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The Mobile Content Mandate35:31 with Karen McGrane
Do you think "no one will ever want to do that on mobile"? Chances are, someone already wants to. Karen will discuss why you need to deliver content wherever your customer wants to consume it — and the risks of ignoring mobile users. She'll also explain how to start your mobile content strategy, define what you want to publish, construct the relationship between your mobile and desktop site, and evolve your editorial workflow and content management tools.
[MozCon - Karen McGrane - The Mobile Content Mandate] 0:00 [? music ?] 0:06 [The Mobile Content Mandate - MozCon - @karenmcgrane] 0:08 [Karen McGrane] Back in the late 1980s, Digital Equipment Corporation, DEC, 0:11 was the world's second largest computer manufacturer, behind only the 500 pound gorilla of the industry, IBM. 0:16 DEC made its mark on the field, but their line of what they called minicomputers—see back in those days if you wanted a computer, 0:24 you had to clean out your basement and install this giant monolithic machine, hire a team of acolytes to run it for you. 0:33 And so DEC was able to get a hold in the marketplace by selling minicomputers. 0:42 Instead of being the size of your basement, they would be the size of a refrigerator. 0:49 Like this sexy, bad ass right here, the PDP-8. 0:54 The PDP-8 was really was one of their most successful minicomputers, and this was one the first lines of computers 0:59 where instead of having an expensive machine that powered your entire business, now say an individual academic department 1:05 or an individual engineering department, even like a theater group could by one of these things and use it to run the lights. 1:15 I have this fantastic photograph of—it's a super grainy black-and-white photo, reproduced terribly, but it's an awesome picture. 1:24 And what it shows is a farmer who has taken one of these things and loaded it onto the back of his tractor 1:31 so that he can do computerized potato picking, which is to some extent insane. 1:40 But also, to me, I think the PDP-8 here is the world's first mobile computer. 1:47 This is Ken Olsen. He's their CEO. Look how happy he is. Doesn't he look happy? Yeah, he's really happy, right? 1:57 And why shouldn't he be happy? I mean, he's the CEO of the world's largest computer manufacturer. 2:05 He has a track record of innovation. He has historically done his research, understands his customer base. 2:11 He knows what it is that people want when they buy a computer, and he has historically innovated to bring them what they want. 2:18 And he feels confident that there's no reason for anyone to have a computer in their home. 2:25 Why would you want that? 2:37 It goes against everything that people understand about why people bought computers, 2:39 how they used them, what they wanted to use them for. 2:43 It didn't make sense. 2:46 I'm pretty sure that you guys are sitting in meetings someplace or sitting around a conference-room table 2:48 and someone's saying, "There's no reason anybody's going to need to do that on mobile." 2:53 It doesn't make sense, right? That's not how you use a mobile devise. They can just use their desktop for that. 3:00 Okay, I want you to imagine it is 1988. DEC has moved on from their historically successful line of PDP computers 3:07 to their even more successful line of VAX minicomputers. 3:16 This is the VAX-11, first computer with a 32-bit architecture. 3:20 They are also selling their wildly popular line of VT 125 integrated graphics terminals. 3:25 This was the most popular graphics terminal on the marketplace. 3:31 This thing, it can do custom fonts, charts and graphs, rainbows shoot out of these things. [laughter] 3:34 Look how happy this guy is. Doesn't he look happy? He's really happy, right? 3:45 Okay, you kinda can't see how happy he is because of the giant Magnum P.I. mustache, 3:50 but I swear to God this guy is super happy with his VT 125. 3:54 So they're sitting on top of the world, and there's just no reason for them to believe that their entire market is going to be destroyed 4:00 by one of these cheap pieces of crap. 4:09 I mean look at them. This is not the VT 125 integrated graphics terminal. 4:17 This is a black-and-white television set from Radio Shack. This is not the VAX-11 32-bit architecture. 4:26 This is a cassette-tape deck. It stores its memory on a cassette tape. 4:35 It's only got the one dumb little rainbow. Rainbows don't even shoot out of these things. 4:43 So it's 1988. DEC is the world's second largest computer manufacturer. 4:51 They're the second largest employer in the state of Massachusetts, behind only the state government. 4:58 In 1990, just 2 years later, they post their first quarterly loss and they start laying people off. 5:05 In 1991 they post their first full-year loss. They would lose money in 5 out of the next 7 years. 5:14 And in 1998, just a decade later, they're gone. They're out of business. 5:25 The entire company is sold to the manufacturer that makes personal computers. 5:33 This has got to be some kind of crazy fluke, right? There's no way Ken Olsen could have ever anticipated this. 5:42 This has got to be something that is just unprecedented in the history of American business, right? Wrong. 5:50 In industry after industry, the new technologies that brought the big, established companies to their knees— 6:00 they weren't better; they weren't more advanced; they were actually worse. 