• The Sydney Morning Herald’s Brian Brownstein on the growth of mobile and the biggest put-off for readers
Mobile customers are “less loyal and more demanding”, said The Sydney Morning Herald’s mobile editor Brian Brownstein.
In a conversation recently with Mediaweek about the Fairfax title’s successes on mobile, Brownstein joked: “It’s all because of me. That’s your article finished.”
Brownstein gets into the office before the crack of dawn each day to prepare for the first peak time traffic on the mobile site, he revealed.
“We have two peaks during the day. We peak at about 7:30-8am, so I am normally in at 5am getting things ready. From 6am it starts going up quite sharply to the biggest peak at about 8am. We also have a little peak at around lunch time but not as steep as the 8 o’clock peak.
“[The next big peak is] at about 9-10pm, when people have had their dinner and put the kids to bed. They’ve got the time to dive in and read the articles that could’ve interested them during the day. They may see some stories on their Facebook feed that they access.”
According to the emma data for December 2015, The Sydney Morning Herald finished as Australia’s highest-reaching title across platforms with over 4.8 million readers.
“Most of our audience is accessing our content on mobile now. That’s where most of our audience is or is moving towards. In terms of mobile device traffic, mobile overtook desktop in terms of unique browsers in November 2014, according to Nielsen,” Brownstein claimed.
When asked about what’s the biggest turn-off for a reader when accessing content via mobile, Brownstein said: “Load. Anything that takes too long to load, the customer is put off.
“There is nothing worse than being on a page and getting that white screen of death or the silver line going across the top of the page and it’s just not loading.
“Also when it renders, if a picture, a graphic or an interactive blows out or is too small to read on the phone, it’s a very disappointing experience. Readers will go away because of that, and rightly so. You have to give readers the primary experience, and we’ve got subscribers who are paying, so we have to make sure everything we do marries together. Then on top of that comes the good editorial. If you don’t have quality copy then you’re doomed as it is.”
The home page doesn’t play a crucial role any more in driving readership online, Brownstein pointed out.
“People have been around using their mobile for a while. But the thing is, the landscape is changing constantly,” he said.
“Trends have changed. It used to be about your home page. It’s not about your home page any more. It’s about figuring out where people are accessing your content. You’ve got to get your product in front of the reader’s eyeballs. Then, [after all that’s done], you think about what’s next?”
Push notifications are what Brownstein is looking to explore next.
“You’ve got this ability to tap your customer on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey, beep, beep! This is me. This is what the latest news is,’” he said.
“It’s so good for your brand. It’s also the fastest way to reach people.
“The Herald is also doing stuff with Instant Article on Facebook now which is really exciting. We’ve also got Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), which is going to help mobile articles load a lot quicker.”
When it comes to grabbing the reader’s attention on mobile, “We are leaving no stones unturned,” Brownstein said.
Another area he’d like to dive into is integrating SMH content on messaging and other social media apps like WhatsApp and SnapChat.
But the key thing for content to work well on mobile is to marry editorial content with the product, Brownstein said.
The questions he is constantly thinking about are, “Do you have an engaging product? Do people really want to click on that? How do you get them to click? Are you loading quickly? Does the picture look good? Is the navigation really good? Will it look the same on an iPhone 6 using 4G as for someone who is on a Windows 7 phone on their work Wi-Fi?
“The beauty of it all is that we’ve barely touched the surface of mobile.”