ThinkMobileLogo.jpgA Wednesday-afternoon panel at mediabistro.com‘s Think Mobile conference Wednesday afternoon at Comix in New York, Looking Ahead: Mobile in 2012, brought in executives from two media companies that don’t quite fit the bill as traditional media companies.

Robert Spier, director of content development and mobile OPS for National Public Radio’s NPR.org, and Bloomberg Media head of mobile John Waanders got together with moderator and PCMag.com executive editor Dan Costa to discuss their respective companies’ mobile strategies.

Spier on NPR.org’s beginnings in the mobile sector and what makes it unique:

Podcasting was our first inkling that we could be competitive in the digital space. Our podcasting audience is, by and large, a very passive audience. They’re simply time-shifting what they know.

We’re really a multimedia publisher. We are no longer a radio company. We are a nonprofit: That doesn’t mean we don’t have to pay our bills.

Mobile is an opportunity to engage with our audience, re-engage with our audience, and hopefully expand our audience. We also want to leverage what we believe our competitive advantage is, and the trusted relationship we have with our audience. This gives us a chance to re-engineer the NPR experience.

A unique visitor to the iPhone app or the Android app is consuming six times more pages than visitors to NPR.org. Even visitors to the mobile site are consuming 20 percent more pages.

Waanders covering the same ground on Bloomberg:

I’m not necessarily sure that Bloomberg fits into the typical box of what you would call a media company. We seem bigger than we really are. The core of our business is really this tight-knit subscriber base of finance professionals.

Our founder (New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg) is an absolute techno-nut. Mobile was an easy extension from that.


Spier on what NPR is currently doing in the mobile sector and its future plans, after describing its four goals as “news checking, time-shifting and sharing, pocket radio listening, and customized listening”:

We’re beginning to experiment with throwing much more station-produced content into the API. It’s the greatest transistor radio since transistor radio. We’ve emphasized the possibility to both read and listen.

(Users are) engaged with the iPhone app for a lot longer — the average session is lasting 11 minutes.

We are working on an NPR Music app (targeted for a June release). This will be one more step in deconstructing who we are. We will be moving further and further away from this notion of us as a radio company, simply producing programs. There will be more emphasis on curation. This will be the first app where we try some e-commerce.

The image we had in our mind was somebody on a Sunday afternoon, after brunch, they’re home, and they have the opportunity to pick up the Sunday Times or pick up their iPad.

Apps are fun. They’re exhilarating. They’re the buzz at the moment. They’re a lot of hard work. We’re pouring a lot of concrete at the moment that cannot easily be repurposed. I would suspect in 2012 that we would take advantage of the opportunity we have to launch more microsites — things that are very nimble, that we can do a lot easier on the mobile Web.

We have decided that we will do very little video. That is a very competitive space and, while we have demonstrated to our satisfaction that we know how to do it, we can’t do it consistently well.

Both quantitatively and qualitatively, it is the optimal way to reach our audience.

Waanders on what’s next for Bloomberg:

We’re beginning to build mobile products that incorporate Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the Bloomberg Web site, Bloomberg Radio, and Bloomberg TV. It’s critical that your mobile strategy fits with your overall corporate strategy. We use our mobile to extend the visibility of our brand beyond the traditional client demographic. Data is demanded on these financial products much more broadly.

We’re working very hard to make our mobile applications create synergy between our products. If you can authenticate to our Web site and then authenticate to our mobile application, the same content should be available in both places.

The real key, I think, in mobile development for new organizations that are getting into this is not to give away the store.

The bulk of the changes we made (for the iPad) were to take advantage of the larger form factor. We thought about how the user would use the device, in what sort of a context. Longer-form stories are easier to page through. Our charts and visual elements are much easier to view.

More than anything, our core business is news — news, data, and analytics.