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People(s TWX) is the first Time Inc. magazine to move its mobile site to responsive design, using HTML5 to ease design and delivery across devices. The new m.people.com began to roll out Tuesday and should be available on smartphones and tablets with screens up to 7″ in size Wednesday. The 10″ version already optimized for iPad will shift to responsive design later.
Users opening the new m.people.com will see a change in content as well as design — instead of a curated news and photo feed created for snacking, the new mobile People offers the complete desktop content. For instance, mobile users will be able to read People.com’s celebrity blogs. And they will see a new ad format for Time Inc., a “snap banner” that sits at the bottom of the page but scrolls down the screen with the user and “snaps” into place when they stop.
The shift in content strategy comes from user behavior as more sophisticated devices emerged, Liz White, general manager of People Digital and Tony Brancato, senior product director, told paidContent in an interview as the site was relaunching. “Call what we had before version 1.5,” said White. “The initial version was us operating on the assumption that people were coming to the mobile phone to snack.” But when 25 percent of mobile users spend 5 minutes or more on the site, they’re coming for more than a quick snack. They also may be visiting from a variety of screens throughout the day.
White says People‘s mobile site has more than 4.5 million monthly uniques, according to Nielsen Mobile, and White says mobile accounts for about 10 percent of all People.com pageviews. People.com claims 13 million unique users a month and more than 1 billion pageviews. The majority come from iOS but Android is gaining. Kindle Fire (s amzn) is “a blip but it we see it growing; market share is picking up,” said Brancato. They’re also keeping an eye on Google’s Nexus 7(s goog).
The costs of a redesign make the switch to responsive a little more expensive on the front end, Brancato said, but People will save probably five times the cost in the long run in terms of upkeep and the editors’ ability to manage the site. For White, “The driving force is the unity of the user experience. As responsive design takes hold consumer benefits are huge, as are the brand benefits from making sure the consumer experience is viable on all devices.” Responsive design means the site should be able to adapt to new devices as they emerge.
The new m.people.com is also being edited specifically for mobile with “dayparting” in mind — changing the kinds of content that are highlighted to match or encourage certain kinds of user behavior at different times of day. For instance, Monday morning visitors will be offered a “what you missed” wrap up for the weekend, while evening users will get companion content for primetime shows like The Bacholorette finale. “We know people have more time to linger during lunch, after dinner,” said White. The slide below shows how people are using m.people.com throughout the day.
People has hired an editor for mobile — a first for the magazine and another first for Time Inc., recognition that offering the same content across platform doesn’t equal shoveling the same content. “Like most sites when we first launched, it was basically a feed taken from the desktop site built of a flawed assumption that people want the same kind of content,” White aid. That may sound a little contradictory given that part of this redesign is about making desktop content available. The difference is programming with mobile in mind and a mix of mobile-exclusive content.
White sees it as a way to make use of “found” time — the time opened up by a device that’s in reach and in use most of the day. “The mantra here was not just programming for the device but programming for the moment,” she added, whether it’s a quick check between meetings or during TV.
The redesign also includes some enhanced ways of sharing content. In addition to the now-routine Twitter and Facebook sharing, m.people.com users can share via SMS text message if they want to send a link to a sister or friend. White was shocked to realize how few sites offer that option.
Imagine how many texts might been sent the day People.com broke the news that Katie Holmes wanted a divorce from Tom Cruise.
People already has a mobile sales director embedded with the sales team. Motorola is the first sponsor using the new “Snap Banner”. While White didn’t provide actual costs of advertising on the mobile site, she said the new ad unit has a premium of 25-to-30 percent over People‘s usual mobile ads.
“The other major initiative as part of this is to build a very robust advertising experience,” White said. In addition to selling advertising, the site also is a marketing tool for subscriptions so users will see “touts” offering subscriptions.
People also will offer standard units and full-page interstitials within the context of how various ads come across on different devices. “When you have a screen size of three inches, you have to be really mindful of the difference,” she said; that does away with “the idea that we can just take the standrad banner and slap it on the page.”
The snap banner is their way of pushing the envelope by claiming attention for a advertiser on a long-scrolling page.