6:08 The new products were low-end, dumb, shoddy, and in almost every way inferior. Almost. 6:17 Clayton Christensen had a theory called a disruptive innovation. 6:29 And what this theory says is that the pace of change towards technological progress is disrupted from the low-end. 6:32 New products come onto the marketplace and even though they are not better, even though they do not succeed 6:42 on any of the criteria on which you would define good—they're cheaply made, they don't work as well, 6:48 it costs more to be able to do the same thing. 6:56 Even though these products don't compete on any of the criteria which you would use to define a quality product, 6:59 they do one thing and they do one thing really, really well—better than anything. 7:06 They put the technology into the hands of people who had never had it before. 7:14 And this has happened time-and-time again. Think about radios. 7:18 Imagine it's the '30s or '40s, and you bought one of these gorgeous furniture radios that you're going to keep in your living room. 7:22 It's got rich resonate sounds, gorgeous craftsmanship. 7:28 You imagine gathering the family around there in the evenings to listen to radio programs 7:33 You're going to hand this down as an heirloom to one of your children. 7:39 Except your teenager buys one of these cheap pieces of plastic so she can take it to the beach. 7:43 Transistor radios weren't better. They sucked. The sound quality was tinny. You couldn't tune the thing. 7:51 They were cheap and made of plastic. 7:57 But what they did is they put a radio into the hands of a population of teenagers who otherwise couldn't afford a radio. 8:00 And within just a decade or two, transistor radios got good enough. 8:07 The more and more people bought them, the quality went up, and sooner or later, nobody needed to buy a big, furniture radio anymore. 8:12 The name of these companies that made these beautiful pieces of furniture radios, they're lost. Who knows who they are. 8:19 The name of the company that made the first transistor radio, they were called Sony. 8:27 So the same thing is happening today with personal computers. 8:34 Clayton Christensen's most embarrassing prediction, funnily enough, was that the iPhone would fail. 8:38 Steve Jobs showed it to him. 8:44 And when Christensen looked at it—remember he's a low-end guy—what Christensen saw was a really fancy cell phone. 8:46 He saw a luxury device that was pegged to the top end of the market. What he didn't see was a really cheap computer. 8:53 What he didn't see was really cheap Internet access for people who otherwise would have no way to go online. 9:03 The digital divide in this country is real. 9:13 I think it's easy for people like us to forget that having Internet access and a broadband connection and a desktop computer 9:15 is a luxury that is just out of reach—for not just people in the developing world, for people right here in the U.S. 9:23 In this country today, 20% of Americans have no Internet access at all. 9:31 Now that number's interesting, but it's not nearly as interesting to me as this second number, 9:35 which says that 35% of Americans—more than a third—don't have a broadband connection at home. 9:39 Now think about all of the things that you do in the privacy of your own home, hidden behind your own computer, 9:48 that you might not want the prying eyes of your coworkers or your boss or strangers on the street watching you do. 9:57 I don't know what you're thinking about, but I'm thinking about checking your bank statement, maybe looking up a personal medical condition, 10:06 looking for a new job—heck, even shopping for Christmas presents. 10:13 These are all things that we take for granted, we can do because we have a personal connection to the Internet. 10:17 For more than a third of Americans, they don't have that. 10:24 The numbers are even more stark for populations of people who have been traditionally disadvantaged. 10:28 It's 29% of Black Americans with no Internet access and more than half don't have broadband at home. 10:33 Numbers are about the same for Hispanic Americans. 10:40 About a third with no connectivity at all and about half don't have a broadband connection. 10:43 Thirty-eight percent of low-income American's don't have the Internet, and almost sixty percent don't have a connection at home. 10:48 You have to think, if you're struggling to pay the rent, put gas in the car, put food on the table, 10:56 having an Internet connection would probably seem like a far-off luxury. 11:02 The problem is people are finding the tools for escaping poverty increasingly out of reach if you don't have an Internet connection. 11:07 Eighty percent of Fortune 500 companies only advertise their job listings online. 11:17 If you don't have a high-school diploma, 57% don't have Internet access, and a whopping 88%—88%!— 11:25 don't have a broadband connection at home. 11:35 Think about it. It's like if you don't have a high-school diploma, which means you don't have a job, 11:38 which means that you don't have any money, which means that you don't have Internet. 11:43 So that leaves crystal meth. [laughter] 11:47 You laugh now. If I took your home Internet connection away, you would be stock piling cold medicine in like 2 weeks. 11:54 There would be an episode of Breaking Bad in here. [laughter] 12:01 So not everybody has Internet. You want to know what everybody does have? Everybody has a phone. 