Magazine ads expand onto mobile Web

Consumer magazines have been noticing the “it” factor of the mobile Web lately. Hearst has nine mobile magazine sites, The New York Times just launched a mobile real estate page and Playboy recently began offering non-nude mobile photos, along with some other Playboy-branded mobile content.

“This is really new consumer behavior,” says Sophia Stuart, director of Hearst Mobile. “Sometimes I feel like it’s d?j? vu because these conversations are often like what we heard about the Internet 10 or 15 years ago; it’s the Internet in your pocket.”

This pocket Internet comes complete with all the ads that consumers see on their desktops. With ad sales in print magazines relatively flat between last year and this year, mobile sites provide a new platform for magazine brands to sell ad space. Unlike their paper counterparts, mobile magazine sites provide ad space that can be targeted to exact locations, respond to user requests and allows users to opt in, providing a dynamic ad platform.

“The key is that the sites need to update,” points out Andy Miller, CEO of Playboy’s mobile Web partner, Quattro Wireless. “You need to take dynamic content and allow the mobile Web site to reflect what’s going on the wired Web site, which unlike static magazines is updated frequently to keep people coming back. It’s a good move for magazines to develop another platform, and it seems to be really easy for advertisers to get their arms around mobile.”

Because phones are portable and personal devices, mobile ads can reach – and potentially annoy – consumers quicker and more intensely than ads in other media. Miller notes that the frequency of return visitors to mobile sites outstrips that of Internet sites, as does the regularity of their visits, upping ad visibility. He also mentions that the Mobile Marketing Association keeps strict guidelines on phones, protecting them from spam. Hence, most mobile advertising is limited to opt-in. With their support of the National Do-Not-Call list, consumers have made clear how much they value their phone privacy.

Hearst has partnered with Sprint for its mobile Web efforts. The carrier sells and runs advertisements directly with consumer information that it owns, and Hearst takes a share. Another advertising option is SMS, which includes mobile coupons and store locators and is often opt-in, through in-book promotions. Advertising on the mobile Web has proven easier for advertisers than other forms of mobile marketing, Miller says, because with mobile Web advertisers are making their buys on a Web site and not on a phone.

This interplay between mobile and other media platforms is important to advertisers, but it’s also a brand-building tool, offering consumers more options to engage with a brand. And though a brand may translate easily, the content needs tweaking to play up the strengths of each platform.

“We’re not taking magazines to mobile,” Stuart asserts regarding the Hearst titles that have launched mobile sites. “What we’re doing is taking brands to mobile because we took the core user of each brand and translated it to mobile. We’re not reproducing magazine content, we’re looking at what women need on the go.”

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