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Montgomery: Mobile ‘tsunami’ should force media to rethink online development

March 27, 2010

By Sarah Ruholl
Eastern Illinois University

The mobile media tsunami has been building, and a successful news source will be ready with an iPad application when the tablet hits on April 3 was Robb Montgomery’s message Friday morning.

Robb Montgomery explains an interactive display at a German art museum. Frame grab by Bryan Murley

The swell offers a variety of formats and functions. Native apps and existing websites that have been optimized for mobile devices can be used in many ways to attract users and sponsors. The key, Montgomery, CEO of said, is understanding that customers want easy-to-use interfaces, visual elements, dynamic and current information and context for time, location and needs.

Twenty-six percent of mobile users access the weather and 25 percent look for news and current events from their mobile device, whether it is a regular cell phone, smart phone or an iPod touch, the fastest growing of the market. Selecting the right data to use and putting it into interactive formats informs users and allows them to control their experience.

“Data is the future, documents less so,” Montgomery said. “Why? Because data lives. Documents are static.”

A video of Tim Berners-Lee speaking at the TED conference demonstrated interactive data can reveal newsworthy trends. One statistical, residential map showed houses that were hooked up to city water and then showed the races of the residents. The map proved that black familes had been denied water access in the town.

Creating proprietary and meaningful content is the way to make money off of mobile and tablet applications. Many successful companies, such as Flickr, use the “freemium” model. Some basic content is free or less expensive, but people will pay more if they receive added value.

Montgomery cited the German tabloid Bild. (warning: European site, portions NSFW) Bild offered a full PDF version of the paper 8 hours before it hits stands. About 50,000 users paid an extra 2 Euros for the monthly PDF subscription.

Two emerging pay models have shown success if users can be drawn in. In addition to the subscription app purchase model, in-app purchases and free applications that have sponsors have proven profitable.

The Telegraph (UK) made 10 times its cost on a sponsored application, Montgomery said.

To successfully create a user-friendly app, Montgomery says it is important to understand how the developers intended the format to function. A successful media outlet will also consider how users interact with the format.

“It’s in their home,” Montgomery said. “It’s part of their everyday life. We need to be there.”

Global positioning technology allows for hyper specialization with location. Phones now have geocontextual awareness. This allows innovative media outlets to provide information, news, weather and more that are location-specific.

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