12:05 Everybody has a phone. In the last 3 years, mobile phone ownership in this country has gone up only a couple percentage points. 12:12 I guarantee that within the next few years—within our lifetime—that number's going to go up to about 95%, 12:19 and it is not going to stop for the rest of our lives. 12:24 Having a mobile phone is not a luxury in this country. It is a staple item, like owning a television set or having a landline back in the day. 12:27 What has changed is the number of people who say they have ever gone online using their mobile device. 12:36 Now that number has skyrocketed to 55% in just the last 3 years. 12:44 It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why that happened, right? It's smartphones. 12:48 I want to make it clear—when we talk today about the difference between the mobile-phone market and the smartphone market, 12:53 those aren't 2 separate markets. 13:00 It'd be like back in the day when we talked about the difference between black-and-white televisions and color televisions. 13:03 Eventually everybody just had a color television. The same thing's going to happen here. 13:08 Eventually everybody is going to have a smartphone, and that means that everybody is going to have the ability to go online. 13:12 So that means that there's this rise of what I like to call Mobile Only User. 13:21 This is a population of people who say that they only or mostly go online using their mobile device. 13:25 Of that 55% of Americans who say that they've ever used their mobile phone to go online, right now, today, 13:31 31% of them say that they only or mostly go online using their mobile device. 13:39 That's tens of millions of Americans. 13:42 And the numbers are even higher for, predictably, the people who don't have a broadband connection at home. 13:50 It's 39% of people with a high-school education. It's 43% of low-income Americans. It's 42% of Hispanic Americans. 13:56 And more than half—51% of Black Americans say that they only or mostly go online using their mobile device. 14:07 These numbers are also true for teenagers. It's 50% of people 12-17 and 45% of people 18-24. 14:18 Mobile, mobile, mobile was the final frontier in the access revolution. Mobile has erased the digital divide. 14:27 A mobile device is the Internet for many people—which is why it's great we're doing such a good job on mobile, guys, right? Am I right? 14:35 Now sadly, do you know what kind of experience we give to these people? 14:49 We tell them that search is broken, that pages redirect to the homepage on mobile, that all of the content isn't available on mobile, 14:54 that hover states are broken, that people can't find what we're looking for. 15:02 We treat these people like they're second-class citizens, simply because they are browsing the Internet through a smaller screen. 15:07 And it's time that we said this isn't good enough. We're better than that as an industry. 15:16 These people deserve access to the same content, the same information. 15:21 They deserve information that is every bit as browsable and navigable and readable and findable 15:26 as the people who are using the "real Internet." 15:32 So what are we going to do? 15:39 Well the last thing I want is for people to rush out of here thinking, "Oh, well Karen said we'd better go throw up a mobile website immediately. 15:41 "Let's just put up a poultry subset of our content in a separate mobile website, 15:48 and then we can all pat ourselves on the back saying we did a good job." 15:52 That's in fact the exact opposite of what I want you to do. 15:56 Instead I want you to take a step back and say, "Before we rush in to try and figure out what we want to do, 15:59 we need a content strategy for mobile." 16:05 This is super random. 16:11 It's totally weird how these things happen, but I just happen to have a book of the same title that came out last year. 16:13 You can buy it online right now and read it on your phone. [laughter] 16:18 So I want to leave you with 3 things you could do, go back to your office right now, start thinking about these things 16:22 as part of your mobile strategy. 16:28 The first one is that you should know how content gets made. How does content get created in your organization? 16:30 Too often what I find when I go and talk to people, I say things like, 16:39 "Hey, what if we were to get all of the people who are responsible at your company for posting things on the Internet— 16:42 "all the people who can contribute on the CMS, people who contribute on blogs or in social— 16:49 let's get them all in a room and talk about the process." 16:54 And people laugh and laugh and laugh at me and they're like, 16:57 "Karen, we don't know everybody in our company who can make content for the web." 17:00 And what's really scary about that is that now people are using mobile as an opportunity to create yet a silo, 17:05 yet another team that's going to go off and create something different. 17:14 We are incentivising the mobile team to not work with the rest of the organization. 17:17 We are telling them, "Hey, why don't you guys go off and do your own thing, rewrite the content, 17:23 have a separate publishing workflow, get something up on mobile. 17:28 Comcast—there's a page on their desktop website called Understanding Your Bill. 17:32 It came time to put up a mobile website, they rewrote the page. 17:37 Mobile users only get to understand their bill. 17:40 They took several paragraphs of flabby text and then tightened it up on mobile. 