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Mobile will surpass PCs as the device people use to access the Internet, Coats says

May 10, 2011

By Alison Dirr

Rusty Coats, the president and founder of Coats2Coats, began his speech titled “Growing Media Audiences” with an explanation of the personalization of today’s technology. Coats2Coats helps other organizations navigate today’s constantly shifting technology scene.

He explained the shift from media in which family gathered to watch television together to a world where each person’s devices are his or hers alone. This, he said, has come in part from the development of new media such as the iPad, iPod and cell phones.

In fact, he cited data that predicted that 2012 would be the year mobile surpasses PCs in popularity. As a result, all design, architecture, content and thinking this year needs to be going toward mobile, he said.

Part of this change involves understanding when mobile users utilize each device during the 24-hour news cycle. He said users begin the day with both iPhone and iPad in hand, but about 11 a.m. they switch to the iPhone and about 6 p.m. back to the iPad.

Media producers have to be aware of these shifts and plan accordingly. Coats said each medium requires content that pertains specifically to the needs of the users at the time they are using each device. Basically, it is important to learn from newspapers, which include specific sections to allow readers to choose what they would like to read.

This is particularly important because users pick up each device hoping for a different experience. As a result, he said, iPad applications should not be a larger version of those for the iPhone or a smaller version of an organization’s website. Rather, each medium requires its own content and delivery system.

With these systems comes the ability to track user trends and preferences. Coats cited data saying that the number of application downloads on the iPad increased significantly over the Christmas holiday when people were most likely to receive the device. Understanding these trends, he said, is the best way to figure out the next business move.

For example, users are now more likely to read news articles on mobile devices than on computers.

This explanation allowed Coats to transition into a discussion of individual iPad applications that worked well for their respective audiences.

He discussed applications like Packer Insider, which contains statistics and other information about the Green Bay Packers. These apps appeal to a loyal niche audience and so maintain their audience.

Other features, like New York Times’ applications incorporate video that draws readers in while the Huffington Post app features a newsglide feature that allows gliding through topic areas. He also noted the Post’s combination of headline and photo, saying it brought users into the application.

Coats acknowledged that a journalist’s impulse is to try to cover everything at once. But he said in new media, it is important to respect what the audience wants from each application and plan for more niche content. This gives users the control they expect from devices like the iPad and iPhone.

And there are monetary rewards for understanding and developing unique content for each of these platforms. Unlike computers, Coats said users are more likely to click on ads on the iPad. As a result, ad inventory is selling out on these devices.

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