BBCW and mobile Our strategy at BBCW is simple: to take our brands and content to wherever there is an audience and find the right commercial model for that product. For our brands that’s everything from magazine, web, IPTV, EPG, mobile, tablet and games console. What that means in essence, is that we treat every single platform differently, with a particular reverence if you like, towards how the audience consumes our brand on that platform and we engineer everything accordingly; product, commercial model, technology and resource. I personally sit within the magazines division with a remit to focus on the tablet versions of our magazines but the way we approach development is based on a set principles I believe are essential for any aspect of mobile development. I thought I’d base our experiences in the form of some of the rules of engagement we’ve employed using some of the learning we’ve encountered along the way.
Make mobile an essential part of your strategy But you know that don’t you? You’re all here today after all. But it’s true; the tipping point is here. After years of promising to be the new platform of choice for consumers, it can’t be ignored any longer. Gartner claimed in January this year that web access via mobile will outstrip that via desktop in 2013. The advent of the smart phone means that your customers are using their phones to access the digital space. You clearly need a mobile strategy. But where do you start?
2) Understand your existing mobile audience Developing for mobile is expensive, especially with the different platforms showing no sign of consolidation. So where and when should you invest for the best return? Most web analytics packages record access to your existing websites right down to the model being used. By building a picture of growth patterns and phones being used, you can start to identify your mobile demographic and therefore your strategy, your product and your roadmap. For example, when we came to decide which magazine titles we should launch first onto tablet, we used our gut instinct. Then we ran some reports to look at the numbers of users accessing our websites on tablets. The results were surprising. Although we were correct in assuming the skew would be greater for a title such as Focus, in fact, the numbers were far higher than we’d ever imagined for Good Food. So, whilst 10% of all Focus users were accessing the site on their mobiles versus only 3% of GF users, 18% of all mobile users were tablet users on GF vs 31% on Focus. Bearing in mind that Focus has around 50,000 users on its website and GF had 3.5m, we realised we had over 50,000 users accessing the GF website on an iPad, surprisingly, our biggest tablet audience across all properties including Top Gear. GF has gone on to outsell our other highly skewed titles by significant numbers and is forecast breakeven year one.
3) Develop the right products The key to our success in defining the products was understanding who should be responsible. When it came to developing magazine apps, we knew that the teams best equipped to drive the product development were the magazine teams themselves. They instantly understood the opportunities for their audiences and so we provided them with what they needed to create. At the heart of the development team were the Creative Director, Editor and Designers. Both titles took slightly different approaches and both products are different as a result. Focus uses functionality and layout to increase the experience for the reader; animations, 360s, slide shows and panoramas sit around the text, providing more information and details than can be achieved on a flat page. For example, in our Megapixel section, readers can now zoom into a high-res image and also use Google Maps to see exactly where the photo was taken. The GF team have pushed design and functionality hard, so the recipes have Cook Mode, a larger font to allow you to read from further away as you cook and the ability to create a shopping list from ingredients. Both apps have won some major accolades, including Sunday Times Top 500, consistent 5 star review and most recently, Focus was named the joint best publication app in the world by independent media research service iMonitor . We’ve had over 120,000 downloads to date.
4) Identify the right technology Even though this is a relatively new area, there are a whole host of technology providers. We use a platform called PressRun provided by a mobile specialist, MobileIQ. We chose the technology for a number of reasons. It uses the tools the team knew: The PressRun software integrates with existing design and production tools, so it’s the right people working with tools they know. The team start with the print files, then configure pages in indesign and use PressRun to export them to the app. Without any new software to learn or content management system to manage, the editorial and design teams could focus on making the app look great and play great Usability: Press Run creates smaller file sizes; our issues are between 10%-20% the size of the pdf apps out there. This is because those are working effectively as image readers so are creating files that a) take a long time to download (sometimes as long as a feature length movie) and b) once downloaded take up a lot of the device’s memory, which will get worse as people collect and keep issues Scaleability: Because PressRun uses HTML5, the next generation web language, our content can easily be optimized for Android, BlackBerry, Windows 7 or any other new tablets which emerge. Due to market reach, the ipad is the best way to publish our apps right now, but we are ready to diverge when the market does.
