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Mobile’s challenges for digital communicators


January 21, 2011

Welcome to the Splinternet.  That’s Forrester Research’s term for the fragmented online experiences and Internet access that stem from the expansion of mobile devices and branded content. It’s a fitting description given all the technologies influencing our digital code of conduct.

Morgan Stanley forecasts the mobile Web will supplant desktop Web access by 2015.  And Technorati’s 2010 State of the Blogosphere report indicates that 25 percent of bloggers now engage in mobile blogging. Content consumers and creators want Internet on the go, so we must be pragmatic about customizing content for each channel used to reach an audience.

The main online concern was previously formatting information for standard  Web browsers like Internet Explorer.  Yet even this has become more complex due to more alternatives such as Google Chrome and RockMelt.  Add smartphones, eReaders and tablets to the mix and suddenly there are many form factors to consider. Each platform renders content differently — and presentation and usability are essential for effective communication.

Your mobile usability impacts where you show up in Web searches, too. Password-protected sites and communities also limit discoverability. Thus, a mindset of modular content creation is required to promote visibility.

Coordinating with Web programmers is critical for some of these content ventures, while others may only require experimenting with free online tools. A good starting point is reviewing and testing how your information appears on multiple browsers, popular mobile devices and social networks. From there, consider these mobile communication options.

Tap into tablets
The iPad-resurrected tablet still appears to be in its infancy. Just 4 percent of Americans own tablets, according to Pew Research Center. Practitioners still have an opportunity to get ahead of the trend.

Device-focused publications that syndicate messages and place original stories are also on the way.  The Starbucks Digital Network provides Wi-Fi users in some of its U.S. stores with news from sources including The New York Times and Yahoo!, modularized for smart phones and tablets. News Corp is also planning an iPad-only newspaper.

Start thinking about the crisp stories and videos that these channels will want to carry.  You can also create your own tablet publication for a brand journalism approach. Flipboard.com can help you publish iPad pages.

Tumble into customized news formats
You can address online audiences most effectively by making the information they want more accessible and portable. An online newsroom created for mobile device viewing, for instance, may appeal to media contacts who travel or who simply want more than static Web pages.

Light-blogging tools including Tumblr and Posterous are becoming more popular and have user-friendly mobile features that encourage posting and reading from nearly any location or device. You can easily create posts containing text, images, video and social updates by e-mailing these elements to the system. RSS feeds keep content circulating according to followers’ channel and device preferences.

If you haven’t designed your messages with mobility in mind, then it’s time to expand your horizons. Being among the first to explore this space may have huge rewards.

Ryan Zuk, APR Ryan Zuk, APR, is a media and analyst relations professional, Phoenix PRSA Chapter member and Sage North America representative. Zuk can be reached @ryanzuk on Twitter. He also blogs at criticalmasspr.com.
Email: ryanzuk at gmail dot com



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