TV shows of all time and 10 questions with celebrities.

- InStyle. Its “Look of the Day” feature allows the mostly female demographic to browse and vote on the best celebrity fashion statements. Also, conveniently located links are nearby so consumers can buy the dress, sunglasses or pair of shoes worn by the celebrity.

- Sports Illustrated. It offers photos from the most recent swimsuit editions as wallpapers and also delivers scores for all the big games from around the nation.

Scott Williams of Time Inc. Interactive will speak at the ad:tech conference in New York, which runs from Nov. 5-8. For details on upcoming conferences, go to http://www.ad-tech.com.

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