5) Name your price (and name it again) One of the most exciting opportunities in the mobile world is a greater acceptance from consumers towards paying for content. Certainly for the magazine industry which has been baffled for years by the ad funded web models, the early excitement around tablet has been largely driven by charging. I think this area is still finding its feet and at BBCW we’re testing all the time. Certainly I believe it’s a healthy matrix model, one that combines paid for content with advertising. I also think there are opportunities for ecommerce and data which we’ll be testing soon. Our single issue price point at the moment is lower than the magazine at £1.79 but we will increase the single issue price as we move into subscription sales, reflecting our magazine model of rewarding subscribers with lower prices. We also give the magazine app away for free to existing magazine subscribers adding value to the subscribers who are loyal to the brand. We will be testing subscriptions soon with Apple as our recent testing with Zinio showed a 500% increase in revenues when we went to subscription internationally. There are several levers we’ve identified in price setting and we’re looking at testing most of them. What is the top end going rate? In a crowded marketplace, we believe our brands have quality assurance so we don’t worry too much about being the cheapest but we do look at what consumers seem willing to pay. Could we reduce the cost of back issues or offer the new issue cheaper for a limited period when it first comes out, making it a more compulsive purchase? Should we charge more abroad where subscribers incur postage costs? Does a price reduction mean more sales? Actually not exponentially; we recently halved the price of Focus we didn’t double sales so we will probably increase that price soon. The only issue in playing with price is that you can’t penalise those who have paid already by charging a cheaper rate; those star ratings would really suffer.
6) Bring your advertisers with you Some of our key learnings have been in working with the advertisers. Where there is one, the majority of budgets for tablet are sitting in the Press buying teams. We’ve spent a lot of time bringing our traditional advertisers with us. We now offer an in house service where for a small investment (and I mean a couple of thousand pounds) we can take their flat page and make it interactive, embedding their TV ad, creating slide shows, embedding links to order brochures or enter competitions or animating the graphics. We also now place the advertisers for the current issue in our free sample issues which has increased their reach by 400-500% per month. We use analytics to track the ads and provide a full report at the end of the campaign showing unique views, total views, frequency and engagement. At 6% of users engaging with ads in our products, we’re seeing much more interest from the agencies.
7) Take your feedback seriously You have to appoint someone to read all of the feedback and answer all emails, I don’t know about you but I don’t download anything with less than 4 stars. We have used our star rating as a key KPI. You need to know what people are finding not so good about the app and do something to make them stop. You can also use the feedback as insight into your development roadmap, companies shell out thousands of pounds for user panels, here it’s all free (or within your 30%!).
8) Let a thousand flowers bloom Finally, embrace the fact that this is all new, exciting and unknown. We’ve set up a creative hub to test different products, platforms and resource permutations. We’re testing different types of product with differing shelf lives and production cycles which will help us get create more innovative products and to get to a P&L picture more quickly. Our first one off product launched last month, a Sky At Night Man in Space special with a longer shelf life and less bespoke format. Internally we’re constantly reviewing, analysing and honing our products. For example, when downloads of our free sample issues were in decline, we agreed to release more seasonal versions, as a result they’ve increased again. Similarly, when we scratched our heads over that fact that February’s issue of GF still accounted for 15% of our monthly sales in May, we realised it’s because we had given it a title ‘The Healthy Eating Issue’, so now we have ‘BBQ issue’, ‘dinner party issue’.
Summary Clearly, it’s early days and we’re learning all the time. Sales are growing each month by around 15%. Interestingly, we see around 10% of sales for back issues which shows a long tail opportunity. Around 80% sales are UK based so we’ll be looking to grow internationally over the next 12 months, especially in English language countries. We’ll be producing more one off editions to test other titles and we’ll be launching Android products in the next month or so. Also subscription in the UK. We have a couple of big launches to come later this year, and we’re generally looking at revenues increasing every month. It wasn’t a huge investment on the scale of things and we’re all very happy with results to date. My final bit of advioe is possibly the most important I can give you today: don’t run down the stairs for a tube. They’re every two minutes and I’ve been unable to walk for over two months. Thanks for listening and I’ll be happy to answers questions at the end.
Mobile Media Strategy2011 Rebekah Billingsley
Rebekah Billingsley Publishing Director, Mobile BBC Magazines