6 principles Russmedia lives by to grow mobile revenue

It was 2013. We were on a management retreat, talking about our goals and visions in the mobile field. We were all quite surprised because at that time we had 19% mobile traffic, but only 0.9% of our revenue is coming through mobile, which was a shock for us. 

For clarification, I am talking about the share of sales at VOL.AT, our largest news portal and No. 1 with 70% coverage in our circulation area of Vorarlberg, and only the regional-generated turnovers (excluding national turnover, Google, performance) are put in comparison.

The second key event was this statement made by a sales associate after the presentation of the mobile traffic share figures: “Oh my God, this means that 20% of our users do not see the advertising of my clients.” 

We managed to reach mobile revenues of 5% in 2014. For us, mobile sales mean only sales on smartphones, because the classical campaigns are played out on convertibles anyway.

As part of the re-design of VOL.AT apps and our mobile Web site, we dealt intensely with the re-design of advertising opportunities on mobile devices. We very quickly came to the conclusion that we couldn’t reach the target with national marketing and international networks. 

On the one hand, this was not a solution for our regional customers. On the other hand, there were forms of advertising that bothered the users and would not be able to be inserted into the app natively.

Around the same time, Facebook published one of its quarterly reports. And, once again, the dynamic Facebook experienced on mobile devices was incredible. Obviously, the company was doing something right.

Thus, the benchmark for our mobile ads was found.

So I sat down in a quiet corner with my smartphone and our mobile site and app in hand and told myself we have to re-design everything from the very beginning again. I laid out rules for future mobile marketing and this completely new direction included, among other things, Facebook as a benchmark. For our national marketing, this likely was not going to work very well.

According to these new principles, we: 

  1. Remove all pop ups, interstitials, splash screens, and other annoying advertising on mobile devices. This also means that we close ourselves completely to the national and international mobile marketing. 

  2. Only launch native advertising formats. The clear focus here is on the cover page as well as on our presentation on the Web. 

  3. Sell mobile access by subscription years in packages and special topics. Thus, the customer must spend the time paid for on mobile, which will expire and can’t be compensated with time on the Web.

  4. Take our most popular products and design combinations between mobile and the Web. The best-selling products are now our top products in combination with mobile.

  5. Set clear targets as mentioned above in 2014 with 5% revenue. Logically, we also created special incentives for our sales reps. 

  6. Measure and compare daily. We compare between mobile and Web to find out what might work best for the customers.

The results

At 0.9% in 2013, it bordered almost upon negligence and caused our team many sleepless nights. Because of actions already taken at the end of 2013, we were able to reach a mobile revenue of 7% of annual average in 2014, which is obviously not enough (because at this time the mobile traffic had already increased to more than 30%.) 

For us, the year of mobile sales has been 2015. Because of actions taken, we have developed a terrific dynamic. Many advertising customers already have their budgets largely or completely re-deployed to mobile devices because of the performance of advertising placement: 

  • We currently are at 19% mobile revenues for our annual average this year.
  • In April 2015, we reached 30% share of sales. 
  • In mobile traffic, we are currently at about 42%.

In view of this development, we are able to enjoy a relaxed sleep for a few nights and can face the future opportunities of mobile devices. We were able to persuade our employees, our clients, agencies, and partners to trust in mobile and in our mobile performance.

I am very confident that we can still massively expand this value in 2015 to get closer to the percentage shift of our traffic.

About Georg Burtscher

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