2014 was a year of change for The Huffington Post and 2015 will be even more so. Why? For the first time, website visits from mobile phone devices have exceeded visits from desktop versions. Mobile screens have become the most important screens and the media want (and have) to be on them.
“The shift to mobile is ‘disrupting’ media consumption on a scale similar to the shift from print to online,” says Jimmy Maymann who has been the CEO of The Huffington Post since December 2012. Maymann opened the second day at 4YFN with a conference during which he explained in this context — point by point and with all the relevant data — what this paradigm shift means for publishers.
So here is a summary:
- Native features. What do we use our mobile phones for? What should be included on such a small screen whose ever growing number of apps overwhelms users, who tend to just stick to the essentials? Maymann mentions Uber as an example for travelling and mobility, Yelp for finding nearby activities and Instagram for hobbies. And then comes the lion’s share of the pie — media consumption, which mostly consists of social media applications, whether instant messaging or networks. The social aspect has won in the mobile realm just as it once did in the web.
- The market: millennials and emerging economies. It’s the first thing they look at when they get up in the morning, use more than two hours a day and 87% of them say they never go without it. These are some of the factors that Maymann pointed out about millennials — the generation companies eagerly are eagerly looking at. Alongside them we find the emerging economies: the other big chunk of the market (all of humanity!) that is getting on the Internet for the first time thanks to smartphones.
- The app vs. web debate. Where does the Huffington Post stand on this? They have a smaller yet more committed audience (“If someone has downloaded your app, they are already showing their brand loyalty”), segmented and easy to capitalize on. The fact that companies are still cashing in less profit off mobile apps than desktop versions, despite having a larger and more loyal audience, is the issue that still needs to be resolved.
- Messaging apps are becoming the new portals (and the next thing to watch), because Snapchat is not just Snapchat, and WeChat is not just WeChat. “Messaging apps have an environment of their own within,” says the CEO of The Huffington Post. “They make up 50% of social media. They remind me of the portals from the 90’s.” With recent moves of Snapchat, which launched its Discover tab not too long ago, and data suggesting that Whatsapp can generate more visits for your website than Facebook and Twitter, messaging apps are where content should be placed and moved around.
And today, in 2015 — undoubtedly the year in which mobile screens will finally beat computer screens — is the right time for media to try and discover all the possibilities offered by mobile technology.