Canadian Magazine Industry News
12 January 2011,     TORONTO
Polar Mobile’s CEO on apps, advertising and what magazine publishers just don’t get about mobile
Toronto-based mobile application developer Polar Mobile has a client list of 200, including The Hockey News, Maclean's and Canadian Living. It closed out 2010 by partnering with the Audit Bureau of Circulations interactive unit to provide verifiable numbers for its clients.

caught up with Polar Mobile CEO Kunal Gupta to ask him who in Canada is doing mobile publishing right, what’s not working, which numbers to track and how to get started.

Masthead: What are Canadians doing well in mobile publishing?

Kunal Gupta: Verticals like sports jump out. Canadian publishers are leading globally in terms of sports on mobile, if you look at what Score Mobile is doing, CBC, the Hockey Night in Canada brand, or some of our clients like The Hockey News, NHLPA.

Canadians have figured out sports pretty well and done it all without too much video content. Because when you look at sports from a media perspective it is all about how do I get the video rights? Some of the carriers own the video rights and I would argue The Score, CBC and Polar Mobile out shine the carriers in terms of creating a great sports experience for mobile consumers. That is something Canadian publishers are doing well.

MH: What do Canadian publishers still not get about mobile applications?

Two things come to mind. The first is that you have to be everywhere. In the country that founded the Blackberry, and one that is pushing Android devices on every carrier and where Microsoft has a presence – too many publishers are focused exclusively on the iPhone. It’s just not good enough given how wide the market space is in this country.

Second one is marketing. A lot of consumers don’t realize when publishers have a mobile app available, because it isn’t marketed well. That could be because they aren’t proud of their mobile application or because they don’t know how to market it, sell advertising. They need to build advertising, build reach and do a better job of marketing their apps.

MH: What are the most exciting opportunities for advertising on mobile?

KG: Assuming the publisher has a good audience, which doesn’t have to be tens of millions of people, but a decent size the opportunities to run an integrated campaign across print, online and mobile are huge if the campaign execution is done well from a managing perspective.

MH: How should mobile applications be tracked from a publishing and advertising point of view?

KG: Mobile measurement shouldn’t be any different than online measurement. The first step is the measurement has to exist. One of the things we highlighted in our recent report [2011 Mobile Trend Outlook] is people shouldn’t be talking about how many downloads you have. Especially with publishing where the downloads are generally free. You aren’t monetizing the download, you are monetizing the user so you need to talk about the user. That is the number one metric to be tracked. Number of users in mobile is a one-to-one mapping to unique visitors online. It is a metric the industry understands. I don’t think the ad buying industry understands how to buy against downloads.

Another metric is probably page views per user. Publishers in mobile should pay attention to this number because it will be a lot higher than it is online. That is the difference with mobile. We see about 60-100 page views per user in a month on an app. The same publisher could see 12-18 page views online per user.

MH: What can Canadian publishers do better in mobile publishing?

KG: One of the areas of publishing that is under-exploited is hyper-targeted verticals. Looking at a brand and dividing it into key verticals for users of just that area of the product.

I’ve talked to a number of publishers about this and it is something that is under exploited. For example in the U.S., Pro Football Weekly magazine is divided into apps like PFW Fantasy, PFW Insider, PFW Patriots, etc. – they sub-segmented their brand very well. It is more targeted which means they can sell it at a higher ad rate because they know where the users are and know their interests. And the user engagement is stickier because they are giving them content that they care about.

MH: What are the digital trends for publishers in 2011?

KG: Number one opportunity for publishers in 2011 is to be on every device. Number two is to figure out how to get onto tablets. Tablets includes the Playbook, iPad, Android, Intel, all of the above – just being on the iPad is not enough.

MH: How can publishers be on every platform? For many it seems like a daunting task to undertake.

KG: Hard for me to answer that question without it sounding like a sales pitch because that is something that we do. The approach a publisher should take to get on every platform is to use a company like Polar Mobile, or use web technologies. The third is to build custom apps, but that quickly becomes too costly and time consuming to actually be an option.

For more on Gupta's mobile predictions in 2011, check out the Polar Mobile 2011 Mobile App Outlook.

— Val Maloney
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