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Publishers and Mobile: Follow the Music

As we continue to track the emerging synergy between print publications and mobile devices, it's worth noting some of the parallels with the music industry.

Talk about platform confusion! In my lifetime, I've watched it evolve from vinyl to reels of tape, to cassettes, to CDs, to mixers and digital systems that virtually remove any opportunity for error, to downloads and the re-emergence of indie artists who perform alone at the mike with a guitar and their God-given talent.

The part of all this that is relevant to newspaper, magazine and book execs is how the market share continues to get divvied up. For this, we can turn to Billboard Magazine's annual chart, which indicates that in 2008, Apple's iTunes shot past Wal-Mart to claim the number one position.

It's safe to safe that iTunes won't be looking back. The three big brick and mortar operations (Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target) that still claim a significant share of the music sales are stagnant or losing business.

Coming up fast at the rear are the wireless carriers -- Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T.

Case closed.

For print publishers, the path forward involves managing the transition to mobile platforms. Invest too much effort in developing your destination website, with its (old model) home page and awkward taxonomy, and you'll end up with a web site with a 75 percent bounce rate -- all those awful "flyaway" users, who treat landing on your home page as if they'd just touched a hot stove.

You don't need that.

Better to optimize your digital content for mobile, and while you're figuring out how to do that, embrace a distributed content model on the web. Make sure you have as many widgets on social media sites as you can bear, open up your content to users, partner with hyper-local services, encourage reporters to blog and break news online, market it all via Twitter and Facebook, and implement SEO techniques from morning 'til night.

But, keeping you eye on the ball, realize all of this stuff is only a holding pattern. Your product must be competitive over mobile platforms, because that is where the world of content is heading. The time to begin implementing your piece of that strategy is now.

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