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Washington Post's mobile ad-supported strategy triumphs over NY Times

The Washington Post?s lead over the New York Times is likely due in part to its mobile and social prowess as well as a lack of paid subscriptions, following a shift in strategy which has greatly elevated these mediums.

Both publications have focused strongly on reaching their audiences on mobile this year, as it is now the leading platform for consumers engaging with media content, but Washington Post seems to have an edge with a wider online reader base, according to comScore. Since Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the publication last year, Washington Post has completely shifted its editorial and technological strategy to focus on mobile and the many digital platforms on which readers are accessing stories. 

?What stood out to me this year was the Post's willingness to try anything and everything in the current world of disintermediation,? said Mark Cluett, marketing manager at Polar, Toronto. ?I had the pleasure of seeing Jed Hartman, CRO of the Washington Post speak at AdWeek this year and was particularly struck by his comments around the culture shift and philosophical change at the publication since Jeff Bezos purchased the paper. 

?They think of themselves as a technology company now, and their focus on mobile, and admission that is where their audience lives now, reflects that,? he said. ?The Washington Post is focused on the reader first, and letting them consume content in the easiest and fastest way possible. 

?Readers are flocking to the faster experience on their phones.?

Thinking mobile-first 
Executives from The Washington Post at the Mobile Marketing Summit: Wearables and Holiday Focus 2015 showcased how its editorial team creates content specific to each of the different devices available today for consuming news content (see more). 

Washington Post takes greater lead over NY Times following a surge of November news

The Washington Post was recently reborn to promote a more fluid user experience across multiple devices, with a large focus on mobile. Having editors and writers keep the various platforms in mind when creating content was key for the publication, and is proving an important factor in its success. 

However, the New York Times is also a heavy hitter on mobile as well, with innovations such as an entirely new application for virtual reality films and the leveraging of Google?s Accelerated Mobile Pages Project. But with the overage of free content on mobile, the subscription strategy might be an outdated idea for today?s consumer-driven and ad-supported industry. 

?While paid subscription seemed like a reasonable revenue source on print, the Internet is an entirely different platform and the same business model does not work as effectively,? said Juan Margenat, chief operating officer at Marfeel. ?The leading way of subsidizing content today is ads, ads are essentially sponsoring the mobile Web. 

?A parallel example is paid apps, which are quickly diminishing from app stores' top lists,? he said. 

2016 look-ahead 
For the upcoming year, publications need to put mobile as a priority instead of a choice to stay an important asset to their readers, focusing on speed, enriching experiences, visibility and optimization. 

Also, while ad-blocking is becoming more popular with mobile users, publishers must develop more native advertising capabilities for their marketing partners. Consumers do not want clunky pop-up ads interrupting their mobile experience, so marketers serving ad content that coincides with the reading experience or offers individuals a rewarding experience will fare much better than those that do not. 

For instance, the Pandora jewelry chain saw upbeat results from a trial of a new ad format offered by Hearst Magazines UK that provides a range of interactive features while combining storytelling with a mobile native user experience (see more). 

Pandora focuses on native advertising and sees results

?Attention spans are shrinking, and it shows that readers have little patience for long load times on mobile, especially when they are keeping their eyes on their data plan,? Mark Cluett said. ?The publishers that focus on delighting their readers mobile experience, and monetizing through non-standard advertising, like native and sponsored content, will be the ones to separate themselves from the pack in the next 12 months.?

Final take
Brielle Jaekel is editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer