Time Inc. Plans Long-Term Mobile Strategy

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Time Inc. is developing a sustainable mobile marketing strategy for its magazines starting with People and Teen People.

The New York publisher hired London-based mobile marketing technology firm Flytxt Ltd. to engage readers in interacting with the Time Inc. publications via cell phones and other handheld instruments.

"Our role is to devise this strategy and work closely with Time Inc. to implement and manage its mobile activities going forward," said Pamir Gelenbe, Flytxt co-founder and director of corporate development.

Flytxt is to create an opted-in community of loyal readers, engaging them in regular value-added communications. This should result in long-term mobile marketing and revenue channels. The core readership is to be rewarded with loyalty awards via efforts like the Teen People Mobile Club.

A new offering, The People Daily News Service, is up and running. Subscribers pay $3.99 monthly for daily news messages delivered through the cell phone or handheld.

"These efforts are unique because Time Inc. is taking a long-term approach to developing their mobile activity and mobile channels," Gelenbe said. "Time Inc. is developing a sustainable strategy rather than rolling out a series of isolated campaigns, as has been the case so far in the U.S."

Time Inc. is one of many publishing clients of Flytxt, including Hearst Corp.'s National Magazine Co., Dennis Publishing and Macmillan. Its clientele and alliances extend to other categories. Flytxt's recent partnership with Weapon 7 is said to offer a natural extension to direct digital television response campaigns.

As part of its philanthropic efforts, the company's mobile activity for Red Nose Day '05 in Britain yielded an estimated $1.2 million in donations for the charity, which tackles poverty and social injustice in Britain and Africa. Flytxt ran 14 tactics ranging from competitions through text alerts to content. BBC Radio stations, BBC Online and the Red Nose Day site promoted the effort.

"Last year's activity generated 185,000 messages in the week, and we therefore planned that the platform would this year have to handle that, and maybe the same volume again to be rigorous in capacity planning," Gelenbe said. "In the event, we did more than four times that volume, and the platform and user interface performed perfectly throughout."

The mobile channel helps magazines not just extend their brand reach, but also interact with subscribers between publication dates. New revenue streams like premium rate SMS services, paid content and commercial database sponsorship are other advantages.

"2005 is the beginning of mobile marketing in the U.S.," Gelenbe said. "Mobile marketing is still embryonic and will grow strongly over the next five to 10 years. Currently, mobile marketing is used by carriers, handset manufacturers, media companies and consumer goods companies."

Flytxt's home market of Britain is far more evolved in mobile marketing. Handset penetration in Britain is 95 percent versus 60 percent in the United States. Text messaging is on the rise in the United States but it is saturated in Britain, where mobile browsing is on the upswing.

"There is still a fair degree of carrier red tape in the U.S. market to get mobile marketing services off the ground," Gelenbe said.

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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