When we launched one of the most popular mobile portals of the daily newspaper BILD in 2006 in Germany (which today has 2.79 million unique users and 16.5% reach of all mobile surfers), a friend commented on the great usability and speed of the new mobile portal.

In the pre-iPhone era, I was a bit astonished to learn he used the mobile site more frequently than the desktop Web site. His reason: editorial guidance.

Developments of the past seven years, led by the great digital media players of Apple, Google, and Facebook, eventually clarified what my friend was looking for — and what you can’t find on most national and international news Web sites: editorial guidance.

Those who build and run successful news Web sites are mostly driven by one target: to hit the next X-million visits. It is a rat race. Which site will be largest? So editorial teams are creating content and Web sites with Google, and not the news consumer, in mind: 

  • Every channel and most content of a news site can be found on the home page. (Just for Google, not for the user.)

  • Related links and referrer links are included in every article. (Just for Google, not for the user).

  • Editors have to play by the rules, i.e. keyword density in articles or internal link-building. 

It seems to be a journalistic nightmare. Distribution sets the rules!

But the app wave is now changing all that, by blowing in “new oxygen,” as was the theme for the recent INMA World Congress in Los Angeles, for editors. Unlike the browser platform, apps allow editors to select the most important events and concentrate on the really critical stories. In other words: do the best job to produce a user-relevant product.

The role of the editorial staff is newly defined, from Google optimiser to news product designer. And this will finally create the true value for content pricing.

It seems the old newspaper economy is back. Only now it has 1,440 deadlines a day, according to INMA CEO Earl Wilkinson. A digital issue has to be up-to-date every minute. A single (or triple) daily issue will fail because the user will always miss the real news situation.

In the digital world in general, and the app cosmos in particular, the best marketing tool is the product itself. Every marketing campaign can have only a short-term impact of usage and reach and sales. Only a strong and, from a user perspective, best-built product will generate repeat visits and thus draw regular customers and regular sales.

Let the “new editorial oxygen” flow and create the best editorial-driven content products for the digital cosmos — 1,440 times a day!