“Content is still king in a hand-held world” says Simon Wilkes, Head of Publishing, Planet Sport (a division of the Ole! Media Group), sees a rosy future for long-form digital content.
Working in the digital publishing industry can be exciting and excruciating in equal measure.
The landscape for publishers is shifting on a weekly basis and staying on top of developments is a near full-time job. Whether that’s checking the impact of a Facebook newsfeed algorithm change, investigating the prospects of a new distributed platform, or digesting some fresh market analysis, there’s a great deal to get your head around.
One thing that is reassuring to know, however, is that content is still king – and that’s regardless of what device it is consumed on or how it is delivered.
Content is reasserting its authority in the mobile era – and that’s something to be heartily welcomed.
Mobile content is coming of age and there’s now no need for the compromises of the past. It was once perceived wisdom that mobile content needed to be short-form and bytesize. No longer is that the case.
Smartphones make for a far more sophisticated content delivery platform and according to the GSMA, the number of mobile internet subscribers in Africa tripled in a five year period to 300 million by the end of 2015, with an additional 250 million expected by 2020.
These millions of extra users on these advanced devices are augmenting desktop traffic, by allowing users the opportunity to consume content in previously dead commute time and provide entertainment options in evenings via mobiles and tablets, in addition to TV viewership.
We have now arrived at a tipping point where lengthy, rich features and content – previously viewed as a no-go for mobile devices and tablets – are now very much part of a holistic user experience on mobile.
For example, sports sites, like TEAMtalk.com has transitioned from a near-sole focus on a compromise length of 300-word transfer stories, to producing a large portfolio of regular 500-600 word football features that readers know will be published regularly. More importantly, the stats show they are coming back time and again, and sharing.
The short-form news is still there if you want it, but it is not the only part of the package. Sports fans consequently now have the best of both worlds.
This shift in strategy has meant greater overheads and opportunity cost within the editorial teams – but the additional length, visit duration and dwell time on lengthy content offers increased real estate and performance for advertising partners and more scope for video and native advertising.
Then comes the balancing act of keeping the article as engaging as possible. If a reader has chosen to click on a piece of content, be it from Facebook, Twitter, a partner site or direct, publishers want them to enjoy the richest possible experience whilst keeping an eye on download speed.
That means illustrating features with relevant imagery, bespoke or contextual videos and infographics, making them an all-encompassing digital product, which mirrors the scroll-down experience of a Facebook timeline or Twitter feed. Thankfully, smartphones with solid connectivity can now handle them all.
Analytics packages will tell you when your audiences are ready to go all-in on long-form – but from our experience, we’re glad to welcome King Content in all his regalia back to the party – as are our loyal readers.
Follow Simon on Twitter @SimonJWilkes and check out www.planetsport.com to see their portfolio of sports websites, including Football365, TEAMtalk, Planet F1 and Planet Rugby.