At the INMA World Congress in New York this week, I will be addressing the role of mobile storytelling and, specifically, how to monetise it.

If we envisage a world where, ultimately, there will be fewer and fewer print editions sold, we need to safeguard revenues. This also means we need to safeguard our industry’s future jobs by seeing where our audiences are, realising how they want to receive our content, and, crucially, how they would be willing to pay for it.

I have talked previously about how we all need to create a better customer experience. Mobile storytelling is part of that. We need to grasp the fact that people want to read our content differently on mobile than through any other channel.

The size of the screen, the likely context of where our audiences are when they are reading on mobile, the time poor, and impatient nature of a “mobile” person all contribute to thinking differently — thinking more creatively, more intelligently, and more intuitively.

We need to be examining:

  • Audience: We need to match the habits of mobile.
  • Technology: Content needs to load quickly.
  • Design: It must be readable and intuitive.
  • Story structure: We have to compose for a phone.

We must do all of this while asking ourselves when we should publish a specific story to give it the maximum chance of succeeding on mobile (bearing in mind possible contact and mindset).

We want people to read our work, but we must do that profitably. How do we do that? We need to acknowledge our readers’ habits are diverse and changing rapidly. How do we attract readers, gain their attention, and cut through the noise? How do we tell if the story will get clicked, read, and shared?

Good storytelling is still what matters most but we must be open to new approaches. We need a new toolkit allowing technology to do so much more than just displaying an article with an image and some links.

The conversational nature of mobile allows commercial opportunities. Three factors allow this:

  1. Time, location, and contextual interaction.
  2. Conversation. It’s about dialogue and engagement.
  3. The personal and powerful nature of mobile.

In recognising the above, we need to ask ourselves what will contribute to value in the reader’s mind — in a world today were “average” is awful! New, smart, mobile tech has raised the bar significantly and continuously does so.

Readers’ expectations are sky high for their anticipated experiences. For example, touch screen interfaces and HTML5 both made mobile advertising intimate, personal, and engaging, irrespective of screen size and type of mobile device.

In a nutshell, better content on mobile equals better storytelling. Better storytelling equals better engagement. And better engagement equals better opportunities for commercialising within the editorial environment through relevant, native, creative formats such as sponsored content and “considered placements” that don’t intrude but live integrated within the editorial fabric as understood by the reader.

Major media companies across the globe such as the BBC and Schibsted recognise all of this now and are producing new, creative storytelling formats and personalised mobile home pages that allow for branded content and integration of ads in a much more welcoming way. (I will be highlighting these in New York at the Editor’s Retreat for the INMA World Congress, but contact me if you won’t be there and I will be happy to share.)

It is said that where the eyeballs go, that’s where the money goes too! As we all know, everything is moving to mobile. Mobile will continue to dominate news media over the next few years. And if you thought it did already, well, you’ve seen nothing yet. Over the next 12 months or so we will see growth and development in the following areas:

  • Processing power on our devices. It’s all getting faster.
  • Storage capacity, which is growing continuously.
  • Advancement of camera technology.
  • Data and Artificial Intelligence developments including better visualisation techniques.
  • Better battery life.
  • 5G and the “Internet of Newsrooms,” where everything will be connected in real time.
  • Augmented Reality (now part of the Apple developer kit) and mixed reality opportunities.
  • Platforms for measuring success in mobile storytelling (another topic I’ll address in my presentation).

Mobile is where the audience is. We need to keep reinventing, re-creating, and providing a better experience, which will ultimately guide our future relationships and monetisation with our audiences.

See you in New York.