People’s New Mobile Philosophy

When you think of mobile innovation, odds are a celebrity magazine isn’t at the top of your list. People Magazine, however, disagrees.

People has seen a surge in mobile traffic, which now makes up a quarter of its traffic. Its initial approach to provide only snippets of information and news wasn’t going to cut it. Same goes for the standard banners it’s run on its mobile property.

As a first step, People overhauled its mobile site in July, going the responsive-design route, which allows the publication to easily publish across devices from three inches to 10 inches with the same code base supporting it. The next move: the introduction of a proprietary unit, the “snap banner,” a unit that automatically expands to the full screen and works well with the new responsive-design sites. The ad unit remains fixed on the screen before locking into a position on the page.

“We’re developing customized, integrated, 360-based solutions so that when our team goes to market, we can talk about a mobile buy but an integrated print and digital buy, as well,” said Liz White, general manager for digital at People.

The results, so far, have been good for the outlet. According to ComScore, People Magazine got 12.5 million uniques in September and 4.7 million uniques via the mobile browser. Three months into this new strategy, White said it’s seeing uniques up 40 percent.

“People.com is a big part of our consumer revenue as we have new subscription targets,” White said. “Mobile is a huge opportunity as we’re migrating and putting our magazines on tablets. It can’t just be an ad-supported medium. Like everything we do, we’ll have more than one revenue stream attached to it.”

The magazine spent a bunch of time focusing on understanding how consumers not only were using mobile devices but how and when they wanted news content. It found that 25 percent of its audience spends more than five minutes on its mobile site and that 66 percent sleeps with their phones next to them.

“The idea came to us that this device has produced this new media moment that didn’t exist before,” White said before rattling off statistics like how the average consumer spends over an hour waiting in line, watches three hours of television per day and that 75 percent has a mobile device while watching the boob tube.

“Looking at those different types of time, we made sure we had to program for that time in a different way,” White said. “It’s not just info/snack, but we also have to be programming for the moment they’re using it.”

People also has the luxury of reaping the benefit from its parent company’s technology. Recently, Time Inc. launched Amplify, an ad unit that lets advertisers reach readers based on a reader’s interest in the types of content they consume.

“I think that they have a good advantage because they have legacy relationships with brands and clients and walk clients into mobile in a comfortable way,” said Craig Weinberg, mobile practice lead for Mindshare North America. “Some clients get scared when talking RTB or programmatic and get nervous because they don’t understand. People is a good spot where it’s a good fit for a client’s target audience, and they’re definitely at the top of the list.”

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