Magazine publishers need to develop smartphone-specific strategies

Apple’s embracing of the phablet trend with the iPhone 6 is more than just an incremental change to screen size, it’s an accelerant of already existing trends that will change how we consume media and how media companies themselves will develop strategy.

So why exactly is this change in form factor particularly important?

Primarily because phablet adoption is accelerating the consumption of “bitesized media content” of the sort content creators like Buzzfeed or content aggregators like Flipboard have become so famous for. In short, smartphones are now the most ubiquitous consumer electronic device in the world and phablets will most likely become the most significant component of the smartphone market.

A whole raft of studies confirms the need for a more acute distinction. In 2013, a Forrester Study highlighted some of the key ways usage and content consumption differs between smartphones and tablets. Perhaps most obviously, smartphones are far more likely to be used on the go by consumers than tablets, this usage pattern means that any publisher thinking about a “smartphone/phablet strategy” must bear in mind the potential distractions of a lot of smartphone traffic, for example, using while on a commute or while on an office lunchbreak. VP Principal Analyst of Forrester, Thomas Husson, gave his thoughts about the implications of this data:

“Most marketers are still lumping smartphones and tablets into the same mobile bucket,” Husson said. “We believe this is the wrong approach.” The solution? Companies should work to deliver device-specific experiences to visitors in order to maximize the likelihood that they will purchase.

This translates into a need for a more “functional” experience than one would find on a 7 or 10 inch tablet, which is more likely to be used in areas conducive to less distraction and greater relaxation (e.g. the home). For a magazine publisher, less word-heavy, more video and high-res image rich content is therefore a necessity. The need and demand for this sort of content will only increase as bandwidth becomes more readily available, even in what used to be WiFi blackzones (such as subways) and device screens start to embrace 4k panels.

The success of Flipboard as a content aggregator also should be ringing alarm bells (not least because it’s a potential diverter of traffic away from the creator’s brand). Flipboard’s success is, in part, due to its visually pleasing yet highly functional user interface. Given this, magazine publishers should themselves think about leveraging this sort of functional, smartphone-centric approach by building their own smartphone orientated apps and, alongside this, developing content creation strategies that focus on punchy sub-300 word articles, high-resolution imagery and short videos. Long-form content has a good future in magazines – but gearing such content towards smartphone users is a surefire way of losing their interest.

In the coming week, we’ll be running a number of articles about our thoughts on the future of magazine publishing. If you’d like to learn more about what YUDU can do for magazine publishers as one of the leading mobile app developers in the UK, contact us at

2 replies

  1. “Flipboard’s success is, in part, due to its visually pleasing yet highly functional user interface. Given this, magazine publishers should themselves think about leveraging this sort of functional, smartphone-centric approach.”

    Except their approach is not smartphone-centric at all, it’s all about ubiquitary-content-centric. Come on, you should know better, their designers and developers have documented that pretty well and that is why they are actually succeeding.

    Where you see a smartphone-centric approach, they are thinking years ahead of this blogpost: porous containers which are fueled by contents.

    It’s smartphone-centric by accident, because they are leveraging User Experience on all platforms; the way content is thought is just a factor of the equation… and you should be surprised how many people are actually reading longform on their smartphones. Just Saying.

    • Hey John,

      Interesting points – I have to admit I was basing my own point about smartphone-centric approaches on the 3.0 update they released late last year, to me, the fact they were gearing UX/design resources towards the smartphone signified what I was talking about in the article, but you’re spot on with the point about seeing devices as “pourous containers”.

      Do you have anything that would be worth reading about longform on smartphones? I’d definitely give it a read, since it contradicts the established narrative.


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