Mobile goes local

Posted on March 18, 2011 4:52 am by | Location-based Services | Marketing | Mobile | PR

Evidence is mounting that, while the Internet is global, people use their Net-connected mobile devices to access local content, information and resources. With mobile devices poised to overtake computers as the online access tool of choice, PR professionals should be resetting their thinking to factor in more location-specific communication solutions

That’s a challenge, since it’s far less resource-intensive to craft a one-size-fits-all interactive solution than one that can be tailored to a local environment or multiple solutions for different locations. But even the most cash-strapped communication department or agency budget can tap into newer tools and creative thinking to bring useful content to local stakeholders.

Three studies crystalize the need to start thinking locally. The first was the annual state of podcasting study from Edison Research. Strategy and Marketing VP Tom Webster presented the findings at the 2010 Blogworld gathering, concluding from the data that local content represented the greatest opportunity for profitable podcasting. Based on the data and the declining mainstream media focus on local communities, Webster said podcasters could fill a niche.

(You can listen to an FIR interview with Webster here.)

The same could be said of blogs and Twitter feeds. An independent group where I live, in the San Francisco East Bay, has been running a blog called Claycord for several years. I live in Concord, just a mile or so from the community of Clayton; Claycord covers news for these two communities, often as it’s breaking. When a Claycord tweet passes by, I pay special attention, since it could be something that directly affects my family and me. It’s granular content I can’t get anywhere else.

If ever launches a mobile app, you can bet I’ll grab it. Local newspapers are already getting into the game, like the Victorville (California) Daily Press, which offers a news app for virtually every smartphone platform.

But two recent studies reinforce the notion that Webster presented back in October. eMarketer reported on the local paces through which people are putting their mobile devices, citing research from Cross-Tab Marketing Services’ “Location Based Services Uses & Perceptions Survey,” released in January. According to that study, half of US mobile customers with location-aware devices use services that provide local information.


And this week, the Pew Internet & American Life Project issued a report claiming “half of all American adults (47%) report that they get at least some local news and information on their cellphone or tablet computer.” This doesn’t even require a smartphone, since older feature phones still account for most of the handsets in the marketplace. In fact, accordinhg to Pew, only 13% report using apps to get this content.

The use of apps will undoubtedly grow, even as access to mobile websites continues to be the source of choice for most people. that a million people are now using the ShopKick app, for example.

From the eMarketer chart above, it’s easy to see the kind of content people find valuable: weather, traffic, restaurants, convenience services, coupons for local establishments, ATMs, movie times and news. There are communication opportunities in these categories, but recognizing the emerging and inescapble trend of accessing local information from mobile devices should also kick-start some innovative thinking about other ways to reach interested audiences.

Claritin, the over-the-counter allergy medication, provides an allergy forecast on its website. That’s fine, but if I suffered from allergies, I’d want to know the forecast for the city where I’ve just landed, which would be much easier to access from my phone. To be honest, I was surprised Claritin didn’t already offer one, since the database already exists.

I recall a friend working for a PR agency with an automotive manufacturer account developed press releases that included the name and address of the local dealer that carried that model car, using a database merge to produce hundreds of localized releases. It should be simple enough to incorporate the same technology into mobile tools that make just about any resource locally meaningful.

As access to local (and hyperlocal) information becomes more common, our challenge as communicators will be to provide relevant, useful apps and mobile web access to conent customers use routinely, building our brands into trusted and valued resources.

05/31/11 | 2 Comments | Mobile goes local



  • 1.It makes sense that people want local information on their device, since most of what people look for on their mobile device is needed "right now". People that use mobile devices also use computers to browse the Internet, and that's probably where the bulk of other web searches is done.

    Nick Stamoulis | June 2011

  • 2.I couldn't agree more! Companies should be developing applications and cell phone friendly websites in order to get their content out on a more local level. I know personally, I use my cell phone all the time in order to find restaurants and other local information, and sometimes it's a hassle in order to find the information I need quickly using a mobile device.

    Stephanie Boggs | June 2011

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