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Marketers get to grips with iPhone browser platform

Digital firms are vying to keep the attention of the early adopters by formatting their Web pages especially for the iPhone’s Safari Internet browser. YouTube’s homepage and the NY Times’s River application were ready when the iPhones hit the shelves, but other Web sites are following their lead and formatting content for the new phone.

Digital publishing firm Texterity Inc. has launched a beta version of its digital magazine interface and portal designed for the Apple handheld, offering free digital editions of more than 20 different magazines for iPhone users to read including O’Reilly Media’s “Make,” Bonnier Magazine Group’s “Popular Science” and Meredith Corp.’s title “ReadyMade.”

“Being able to connect with a reader, and potentially a new subscriber, in the iPhone format goes to the next level,” said Jaclyn Strominger, director of business development at Texterity.

“The market is going to explode just from the resolution standpoint,” she said. “The quality of these digital magazines on the iPhone is great. This is another way for publishers to get in front of their customers in the format that customers want.”

Texterity’s publisher clients have made free digital editions available to any iPhone user at http://iphone.texterity.com/magazines. This magazine iPhone interface does not require Flash or plug-ins to ensure broad compatibility and easy access. Users get an exact digital replica of the print edition of the magazine and can scroll through it in the iPhone format.

“We are excited about Texterity releasing an iPhone magazine interface and portal,” said Janet Donnelly, consumer marketing director at the Meredith Corp. “This is a perfect fit with æReadyMade.’ We will have access to young, creative urban adults through a new dynamic communication channel. Our readers love to try before they buy and will have that great opportunity with a digital edition on their iPhone.”

Reaching more readers on the go

USA Today and Maxim have both worked with mobile marketing firm Third Screen Media to update their sites for the mobile Web in general with WAP-enabled Internet sites. Even though the iPhone is connected to the real Internet and not just the Web-enabled Internet, these sites can be recognized when a user is logging on from an iPhone and serve up the mobile enabled site to make it load faster.

“The hold-up of the device is the network,” said Brian Stoller, vice president of marketing and strategy at Third Screen Media. “It’s good to have a low bandwidth format on your site because it loads faster and looks really great on the iPhone. You can keep the same content on the site, but this just makes it easier to access.”

In addition to the slow AT&T Edge network, the iPhone does not render Flash or AJAX, the technologies behind many Web sites.

Digg Mobile is another service that has come along to tackle the iPhone format. The new service from the social networking blog includes story scrolling, mini permalink pages with top-five comments, Login and Digging, Pagination and Jump to any topic. The site plans to add a Top Stories feature that updates in real time.

From the design point of view, Blue Flavor’s Leaflets software lets marketers design Web sites for mobile 2.0 devices. According to Brian Fling, co-founder and director of strategy at Blue Flavor, iPhone formatting is not just about iPhones, but the mobile Web in general.

“People haven’t been taking the mobile Web as a serious medium or designing for it at all,” said Fling. “The iPhone is creating a transition into taking the mobile Web more seriously.”

New tools for a new format

In addition, Karelia Software has released Sandvox 1.2.2, an update to its visual Web site design software for Mac OS X. Sandvox enables Mac users to create Web sites visually, using drag and drop assembly techniques and design templates. The software has also been updated to offer designs better suited to the iPhone.

The design influences the interface, but is also beginning to influence the design of a marketing campaign.

“Marketers are now looking at campaigns that will engage consumers who are out and about and not at home,” Stoller said. “Consumers on the go respond differently to offerings than consumers at home.”

Expect video to be a part of this growth, as the video experience becomes more important on mobile devices.

“Quicktime could become the killer app, because the quality is so good,” Stoller added. “As the iPhone gets more penetration in the market, we’ll have to watch how video for phones will develop.”

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