South African football newspaper Soccer-Laduma shoots and scores with mobile: case study/interview
As the World Cup kicks of in South Africa this week, mobiThinking goes behind the scenes on one of the host nation's largest mobile sites… a soccer lovers' site that attracts a much larger crowd than the PC site.
With the World Cup kicking of in South Africa this week, it is fitting that one of the host nation's biggest mobile success stories SoccerLaduma.mobi is dedicated solely to the beautiful game. This is the mobile site of weekly South African soccer magazine Soccer-Laduma.
The mobi site (as they like to call them in South Africa) has a loyal readership of 231,824 unique visitors per month, reading a whopping 5.4 million pages in May (the largest of all South African sites measured by Nielsen), which is more than double the readership of the PC Website… how many other mobile sites can claim that? The site has been going through a major redesign, and the new site will launch on the opening day of the World Cup – for a sneak preview, see here.
Mobile will take centre-stage for Soccer-Laduma during the World Cup. In between filing stories live from the action, the journalists in the stadiums will updating (and interacting with) all the users in the mobile forum everything that's happening in and around the stadium before, during and after the games – things that just aren't possible with the weekly print magazine.
On the day the South African team, aka Bafana Bafana ('the Boys'), was announced visits to SoccerLaduma.mobi jumped from around 60,000 to 90,000 – that's the World Cup effect.
Stats and facts:
Mobile site: http://SoccerLaduma.mobi
Unique mobile users: 231,824
Page impressions (views) per month: 5,382,731 million
(Nielsen Online figures for May 2010)
Record month (to date): 320,000 users; 5.8 million page views, (during the South African Premier Soccer League season)
PC Website figures (average): 100 000 users; 2.1 million page views
Contributor: Diogo Peral, head of digital media
Address: Unit 7, 1st Floor, Somerset Square, 55 Somerset Road, Green Point, Cape Town
Nature of business: Publishing, specifically soccer/football
Number of employees: 21
Q&A with: Diogo Peral, head of digital media
Q1. When did SoccerLaduma.mobi launch? October 2008.
Q2. Did you build it yourself? If not, who helped? We spent a lot of time putting together a list of what we felt was most important for our readers to be able to access on their phones. We then commissioned a company called Fontera to build the site. We worked very closely with the designers to ensure that the site had the right look and features for a mobile screen.
Q3. How long did it take? From drawing board to launch, it took about six months. It helped that the PC Website was already up and running already, as much of the content for the mobile site was derived from Website. A lot of time was spent refining details. This process never stops, of course – we never see the mobile site as complete, always regarding it as a work in progress. In fact, we have been working on a new version of the site that will go live on the day that the World Cup starts, check out the beta version here.
Q4. What were your motives/goals for setting up the site? Quite simply, we wanted to give the readers of Soccer-Laduma newspaper more of what they love. We've always had more content than we’ve been able to use – often scoops and breaking news that come to us too late for publication in the newspaper – so this is a great way to get it out there. We already had a fully functioning Website, but knowing that many of our readers have limited or zero access to computers, a Soccer-Laduma mobile site was essential.
Q5. How does the site meet these goals? The Soccer-Laduma newspaper comes out once a week; SoccerLaduma.mobi is live and up to date 24/7, anywhere, anytime. Besides bringing users important information like live scores, fixtures, results, TV schedules etc at the touch of a few buttons, we also break about 50 stories a day. Readers know that whenever they come onto the site they will have fresh news and up-to-date information about local and European football.
The mobile platform really comes into its own around an event like the World Cup. The Soccer-Laduma journalists at the stadiums will not only be doing regular articles, but will also be interacting with all the users in our Express Yourself forum letting members know everything that is happening in and around the stadium before, during and after the games.
Q6. Who is it aimed at? Are these existing customers or new ones? We built the site with our existing customers (the readers of the magazine and Website) in mind. But the mobile site also attracts new users, particularly those interested in features like European football (which is not available in the newspaper) and the social network called Ayoba (it's South African slang for 'cool'). The 2010 Soccer World Cup is a fantastic opportunity for us with interest in South Africa and South African football at an all time high, so we're hoping to attract a whole new audience to the brand new WC 2010 section on SoccerLaduma.mobi.
Q7. Were the customers ready for mobile? Did you need to educate them? Our customers were definitely not au fait with mobile sites when SoccerLaduma.mobi launched – many still need educating. If you’ve never used the Web on a cell phone, getting started isn’t that easy. First, they have to get their phone WAP-enabled with the networks – this is harder than it needs to be, and often ends up with the user getting frustrated and giving up.
We have had to invest a lot of time and energy educating people on how to access and use mobile sites successfully. Being a media owner with immediate access to our market through the newspaper, we could do this relatively inexpensively, but it could prove to be a major financial obstacle to mobile site owners who do not have cheap and easy access to media.
Also, among all mobile users, there is remains a deep suspicion and concern about being ripped off by the networks and/or advertisers when they surf the mobile Web. The networks can assist here by being very clear about what charges are involved.
