May 15, 2017
5 min read time

Media, entertainment & news: Up-to-the-minute mobile performance

In recent weeks, we’ve written a lot about mobile web performance and the importance of achieving content delivery on mobile that is at least as good as desktop delivery. Creating this parity - the seamless mobile experience - has been easier said than done, but it affects pretty much all businesses across industries that seek to facilitate business and operations and accommodate customers and employees however and wherever they are. And while these truths are universal - they do affect certain industries more than others (or rather more urgently than others).

We covered one of these industries, e-commerce moving toward m-commerce, last week. Another industry driven by consumer behavior and demand - that also lives and dies by its grasp and delivery of real-time information sharing - is media and the broader “news” industry. This includes a broad swathe of companies, ranging from traditional print news organizations to massive broadcast networks, from video platforms (such as YouTube or Vimeo) to dedicated streaming video services. While traditional media is not necessary always aligned perfectly with these other models, in the end, their needs align well: immediate content delivery, personalized content recommendations, delivering content optimized for the right device and network only to the right audience (subscribers versus non-subscribers). The needs - all required to deliver top-notch user experiences - are technically the same.

Meeting the challenge on mobile, especially, grows more pressing all the time. New research from Pew, for example, shows that up to half of all Americans access news on mobile devices often; this number is only likely to increase. The research indicates that 85% of Americans get news from mobile overall. 

“Breaking” news: Dynamic, fast and personal

Relying on up-to-the-millisecond breaking news and a lot of heavy multimedia content (videos are a go-to for mobile users), the news media (and similar industries) has its own set of challenges, such as people leaving their sites if the pages don’t load or videos don’t play quickly, don’t perform well on mobile, are difficult to navigate or look strange on mobile. But many of the challenges are also technical: ensuring truly personalized experiences without jeopardizing the user experience or slowing things down, ensuring that subscription-only material is delivered to subscribers, ensuring that rich media content, like images or videos, load and play smoothly and seamlessly, making sure that even as frequent cache updates occur, page delivery on mobile mirrors the performance of desktop, etc.

All content delivery in these diverse spaces comes down to the same thing: “breaking news” (or freshest content) - always and immediately available - not “news breaking the platform”. This is especially true for mobile, where performance hinges on many more, often uncontrollable, factors. But you can seize control over some aspects, including to varying degrees: feeding in up-to-the-millisecond content dynamically and fast - and ensuring that this content is the right, personalized content for the specific user.

On-the-go traffic: Anytime, anywhere

At the recent NAB conference in Las Vegas, the CBS network revealed that 60% of their traffic comes from mobile - and that this figure is low. In particular video content consumption is growing with no signs of stopping. This is true not just for networks with digital services, like CBS, but also for virtually every network and online platform that can leverage video to drive and enhance the user experience. As CBS’s CEO highlighted at NAB, consumption of video grows year-on-year. In 2016, people watched 9.5 hours of video during their day, which is already up to 10.5 hours in 2017. This is also happening on more devices, in more locations - and mobile is driving this growth. The same applies for social media, which accounts for a major proportion of traffic to news and broadcaster websites.

Social media is in fact where all of these things converge: more people are getting their news (and video/entertainment - or a combination of both) from their social media feeds. And they are accessing social media on mobile devices. Pew research from mid-2016 showed that nearly half of all Americans got their news from Facebook. As NiemanLab highlights: “The digital technology continues to upend the news industry” - and nowhere is this more obvious than in social media. But digital technology is also the way forward for traditional news media, as many outlets, such as Norway’s Amedia, have learned.

Shifting platforms: Optimizing for the multimedia mobile experience

Digital technology continues to change at a brisk pace, and along with that change comes big improvements for mobile performance, and by extension, the user experience. As content consumption continues to shift to mobile device platforms, the entire experience can be optimized with certain enhancements.

Varnish Software, named by Forrester as one of the top technologies to cure mobile performance issues, offers a number of these technologies to boost user experience and improve and fix mobile content performance.

With Edgestash, a templating language, and parallel ESI, which delivers high-performance management of dynamic content, you gain speed in assembling and loading mobile web pages, even when pages include personalized content targeted for individual users. Other factors that can impact mobile performance and mobile content delivery include TLS encryption and accurate device detection - both topics we will cover in coming blog posts.

Broadcast and media platforms, relying on instant personalization, are already - or close to - what Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, predicted in 1998: “If we have 4.5 million customers, we shouldn’t have one store. We should have 4.5 million stores.” He may have been speaking about e-commerce, but the underlying principle applies across industries, and media is at the forefront. The technology for enabling real-time personalization for every individual user is there; now the performance side of the equation must catch up to ensure instant content delivery.

Learn how you can optimize the multimedia mobile experience; join us for our live webinar on 23 May, 3 simple steps to optimize delivery to mobile with Varnish.

Register for the live webinar on mobile optimization