I'm quite fond of Bloomberg’s iPhone application. My insomnia companion is my iPod touch, used as an alarm clock, and as a convenient bedtime newsreader. And the Bloomberg app is my favorite: good navigation, a simple bottom toolbar (News, Markets, MyStocks, StockFinder). In the News section, stories are shown as they are published and each time I open a page a banner briefly pops-up inviting me to go (or not to go, which is good) to the advertiser's site. Articles are excellent as always, stocks charts -- although depressing for those who owns any -- are great, with pinch-zoom when looked in landscape mode. For a demo, you can go to this video,  or, better, download the app for free on iTunes Appstore.
Fine, but the Bloomberg app is still version 1.0.

Reading a newspaper on a mobile device will grow fast as new readers become available and smarter. Every news outlet that created an iPhone version of its site enjoys a huge increase in its mobile traffic. The results are even more striking when they offer a “native”, downloadable iPhone app.  In my view, today’s most elaborated app is offered by the free Swiss newspaper 20minuten which allows an offline reading of the newspaper.
And I'm personally curious about an upcoming application called Site Saver created by a Stanford undergrad. Its release waits AppStore approval. The app, costing $1.99, will let you download the portions of a website you plan to read later, offline,  without the delays and hiccups stemming from the 3G networks or a missing wifi connection. (Anytime/anywhere broadband availability exists only in Google’s imagination.  And, even there, a “flaky connection” mode is offered for Gmail/Google Gears…)
Why not push the idea a little further? Let's imagine. I'm a reader of, say, The Guardian, Le Monde or the Norwegian VG. And I want to consume my online paper during my morning commute. My iPhone (or any future similar device) is set to wake up at 7h00 sharp and download my favorite web sites’ latest updates. I have preset the items I want to read: the sport section only on Monday, the business section and politics everyday, leisure guides related to my city, why not a set of classifieds I want to follow, plus few journalist's blogs. Making my selection took me thirty seconds over the paper's regular (desktop/laptop) website or its iPhone version. The programmed download takes about five minutes. Then, my iPhone or my iPod Touch goes back sleep. When I turn it on in the subway, my online paper is ready to be read, with a swift and simple predetermined navigation.  I can set up a similar update for my lunch break and my return commute.

What about the ads you might ask? Here is a possibility. As Bloomberg does, a tiny banner shows up from time to time during five seconds or so.  In my system, each time the device updates its content, in the background it also downloads a page of ads linked to each banner. The ad can be a clever flash animation of 320 x 460 pixels, using iPhone features such as motion sensors and pinch-zooming, or even a video -- the iPhone doesn't currently support Flash but it will, sooner or later.  Then, if I click on a banner, the page pops-up. If I'm connected (WiFi or 3G), I'm invited to go to the advertiser's site. If I'm offline, I can't go beyond the pre-loaded ad page, but the application will update the embedded cookies, which happen to be mirrored with the cookies residing on my PC. Next time I'll use my bigger computer to visit the news site; I'll be presented with a special super banner corresponding to the one I clicked on offline, riding my crammed subway. Or, even better from a marketing standpoint, if I'm in a reasonably trusted environment and I registered without fearing an avalanche of unwanted chaff, I receive an advertorial email. Is it the magic bullet of mobile ads? No. Is this likely to do much better than the miserable click-rate on the classic banner? Yes, without a doubt.

Developing such applications is no rocket science. The cost for a V1.0 is between $50 and $100k. Two reasons why this is worth the investment:
- The more sophisticated a device becomes, the more time users spend browsing and reading on it. Data compiled by Ad Mob show international web requests over WiFi networks by iPhone users grew by 86% in the month of December alone as the use of the iPod Touch increased 3.6 times.
- As a consequence, the ad space on such device can sustain a strong premium over the declining display ads of regular sites. Think about it: half of the NYTimes.com’s inventory is sold through ad networks, i.e. at a bargain CPT (Cost per Thousand). Everywhere CPT is falling as inventories go up, time spent stabilizes, and economic pressure increases. In such context, retaining a captive audience in a specific space and time frame becomes invaluable.  Just like the in-flight Magazine is seen/read more than any other glossy.  —FF

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