Mobile News Network Shows Good Growth
Important Details: AP‘s Mobile News Network is growing: it recently launched its BlackBerry product and is now available through carriers US Cellular and Virgin Mobile. In September, it attracted some 26 million page views, building on recognition it got from Apple itself, which named it runner-up in the Apple Design Awards competition.
It’s useful to note some of the learnings from the MNN launch so far:
- Top News, largely national and global, is the main driver of usage, with 29% of the page views.
- Local news drew 18% of usage. Sports is number three, with 15%, followed by entertainment with 9% and photos with 7%.
- National advertising is now being sold, given the critical mass of customers. “We set a $20 CPM minimum,” Jeff Litvack, AP’s General Manager for Mobile & Emerging Products, told Outsell. Currently, seven advertisers are running ads on MNN, ranging from Intel to the Navy to movie studios. Litvack calls the format “dissipating ads,” ones that show up at the bottom of the iPhone page and then recede after about five seconds. In addition, working with technology partner Verve Wireless, MNN is experimenting with other ad forms. AP is also working with three newspaper chains, to facilitate their own selling of local mobile ads in 2009.
- While MNN is up on several platforms now, 90% of its traffic is driven through the iPhone.
- On average, each unique visitor coming through theiPhone platform sees 57 page views per month, a relatively high number compared to much web usage on news sites.
- Video has been added in the newly released V1.4, in the non-Top News, non-Local sections.
MNN so far has abut 300 US daily newspapers in its system populating its product. More than another 700 are signed up, with their content flow being worked through AP’s Digital Cooperative ( See Insights 7 August 2008, Mobile News Network Tests Out AP Digital Cooperative), and expected to be available by mid-next year or earlier. Also on the development schedule:
- Development aimed at extending reach, though J2ME, Windows and Palm platforms.
- Better tracking of online and offline (users can read downloaded stories on planes, for instance) behavior
- Addition of relevance/recency functionality; currently, the product is all based on recency.
Implications: MNN has ridden the back of one of the most successful consumer electronics launches ever. Now, in extending the network’s reach on other devices and through other carriers, it is taking a smart step to go broad before it goes much deeper. It has made history in creating an industry-wide mobile news portal, and now the task will move to making it valuable for news companies.
The mobile advertising marketplace is still small. In Outsell’s Annual Advertising and Marketing Study (July 14, 2008), Outsell estimated a spend of $600 million in mobile for 2008. That’s less than one percent of the total marketing/advertising market in the US, and further growth is hampered in the near-term as marketers spend their dollars on more proven media, still considering mobile experimental.
That said, mobile is a long-term investment that is a good one for the industry. News companies have a chance to establish themselves there in ways they failed to do on the desktop/laptop web.
Outsell believes we will look back at the first mobile news portal as clearly a first generation product. The next generations must approach this renewed enigma and opportunity of “local.” We know local means local news, but we know that it also means much more.
Local, especially GPS-enabled local, makes the phone an unrivaled on-the-go information-and-news product. That will mean the local mobile experience will include the kind of functionality we associate with info sites like Yellow Pages, with events/dining sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon and Zvents, and with shopping experiences so far un-invented. Those kinds of connections will be key, and MNN will either have to encompass them or smartly connect to them.