17:43 The mobile website—I'm going to go on record and say this—the mobile website is better. 17:48 It's shorter, it's simpler, it's easier to read. They managed to convey all the same information in a nicer package. 17:52 But if the mobile website is better, why isn't that just the website? 18:01 They forked their website. So now every single time they want to make a change to this, they've got to update it in 2 separate places. 18:06 Here desktop website last updated in March of 2012. Mobile website last updated July of 2011. It doesn't make sense. [laughter] 18:14 Nobody's got time to maintain a website where you have to make updates in 2 separate places. 18:22 It's not a strategy if you can't maintain it. So for everybody in these organizations that say, "Well mobile is somehow different." 18:28 No it's not. Baseline level of expectation is we should be delivering all of the same content to people on mobile. 18:37 Get there first in 1 package that you can maintain, and then figure out how to tailor things for mobile. 18:45 So the second thing that you could be doing to get ready for mobile right now, you could write better. 18:52 You could have better written content. 18:57 One of my big pet peeves in this industry is when I see all of these articles that proport to tell you, 18:59 "Here's 4 tips for writing mobile website text." "Here's how to write for mobile—top 10 tips." 19:05 "How to Write Content for Mobile Sites," illustrated of a man using his laptop outdoors. [laughter] 19:11 I think this one pretty much sums up my view on this whole, "here's how you write for a mobile audience" thing. 19:22 See there's no such thing as "how to write for mobile." There's just good writing. 19:29 All of the tips that you would see in those "top 10 tips for how to write for mobile" are the exact same things we told people 19:38 about how to write for the web. 19:44 And they're the exact same things we told people about how to write good, professional communication. 19:46 Write simple, clear, short sentences. Put the most important ideas up front. Break up the text with headings and bullet points. 19:51 All of these things you could start doing right now. 19:59 When the American Cancer Society was thinking about what their mobile strategy should be, 20:03 they had many of the same questions that you might have. 20:07 Should they come up with a separate mobile website that focused on just the most important information? 20:10 Should they make mobile a fun-size candy bar version of the website? Should they focus on the needs of the on-the-go cancer patient? 20:16 When the American Cancer Society looked at their data, however, they discovered that the population of people 20:25 who were more likely to be accessing their website on a mobile device was the exact same population of people 20:32 who were less likely to get the appropriate preventive care and cancer screenings that they needed. 20:40 So the American Cancer Society realized that they had a life-saving imperative to get all of their content on mobile. All of it. 20:47 And you want to know what? They did. 21:00 I dissected the American Cancer Society website, and it is a beauty to behold. 21:03 Every single page, every single bit of content, they found a nice home for it on mobile. 21:07 The mobile website is easy to browse. It's easy to navigate. It's easy to read. 21:12 I might even go so far as to say I like the mobile website better. 21:17 You know why? Because reading about cancer is, in fact, a very serious topic. 21:21 It is something where I like the focused experience of being able to really stare at that content. 21:26 And they did it without taking one word away. 21:33 Frankly, I think it would be disrespectful for the American Cancer Society to say, "You get less information about cancer. 21:36 Do you know why? Because you only have a little screen, so you don't deserve the full website." 21:42 Other people who get the real website, they can find out all the information about cancer." 21:46 No. All of your users, regardless of the device they are using, deserve access to the same information. 21:52 And the thing is, the American Cancer Society was able to do this pretty easily. 21:59 They didn't have to go in and change up all of their content to make it mobile friendly. You know why? Because it was good content already. 22:04 It wasn't that they had to design and write it for mobile. It was just good content, and it made the leap. 22:12 Good content transcends platform. 22:18 If you have great content, if your content is well-written and well-structured, then you don't have to spend a lot of time 22:23 hand wringing about how to change it up for mobile. 22:29 You just make it accessible and browsable and readable on a smaller screen. That's your mobile strategy. 22:32 So if you want to get there, the next thing we have to do is we have to break away from having these blobs of content 22:38 where formatting information, presentation markup is all mixed in with the content, 22:46 and instead we have to have clean, presentation-independent chunks of content that are flexible enough to go anywhere. 22:51 It's like if you want to embrace the semantic web, if you want to have a content model that will enable you to do true multichannel publishing, 22:58 then your content can't be all embedded in blobs where all of the formatting information is mixed up there on the page. 23:07 And it's because there are all kinds of questions we're going to have to ask about our content, like this page here from Amazon. 