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Marketers need to cater to ?snacking? mobile readers

Since the average mobile reader tends to skim through headlines and snackable content as opposed to diving into long-form articles, marketers and publishers need to redefine the way ads reach their readers on mobile.

On the one hand, mobile readers who skim through headlines and articles will still be skimming over ads, but that means that marketers need to make sure their ads are even more attention-grabbing and valuable to stop these skimming readers in their tracks. Publishers can also leverage data on who is reading which articles as well as when they stop reading to drive targeted advertising.

?It requires mobile advertising be more than just re-purposed online ads,? said Joline McGoldrick, research director at Millward Brown Digital, New York. ?The mindset of the consumer when skimming is, ?Is it worth my time??

?The ads that most successfully answer that challenge currently are ads that give something back," she said. ?Offers with tangible value can yield high impact, and 44 percent of mobile users want to see more deals and coupons in advertising.

"Additionally, interactive elements can be more engaging in rich media, providing a bigger window for brands to communicate their message or offer.?

Mobile versus online
While mobile readers may have a shorter attention span, that does not necessarily make them a lesser audience than desktop readers.

?Coupled with contextual placement and historical user behavior, ads on mobile still achieve a higher response rate than online ads,? said Sephi Shapira, CEO of MassiveImpact, Tel Aviv, Israel.

?While the mobile phone does have a shorter attention span, it offers more usage time and more user information than online media, [and] these enable effective targeting," he said. "These unique aspects make mobile an attractive media channel for certain advertiser sectors.?

Mr. Shapira believes that even traditional banner ads can go further on mobile as opposed to on desktop.

The fact that consumers may only skim headlines on a news site homepage means that all they are seeing are headlines and ads. That may make them even more impressionable than a consumer reading a long-form article online.

Yet, publishers should still be required to be upfront about readership data and ad performance.

Know your readers
Since readers are overinformed and impatient, especially on mobile, marketers need to go the extra mile to engage them in advertising. This is when targeting comes into play.

While consumers may not be reading full-length articles on mobile very often, when they do decide to, that makes them a valuable target.

For example, if a retailer is looking to place an ad on a news site, placing ads in articles related to retail means that the readers that choose to open the article will be more likely to engage with the ad as well.

Beyond targeting consumers based on interests, marketers can also target certain articles and headlines that have been proven to perform well.

Publishers can measure the scrolling velocity of readers as well as when they stop clicking on ?Next page? to inform marketers of worthy places for ads.

?A lot of publications break up their articles into multiple pages, which gives them a good statistic on when a reader drops off,? said Tony Vlismas, senior director of marketing and sales engagement at Polar, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. ?They can certainly use this data, along with scrolling velocity, to support if their readers are in fact abandoning longer articles.

?In terms of advertising, if readers are skimming headlines than they are likely skimming right past display ads, as well,? he said. ?For the article itself, it's more important now to ensure display banners are above the fold or sticky, so if a reader quickly becomes disinterested in the article, at least they saw the ad.

?Naturally there is a balance to draw between disrupting the reader with ads, of course.?

Solomon Masch, director of mobile sales and streategy at Time Inc., New York, believes that ads in mobile articles can still be effective if they are placed in the right location and the right time of day.

?Publishers need to closely monitor their audiences to see where the drop-off is, and the trends by time of day,? Mr. Masch said. ?For example, a user may be more likely to read a long-form article on their phone in the evening when they have more free time, whereas in the afternoon they may be using ?found time? (2-5 min increments of free time) to skim articles.?

Native advertising
Another way to engage impatient mobile readers is through native advertising.

?Native advertising is a great alternative, which appears in-stream on the publication's news site, with the look and feel of the other content around it,? Polar?s Mr. Vlismas said. ?Engagement on native ads is already very high.?

While readers may not read through an entire sponsored post on a news site, the fact that the post fits the context and feel of the site may be more likely to draw their attention, as short as it last.

?This ?skimming? behavior is one of the core drivers for native ads,? Massive Impact?s Mr. Shapira said. ?When users skim their Facebook or Twitter apps they see ads incorporated into their user experience that require the same amount of attention span as posts from their fellow social networkers. The ultimate native ad is one that is not noticed by the user, the key to achieving this is having the ad format match the form and the function of the user experience into which it is placed.?

Brandon McFadden, vice president of West Coast sales for Kargo, New York, does not believe that marketers should be worried about advertising on mobile news sites.

?I just think that advertisers have to be more innovative and integrated in the ways they advertise,? Mr. McFadden said. ?It provides a better opportunity for brand engagement if marketers understand that users are interested in discovering and ?snacking? on mobile content. This means they are more likely to engage with interesting, short form content - even brand content. 

?I believe native advertising has emerged in response to the shift in users' content consumption behavior," he said. "Instead of reaching a consumer when they are at the beginning or end of content, these types of ads speak to one?s target audience while they engage with content."

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York