Fairfax: 2011 really will be the year of mobile

Following a spectacular rise in the consumption of Fairfax news content on mobile devices, the company’s digital head has predicted that 2011 really will be the year of the mobile.

Jane Huxley, Fairfax Digital’s general manager, media, told Mumbrella that while there have been false dawns for mobile, this year will be a watershed period for the medium.

“We’ve said so many times: this is the year of mobile. But this year, and fiscal year 2012, most certainly will be,” she said.

“Prices are coming down for data plans. The likes Google, Apple and Nokia are innovating in the space. And there’s an endless thirst to be plugged in to news on the go. Which is why we’re aggressively driving the business in this direction.”

According to Nielsen Online figures, consumption of Fairfax news content grew by 762%, to a total of around 160,000 daily unique browsers across its mobile sites, between January 2010 and January 2011.

Fairfax mobile sites include Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Brisbane Times, RSVP, The Good Food Guide and WA Today, pulling in a combined monthly audience of around 1 million users.

Huxley attributed this growth to the rapid uptake of smart phones and tablet computers and the “transferability of trust” in Fairfax content from the PC to mobile devices.

The most popular Fairfax news content is breaking news, then ‘top news’ – the most read items – followed by sport, she noted.

But will mobile media consumption eat into Fairfax’s online audience? Not for now, she reckoned.

“Are we bringing in new users? Or are existing users migrating from PC to mobile? I think the two media complement each other,” she said.

“Mobile use peaks at 7am; people check their phones when they get out of bed. They then switch to PCs at 9am, when they get to work. Then to tablet computers after work,” she said.

However, within three years mobile media consumption will probably start to cannibalise PC use, she added, quoting figures that by 2014, 35% of internet access will be via smart phones or tablets.

So what are the implications for advertisers? Click-through rates are higher on mobile devices than on PCs, she noted, and new ad formats – such as sushi train – are emerging that are increasingly effective at engaging mobile device users.

“We have learned a lot from desktop computer use that is transferable. Brand advertising works well on a PC, which has become more of a lean-back medium. ‘How to’ videos tend to work better on a tablet or a smart phone,” she said.

“Advertisers need to work more closely with publishers to understand how people are using mobile devices,” she added.


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