Lessons for news organizations from Facebook’s mobile success

par Jessica Weiss
30 oct 2018 dans Mobile Journalism

Facebook's recent announcement that it had made great strides in improving the mobile experience for its users may hold lessons for news.

The numbers showed that in the second quarter of this year, 41 percent of total ad revenue, or $656 million, originated from mobile. In July, Facebook had 819 million mobile monthly active users, 219 million of whom never visit Facebook.com on a desktop.

“Soon we’ll have more revenue on mobile than desktop,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.

The social networking behemoth's mobile conversion should be “a wake-up call for media companies and news organizations,” mobile expert Cory Bergman wrote in a recent post on Poynter. Media need “to aggressively re-engineer themselves for a new reality” in the “move from desktops to mobile devices.”

Facebook’s experience is “packed full of valuable insights for news organizations,” Bergman writes. Here are IJNet’s takeaways:

Recognize the need to go 'mobile first' now

News executives have expressed an ongoing doubt that mobile will make money, taking a “wait and see” approach in making significant investments. But Bergman says news organizations need to stop being skeptical, recognize the need for mobile and “move quickly and decisively.” After all, mobile is poised to disrupt journalism just like the Internet did more than a decade ago.

In fact, the mobile tidal wave is already arriving, Bergman says. Google, Facebook and Twitter control 70 percent of mobile ad revenue, so the challenge is no longer the lack of mobile dollars but creating a “mobile first” culture to figure out how to compete for them.

In Facebook’s case, Zuckerberg decided to change mobile from merely a product to a mission. And he didn’t wait to do that until he knew exactly how Facebook would monetize the switch. “Instead, he recognized he had to create the conditions and the culture for the company to figure it out before it was too late.” Only then could innovation happen.

Initiate an organizational transformation

Mobile is not just a new design or distribution channel, but an organizational transformation. You have to go all in.

At Breaking News, the startup owned by NBC News Digital where Bergman works, the team decided to go “mobile first” and then quickly revamped performance goals, product plan, design process, editorial strategy and revenue products to focus primarily on mobile.

At Facebook, Zuckerberg embedded mobile engineers in every product team, holding product leads responsible for mobile performance. He overhauled the company’s recruiting to aggressively hire mobile talent, and he created mobile training programs for hundreds of his engineers.

Mobile requires personal transformation

You can't initiate a transformation to mobile if you don't use or understand it yourself, or if you're stuck in a desktop-centric lifestyle.

Zuckerberg's own behavior showed a willingness to delve deeply into mobile, Bergman explains. Zuckerberg removed his desktop monitor from his desk; whenever someone pitched him an idea, he would ask, "What does that look like on mobile?" He blocked internal access to Facebook.com for a week, forcing employees to use mobile devices, and he urged staff to ditch their iPhones for Android phones to more closely mirror the population of Facebook mobile users.

Share metrics with the newsroom

One of the best ways to evangelize a shift to mobile is by sharing metrics with the newsroom, Bergman says.

At CNN, for instance, editors discuss the latest mobile numbers in daily editorial meetings, comparing and contrasting how stories fare across desktop and devices.

To read the full Poynter post, click here

Jessica Weiss, a former IJNet managing editor, is an Argentina-based writer.

Image courtesy of Flickr user TARO MATSUMURA under a Creative Commons license.