Mobile Mania at SPI

Matt Bean chats with a Summer Publishing Institute student while Michael Gutkowski looks on

“To infinity and beyond!” said Matt Bean at the opening of the NYU Summer Publishing Institute panel discussion on mobile publishing applications. While Bean, brand editor for Rodale‘s Men’s Health and Women’s Health, is no Buzz Lightyear, he was referring to the optimistic outlook the magazine industry has on its own technological Toy Story. The three top digital executives on the panel enthusiastically agreed.

A magazine’s mobile extension is easy, Bean said. For one, there are no page constraints, so content is limitless. And thankfully, the consumers are there and ready. Twenty-one percent of the mobile market already has a smartphone, and there are at least 200 apps listed in the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) registry alone.  In fact, in 2010 mobile ad spending totaled $10 billion and is expected to increase to $32 billion by 2013. While these revenue statistics are certainly encouraging, Bean emphasized that of 10 total app downloads, 8 or 9 are for free apps — a conundrum for publishers and consumer marketers alike.

Sarah Chubb of Condé Nast, Dan Hickey of Meredith and Michael Gutkowski of Hearst share stories about mobile

Sarah Chubb, the president of Condé Nast Digital, has seen her company achieve vast success in their mobile ventures. Chubb detailed the increasing success of its first website (launched in 1995!), Epicurious.com, whose vast content includes an enormous recipe database. Translated to mobile, said Chubb, “the Epicurious app bridges the gap between the person sitting at her desk at 4 p.m. deciding what to make for dinner and the grocery store.” In fact she described one Epicurious super-fan who cut a hole in his wooden kitchen cabinets to install his iPad — so that he could watch movies and read Epicurious recipes while cooking.

Michael Gutkowski, the president and general manager of LMK, an extension of Hearst Corporation, explained the company’s attempt at a whole new model.  He said that the idea behind LMK, an acronym for “let me know,” is that “through human editors, curators and experts we can curate, design and deliver authoritative information on any topic you can imagine.” From Angelina Jolie to cupcakes and bacon, each LMK app, newsletter and web page is completely customized to its user’s preferences. Each platform offers relevant tweets, pictures, connection charts, and stories about its subject in what Gutkowski touts as the most modern and accurate form of user-selected news curation. As the buzz in the room affirmed, this unique way of sharing content could be an extremely exciting development for publishers.

Dan Hickey, the senior VP of digital engagement at Meredith Corp., flew in for the day to impart his advice and business savvy. Like Hearst and Rodale, Meredith Corp., is not letting the increasing growth rate of mobile devices slip by. Better Homes and Gardens, Fitness, and Parents, all Meredith titles, are in the process of creating mobile applications and sites optimized for mobile devices. Each panelist echoed Hickey when he said that Meredith “wants to make mobile an integral part of our brand’s relationship with the reader.”

And ultimately, the panelists emphasized that the industry continues to be all about the reader’s experience. Whether it’s harnessing the latest technology to serve fitness fans with the Men’s Health‘s “Eat This, Not That” app, or creating up-to-the-minute content on cupcakes, students were assured that the magazine industry has its arms wrapped around the mobile app market.

by Claire Hanan

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