GUEST POST: LSN Mobile CEO Lee Durham on the Merits of Mobile

Not a day goes by where I don’t hear something about stations broadcasting to “three screens”–the TV, of course, the website, and, increasingly, mobile.

Today’s guest “Station to Station” post comes from Lee Durham, CEO of LSN Mobile. LSN helps stations get their content and advertising to viewers’ smartphones; partners include Raycom and Telemundo.

Durham spent part of his career at LIN and ESPN, among other media outfits, before running LSN. He takes it from here.

Watching Mobile TV: The Content and Advertising Opportunity

There are so many reasons why TV stations need to implement mobile content strategies, ranging from the need for additional advertising revenue to the importance of staying relevant in a competitive market.

But the best argument for offering mobile TV content is that viewers are already out there looking for it and ready to consume it.

Our company built out a network of mobile sites in anticipation of our local TV station clients adding mobile to their content strategies-a network that provides basic content that the stations can easily customize and complement. Many of the sites in the network already attract significant mobile traffic-even before they are affiliated with a local station. That’s a strong argument for mobile demand.

In one small town in Texas, we were seeing close to one million views on a non-branded site; the traffic had leapfrogged the affiliate’s own non-mobile web site. As a result, when the station did implement a mobile content strategy, it not only already had a local audience in place, it also had trackable page views it could promote to potential advertisers.

Demand for mobile content is out there. People’s lives are mobile, and they are utilizing mobile now more than ever-especially for local content. For advertisers, it’s a no-brainer: Mobile page views are beginning to surpass online page views, and mobile advertising puts brands that much closer to consumers making buying decision.

It’s up to the stations to implement their strategy the right way to capitalize on mobile opportunities the right way. And it’s not as daunting as it may seem.

Understand the content opportunity

The simple fact about mobile TV content is that once users find it (and they will), they can’t imagine not having it. Waiting at a doctor’s office, commuting to work on a train, looking for a quick news or sports update-consumers want that content, and they want it from a trusted source. It’s a similar phenomenon to early consumer behavior around the Internet and how pervasive it ultimately became.

The most important characteristic of mobile TV content is relevance. It may be “snack-size” content because of the mobile aspect and the size of the device, but you still need to be providing smart, accessible content that audiences need, and will go to regularly. Weather, for example, is a huge driver for mobile TV content. Have your meteorologist do a spot that reminds viewers that they can always “take us with you” on their mobile devices. Once they get there and see the timeliness and accessibility of your station’s weather content, your mobile site will be the one they go to automatically when they need an update.

Promote all of your mobile content efforts as complementary to your on-air and web presence.

You’re now able to reach viewers anywhere, any time, because your brand goes with them. It will expand your appeal to new audiences-including younger viewers-and it will reinvent your news brand as an always-on information source in your pocket.

That’s good for viewership, and it’s great for your advertisers.

Communicate the value of mobile advertising

It’s critical to educate your advertisers about the mobile opportunity. First, keep in mind that it’s not a mini Internet. You don’t want advertisers to de-value the opportunity and feel the CPM should be lower. It’s a smaller screen, but it’s a bigger opportunity, because it’s always on. Plus, you can now offer your advertisers the whole ecosystem of exposure: on-air, online and on the mobile device. That increases the value of their messages.

Advertisers and agencies also must understand the opportunity they have to reach consumers using mobile, and craft their messaging and how it’s packaged accordingly. Think about the DNA of the mobile audience: They’re on the go, very busy and looking to save time. If you’re an auto repair shop, you want to use your mobile ad to promote how you have Wi-Fi that your customers can use in the waiting room, or guarantee that customers who stop in for an oil change will be in and out in 15 minutes or less. Your messaging points should reflect the fast-paced mobile lifestyle.

It’s also important to understand the differences of the mobile platform and how they apply to advertising format. Part of that is keeping in mind lessons learned from Internet advertising, including pop-ups and spam. The bottom line is that if it’s annoying on the big screen, it’s going to be even worse on small screen. If mobile advertising is too intrusive, consumers won’t come back. Mobile advertising is clean, simple and direct. TV stations that help their advertisers understand how to optimize their ads for the mobile platform are going have much more success with their mobile strategies.

Don’t try to go it alone

Many stations feel they don’t have the resources to get started in mobile-and in many cases, they don’t. A mobile content and advertising strategy is very specialized, and stations with limited bandwidth are likely to find it difficult if they don’t choose an experienced partner. A strong partnership will help TV stations in crafting the right content approach, but also in developing and continuing an advertising sales strategy. Having a partner with mobile expertise will help engage and excite advertising clients.

Existing relationships with mobile carriers and a complex understanding of the broad spectrum of mobile devices are also critical characteristics to look for in a mobile advertising partner. The best partner for your efforts will have a strong and long-term commitment to the mobile industry, an understanding of how content can be optimized for every possible device that’s out there, and experience helping other TV stations pursue-and, in particularly, monetize-a mobile strategy.

How will you know if you’re doing it right? Traffic to your mobile site (which means expanded viewership) will increase, and revenue will go up. Stations that implement the right mobile TV strategy can expect to see, on average, traffic that is at least 30% of the station’s main website and three times return on the investment.

The opportunity is huge, if you follow the best strategy for your station, your viewers and your advertisers.

– Lee Durham

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.