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What Your Newspaper Can Learn From USA Today's Mobile App Success

For newspaper publishers, USA Today is a recognized brand that reached national prominence and connected with a wide variety of audience archetypes, from business readers looking for a quick summary of the top headlines to average readers that loved lifestyle pieces. USA Today is leading the way again as their audience increasingly becomes mobile through a dedicated mobile application. Mobile marketer actually recently named the paper mobile publisher of the year. What are they getting right and what can their case study teach smaller publications planning their way forward? Here's a closer look at what you need to know.

SEE ALSO: 3 Rules for Mobile Apps for Newspapers

Advertising Follows Readership

USA Today focused first on getting the digital reading experience right. According to an interview with a newspaper executive, readership picked up on mobile devices approximately 18 months ago with advertisers following about a year later. In other words, developing your paper's mobile channel may require playing a long game. It's important to establish a sustainable mobile channel before expecting advertiser investment to follow.

Adapt Your Editorial Style

One of the keys to building an enjoyable mobile readership experience is adapting your editorial style to the mobile environment. Content that works in print editions or regular online websites may not flourish with mobile readers. But don't automatically assume that means everything must be short: USA Today actually learned that both long and short content performed well. Instead, it's about packaging materials and coverage. For example, the editors have found success with offering bullet point summaries of the day's leading stories that are released during the morning and evening commutes.

Visual Content is Important

Any publication that's had success in the online environment understands the power of visual content, whether this is images, slideshows, infographics, or videos. Curating visual resources that underscore the power of non-written media with mobile users can help expand your exposure and draw in readers. Different approaches that have worked include visual only stories, and supplements to other pieces that the publication is running.

Design and Device Targeting Matter

USA Today experimented extensively with different designs and formats for their app, their mobile feed, and how information was organized within. One point that executives are quick to point out is that it's important that your design is optimized for a wide range of devices. In fact, reviewing the analytical data has revealed different behavior profiles for different types of devices. The more tuned in your team is to this and the more you experiment, the better you'll be positioned to attract readers.

Integrating USA Today's Lessons

For smaller publications that are thinking of launching their own mobile efforts, it's important to remember that USA Today followed a deliberate strategy. They began by reimagining their mobile format and coverage to appeal to mobile device users. They built on data to offer the best visual and usage experience possible. Finally, exploring the impact of visual content helps publications offer richer mobile experiences.

If you're a newspaper editor or manager planning your growth strategy, the time has never been better to consider mobile development.

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