The Two Money Factors for Mobile Media: Location, Relevance


Media organizations are still tiptoeing into mobile—both on the content side and with their advertisers—searching for a way to grab eyeballs and monetize this fast-growing channel where traditional paywalls, display ads and stories don’t seem to be as sticky. To do that they’re focusing on two factors: location and relevance, according to a new report—“The Smartphone Choices for Media Companies” just released by International News Media Association (sorry folks, only the summary is free to non-members).

While brands and agencies may be more focused on customer engagement—re-tweets or Facebook likes, for example— publishers want to attract an audience and make it pay, much as they have with print, broadcast and other traditional media. But mobile monetization has been challenging for all players, even as more and more people check news, email and social media via their phones or tablets.

To counter that migration, the INMA report found after surveying 18 media outlets, publishers are looking to geo-location and profile targeting to make sure content, and ads, are relevant to the viewer in a way they couldn’t be on a desktop.

Media companies are betting big that the next big innovation in monetization will be location-based advertising, though early experiments are only inconsistently successful,” the report says.

Two-thirds of respondents in the United Kingdom reported they were afraid to not have their phones with them while six out of ten Americans said they check their phones at least once an hour and half of 18- to 29-year-olds reported they use their phones on the toilet—no kidding—on a regular basis.

“Location is an important part of the mobile puzzle that most news organizations still haven’t figured out,” Regina McCombs, senior editor for visual news at Minnesota Public Radio and adjunct faculty at The Poynter Institute, told Ebyline.

It’s difficult to figure out the best way to tag content with location information—both technically and information-wise. Things that happen at the state capital are important beyond a 50-mile radius, for instance. Meanwhile, Google keeps developing location awareness in ways news organizations can’t hope to compete [with].”

Stefan Savva, mobile director at Fairfax Media in Australia, said both content and advertising has to be created with specific devices in mind, and that it better be relevant or risk being ignored. Fairfax Media owns newspapers in Australia and New Zealand, such as The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times and The Sun-Herald. Fairfax also owns radio stations, websites, smartphone and tablet apps.

We must properly target editorial and advertising content. We can personalize, target a time of day, an expressed interest, or a location, but we must make sure we’re absolutely relevant and top of mind for them,” Savva told INMA in the report. “Useful content is often stickier than straightforward news. We need both for people to keep coming back and staying when they do.”

But targeted advertising, still nascent in the mobile space, has gotten decidedly mixed marks so far, INMA reported, and creating location-specific content can be challenging for some publishers.

O Globo, a Brazilian newspaper based in Rio de Janeiro, is putting a lot of attention on geo-location since Brazilians are glued to their smartphones. In April, the paper launched VaiRio, a traffic app that provides alerts based on most-used routes, time of day, and street location.

“News related to traffic is geo-localized by our newsroom and a team located at strategic places around Rio de Janeiro,” said Melissa Beltrão, head of the digital business unit at O Globo, in the report, adding that the app has had a sponsor since its launch. The paper also is beginning to offer geo-localized advertising, but it’s still early days.

The newspaper uses different strategies for smartphones than tablets, too.

Sponsorship is the model that has been seen as the most interesting so far,” Beltrão said in the report. “We used to sell our mobile inventory through ad networks. That is not a good strategy when you want to learn how to sell mobile. You should have control of it.”

GFR Media in Puerto Rico, which includes more than 20 brands including newspaper El Nuevo Dia, recently launched Sal!, a restaurant guide platform, which allows users to make restaurant reservations, check in, share their experiences with friends on Facebook and Twitter, and rate and review the restaurant. Right now, GFR Media is offering two sizes of display ads as a way to monetize.

The company is now offering advertising based on location, demographics, psychographics and contextual targeting. It has also tried out augmented reality but found that the market isn’t ready for the technology yet.

Aisha Burgos, mobile strategy senior manager at GFR Media, said not all advertisers are ready for mobile or equipped to differentiate themselves.

In my opinion, tailored advertising is not for all brands,” she told INMA. “Not all advertisers have the resources to develop these types of ads. For those who can, it is very important for them to have a good combination of media in their marketing plan.”

Free Ebyline Guide

Don't Let a Bad Content Writer Damage Your Brand

The new content marketing basics anyone can use

Subscribe to the latest content strategies...

About Tim Sohn

Tim Sohn is a freelance writer and editor. He can be reached at and on Twitter @editortim. Also, check out his website at