Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
What exactly do we mean when we talk about mobile strategies for digital publishers? There’s one quick and easy answer. It involves posting regularly to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and their brethren so that people with smartphones can follow your publicity trail.
True enough. But as I moved deeper into research on my report on mobile strategies I realized that social media was just part of the challenge.
For publishers, mobile is also a content play, a mode of configuring your ebooks (and less frequently, your apps) to make sure they’re working optimally on all mobile devices, from smartphones through phablets, tablets of all screen sizes and notebook PCs—and then to make sure that the same is true whether on an Apple-built device or any of the myriad that run Android’s operating system, most prominently Samsung, with its full range of phones and tablets.
Most publishers already intuitively grasp this dizzying array of hardware- and platform-based variables when it comes to delivering mobile content, but few have sorted out the most effective means of doing so at every level of their organizations.
One reason is that those variables continue to change and multiply. What about Amazon’s tablets, for instance, (or, eek, its Fire Phone—the one rated 2.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon’s own site)? They’re not great for apps, but they’re excellent for ebooks. What about Windows phones and tablets? Nope: roughly a 3% marketshare. And Blackberry? What’s that?
Then there are formats to consider. At a minimum you’ll need each title packaged as EPUB2 and Mobi. If there are any enhanced features you’ll want EPUB3 and KF8. If the book has extensive illustrations you’ll likely require a fixed-format file plus a PDF. Educational books have their own sidetrack, down the Apple iBooks trail, or towards the just announced Kindle Textbook Creator. Got it?
In formatting the book you’ll try not to make the mistake Penguin just made in the ebook edition of this week’s No. 1 best-seller in both ebook and hardcover, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. The publisher left the copyright page stuck at the front of the ebook, even though best practices call for moving credits to the end of an ebook; this has been the standard for several years now.
Okay, you’ve wrestled your content into submission. It’s time to get the word out to the smartphone crowd. They’re the toughest group to reach: small screens, reading while walking, decidedly distractible. But they love social media.
Few publishers realize that Facebook is now a mobile company. Nearly 75% of its daily users arrive from mobile, over 550 million each day. Instagram is a pure mobile play; just try uploading a photo from your laptop! And it’s now in the No. 1 slot for teenagers. Adults, however, prefer LinkedIn to Twitter.
For all too many publishers, keeping up with social media is like tracking the onslaught of an invading army. They’re coming, from all sides, while you try to defend a small town behind thin walls. Many publishers would argue that while they aren’t raising white flags anytime soon, they’re struggling to connect meaningfully with the 550 million eyeballs flooding social channels day in and day out.
In the end, I call it an even split for mobile content and social media; each grab about 50% of the pie when it comes to deciding what mobile means on a practical level for publishers. The takeaway, at any rate, is that you can’t play one at the expense of the other.
Much more difficult, of course, is putting that understanding into practice. Stay tuned to Digital Book World as I continue to explore the idiosyncrasies and challenges the mobile market presents digital publishers today and evaluate tactics for facing them. And to learn more in the meantime, check out my recently published Mobile Strategies for Digital Publishing: A Practical Guide to the Evolving Landscape.