23:15 When Amazon made the leap to mobile they said, "Okay, let's take what is a fairly complex desktop page. 23:20 How are we going to break it down to make that page navigable on mobile?" 23:25 And they had to ask themselves a bunch of questions like what do we keep? What do we get rid of? 23:30 Do we keep all of this content? Should we get rid of some? How are we going to do that? 23:36 If all of your content is stored in one big blob, you might not be able to target specific chunks of it. 23:40 Should long pages be broken down into shorter ones? Well maybe. 23:47 This long desktop page from Amazon got broken into several different pages on mobile. 23:50 How are you going to do that? You need some way to be able to get at that content and chuck it up. 23:55 Is it going to work to reuse these headings as links? 24:00 If I come to this product page on mobile and I've got a question about the product and I look at these 3 headings— 24:04 Product Features, From the Manufacturer, and Product Description, 24:10 I don't know which was has the answer to my question in it. 24:13 Those headings made perfect sense on a desktop page when I could see everything else in context. 24:17 Now those headings are standing in as links, and frankly, I can't tell the difference between any of them. 24:22 I don't know what's behind them. 24:27 Same deal with the fact that they're reusing body copy for these teasers. 24:29 You look at this page and you realize, you squint at it and you're like, 24:34 oh, every word on this page is just repeating the name of the product and a couple of data points 24:37 about the zoom and the lens size over and over and over again. 24:45 There is not one word of value provided in these navigation summaries. 24:50 There's not one thing that tells me, oh Karen, if you have this question about the product, tap on this section; it's going to have it for you. 24:55 And finally, okay let's say our desktop content isn't going to make the leap to mobile. What are we going to do now? 25:02 How are we going to find fallbacks for flash videos or giant infographics or big tables? 25:07 How are we going to make decisions about what to send to mobile and how to provide fallbacks when we can't? 25:13 I gave this talk recently and somebody raised her hand and she's like, "We're going to use responsive design to solve that problem." 25:19 I"m like, "Responsive design's not going to solve your content problem." 25:26 Responsive design isn't going to answer any of these questions for you. 25:30 There's no responsive magic wand that you get to wave that automatically figures out for you what all this content should be. 25:34 You have to go in and figure out, what's the right set of content that we can have chunked appropriately, 25:41 so we can make sure that each platform gets the right information? 25:47 And the trick there is you're not thinking about creating content for a specific platform. 25:51 You don't have a desktop web strategy and a mobile web strategy and tablet web strategy and a Google glass strategy; 25:57 you have a content strategy. 26:05 And the reason for that is that you don't get to decide what device somebody uses to access the Internet; they get to decide that. 26:08 It's our mission, it's our responsibility to make sure that they've got a great experience, that they get access to the same content, 26:19 the same information, that it's browsable and navigable and readable, 26:26 regardless of what screen size or platform or device they choose to use. 26:29 And what this means, if we take the history of technology as our cue, disruptive technologies get good. 26:34 For all of the arguments that people say, "Oh, no one's ever going to want to do that on mobile," 26:41 or, "Mobile doesn't work for that. They can just use their desktop." 26:45 A few years from now, no one's going to say that anymore. 26:49 In fact it's just going to be taken for granted that everyone will expect to use their mobile device for everything else that they can do on the web. 26:52 And that's what's so exciting about this. Here's our chance, guys. 27:00 Here's our chance to do mobile right, to clean up badly outdated content, terrible content management systems, 27:03 broken editorial processes. 27:11 Mobile is our chance to actually fix some of these problems and do it right, right from the start. 27:13 Thank you. [applause] 27:21 [Cyrus Shepard] First question that comes to mind—are people willing to read long-form content on mobile? 27:30 [Karen] Yep. All of the data that I have seen says that people are actually more engaged reading long-form content on mobile. 27:35 If you think about it, it provides a really nice reading experience. There's not all that clutter and distraction. 27:41 If the page—honestly if you have great content, if it is engaging content, if somebody wants to read that content, 27:49 I would never tell somebody that they've got to shorten that or clean that up. 27:56 Now if you have crappy content, then yes, by all means use mobile as a filtering tool to help you col some of the bad stuff. 28:00 But don't be afraid of long-form content on mobile at all. 28:06 [Cyrus] That's awesome because one of the fears people have when they do the chunking that they're dumbing the content down. 28:09 But people will consume it online. 28:15
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