African news organisations need to embrace mobile web opportunities
July 26, 2012
by : Kevin Anderson
Africa is now the world’s second largest mobile market and, as advertisers move to take advantage of this huge audience, news organisations need to move quickly to tap this growing market or risk losing out on revenue to support their journalism.
Already, Africa boasts an estimated 649m subscribers in Africa  and an estimated 86m new subscribers will be added by the end of the year, according to the mobile operator industry group GSMA. The number of mobile subscribers has grown by 20 percent each year over the past five years.
On the Knowledge Bridge, we have talked about the surge of mobile communications in Africa and given emphasis to the impact it ought to have on news groups trying to reach their audiences. Research from InMobi , the largest independent mobile advertising network, has found that this rapid growth in mobile use is also leading to rapid growth of mobile media consumption and mobile advertising across much of the continent.
According to the report, South Africa has experienced an increase of 14% in mobile advertising impressions on InMobi’s mobile network over the first three months of 2012, whereas the market grew 12% in Kenya . However, that pales in comparison to growth in Nigeria which saw a growth rate of 37%, the fastest in Africa, netting advertisers more than 8bn advertising impressions. Nigeria also had the distinction of being Africa’s largest mobile advertising market . With such growth, mobile technology is becoming a mainstream marketing and advertising medium through which to reach African consumers.
Mobile websites a must
A new report from Juniper Research finds that in-app advertising spend across all mobile devices  will reach $7 bn by 2015, up from $2.4bn in 2012. Juniper says that some brands have moved quickly to reach consumers via their mobile devices while others have yet to even create mobile websites.
In making the digital transition, it is key that news organisations not miss out on the shift to mobile, especially in markets like Africa where many consumers are skipping the desktop internet and going straight to mobile. Just as Juniper recommends that brands need, at the very least, to have mobile websites, news organisations need to make sure that their sites are prepared to serve the growing percentage of their audience who only use their mobile phones to access the internet.
Earlier this year, browser developer Opera, maker of the popular Opera Mini mobile browser, found that of its 169m users worldwide 56 percent only access the internet via their mobile phones . That figure was even higher in some African countries, with 68% of users in Senegal and 61% of users in South Africa exclusively using mobile phones to get online. Without a mobile website, you could be failing to reach the majority of your audience. If you only have a site intended for desktop computers, not only will it load slowly – if at all – for mobile web users, it could also cost them money as the larger page file sizes eat into their data allowance.
Revenue opportunities from the mobile web
Without a mobile website, you’re not just cutting off a large part of your audience, you’re also missing out on advertising opportunities.
In South Africa, the mobile advertising market is expected to grow to 1 billion rand, $118.7m, this year, doubling in just one year. Jason Probert, Head of Vodacom Mobile Media, told South African tech site Memeburn :
Previous estimates have dramatically underestimated the size of the mobile advertising industry as they focused on reports submitted to the DMMA by online publishers. When you take into account the entire mobile advertising ecosystem and include mobile ad networks like AdMob, operator services like Apple, mobile search and social networks like MXit, the picture is dramatically different.
South Africa is a relatively advanced mobile market, but the growth in mobile advertising will follow the audience, especially as advertisers find ways to successfully reach that audience. In Ghana, Volkswagen ran a text-based mobile advertising campaign to promote its new SUV. Mobile marketing agency Optism said the campaign had a 30% response rate  and that 90% of respondents asked for more information. Optism quoted a Volkswagen representative as saying:
In our business, timing is critical. With Optism and Tigo Ads, we know we’re reaching people who are interested in our ads, and we can be confident they are reading our messages because mobile messaging is so reliable.
Optism says that while text-based advertising can be effective, getting permission from consumers is critical to success.
Mobile advertising is developing rapidly and one of the lessons of the digital transition is that news businesses need to make sure that they are not left behind, either in reaching mobile audiences or generating revenue to support journalism from mobile advertising.
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