Q8. Does your mobi site give you the edge over your competitors? How?The key to staying at number one is to keep your customers close to you. The mobile site has enabled us to do that. Through the mobile site, we are also able to keep our fingers on the pulse of what our users are thinking and saying. We do this by checking out the comments, polls, surveys and other feedback on the site.
Q9. What’s the revenue model for the site? Advertising, subscription, pay-per-click etc?All our revenue is derived from advertising because subscriptions are not an option in our market. Advertisers are starting to wake up to the fact that mobile is a cheap and easy way to reach a specific audience. We are beginning to see integrated campaigns where the advertisers are using both the newspaper and mobile site to get their message across. We also get bookings from advertisers who previously never advertised in the newspaper but find the digital platform exciting. The mobile ad network, AdMob has proved a great way to earn advertising revenue on any space that we've been unable to sell direct.
Q10. Do you have a PC site? How does the mobile site differ to the PC site? Our PC site has half the traffic of our mobile site, averaging 100 000 users and 2.1 million page views. This is largely due to the lack of access to desktop computers and Internet access among our readership and in South Africa in general. However, I don't know of another publication in South Africa that has more users on mobi than Web.
The mobile site is a pared down, cost-effective version of the PC Website. It only carries content that works on virtually all handsets. We also limit photos and videos that might be expensive to download. The key is to make things as easy as possible for the user and make him feel secure about the costs involved while still giving great satisfaction. If anything does not fit these criteria, it doesn’t make it onto our site. A user who has a bad or frustrating experience will tend to leave the site and could be very difficult to woo back.
Q11. Where did you publicize and how have you promoted the site? What has proved the most successful?Being a niche publication aimed at a niche market, it made sense to advertise in our own newspaper. We mixed up the ads, sometimes using a full page ad in one edition, and then a half or two quarter pages in others. We also included mention of the site within the editorial e.g. it would be mentioned in an interview with a player or by one of our columnists in their weekly columns. We would also feature a prominent summary on page 3 of the top stories that had appeared on the site in the past week, so that our readers could see what they were missing out on by not going to SoccerLaduma.mobi.
We do advertising barter deals with other mobile sites, that help us attract a new audience i.e. those that don't already read Soccer-Laduma. Currently, we have a link-exchange deal with the South African mobile portal Thumbtribe.mobi.
We also supply football content to a few portals with links back to our site. Football is what we know best, so we try and get out as much football content with our name on it as possible.
Q12. What’s the most popular feature of the site? By far, Breaking News. This is what keeps people coming back. If users want to keep up with the stories we break, they need to visit the site throughout the day or they will be out of the loop.
Q13. Can visitors register? Do they sign up? Visitors only have to register if they want to interact. Visitors are able to comment or start discussions on any section or article on our site. Interactivity is very important to the market we serve and as much as they respect a journalist’s opinion, they also want to express their own and hear what their fellow soccer supporters have to say. Some users have become mini-celebrities with a following of their own.
Q14. How much have you invested in your mobile site, so far? What sort of ROI have you seen so far?As we run both a mobile site and a Website and a lot of the overhead is shared by the two, it is difficult to separate the cost. In two years, we have spent just over SA Rand 2 million (US$ 255,000) and have recovered about 50 percent of that cost so far. We started to make a monthly profit from June 2009.
Q15. What has been the most difficult thing, so far? What challenges do you still face?The most difficult thing is telling an excited reader who has called our helpline to find out how to get onto the mobi site that his phone can't access the mobile Web. Our hope is that in the near future, all new phones will have WAP capability. We also hope the networks will reduce their charges, so that once a potential user has the right phone, he will not fear that going onto the Internet will “steal” all his airtime.
Q16. What’ve been the highpoints? The dramatic growth of the site and the appreciation shown by the readers.
Q17. What are your future plans for the mobile site?There is so much we still want to do. Football is what we do best, but we know there are many other areas in which we can serve our customers. We are looking at the possibility of introducing new sections in the future for things like buying electricity, banking, classifieds, etc.
Q18. Do you have any tips for other businesses that are going mobile?The first thing we’d advise is: do your research and make sure your offering to your customer is the right one. Be 100 percent involved from day one: don’t sit back and leave it to the designers and developers. They may be experts at what they do, but they don’t know your market like you do. Spend the money to get the best people on board. Don’t try to do this on the cheap. On the other hand, make sure you get references from previous clients. Building a site can be as stressful as building a house. There are so many things that can go wrong if you don’t have the right team.
Comment below or email editor (at) mobiThinking.com.
And don't miss:
Welcome to Green Point, home to Cape Town's brand-new 70,000 seat World Cup stadium and to South Africa sports newspaper Soccer-Laduma.
The World Cup effect: on the day the South African team, aka Bafana Bafana ('the Boys'), was announced visits to SoccerLaduma.mobi jumped by a third.
SoccerLaduma.mobi: one of South Africa's most popular mobile sites.
For much of Soccer-Laduma's readership, SoccerLaduma.mobi was their first time on the mobile Web… to some it was their first time on the Internet, ever.
A sneak preview at the World Cup section on the all new SoccerLaduma.mobi site.