The coming mobile era has changed things, disrupted sectors and also created opportunities. Jumping onto the trend is like wielding a double-edged sword, you might get it right and then beat the rivals, but you could also get things wrong that eventually leads to your own failure.
This explains why giants who built their empire on top of desktop are moving slowly and reluctantly towards mobile, while small time companies are more aggressive on this field. The former got too much to lose while the latter got nothing to loose.
That said, sometimes the big names also put their lucks to the test. Just like how NetEase acts when it comes to online news business.
In spite of its market cap of US$ 5.79 billion, way more than that of Sina ($3.14B), NetEase failed to keep up with Sina on portal business over the past decade. Sina is publicly recognized as a prominent and reliable online news outlet, on desktop front.
However, how people access to online news is changing gradually. Nowadays, people don’t just sit in front of their computers and read news from browsers. More and more bought smartphones and read news while commuting. Realizing the opportunities in riding on the user behavior shift could lead the company to a new access point to its news business, NetEase is among the first batch to launch a mobile news reader app for its portal site last year and has amassed more than 40.7 million installs ever since. The sheer growth also caught NetEase by surprise, according to their original plan, they were targeting at around 10 million users by the end of this year.
Along with the launch of the latest 3.0 version of the app at the NetEase Global Mobile Media Summit in Beijing, NetEase also announced an open platform in an effort to attract media partners to and make some money off the platform.
In an interview with Wu Maolin, New Media Director of the company, I was told that actually wasn’t the first to launch a dedicated news app for portal business, but it did gain momentum growth due to the company’s experience in Internet product design and development. NetEase, he said, has always been a tech-driven company. This gave it the edge over many other similar offerings.
NetEase is aiming to build up its name as the No.1 Media Brand in the mobile age, and the company, according to Wu, is nearing that goal.
On its journey towards that goal, NetEase made lot of tweaks to cater the news app to mobile users’ flavor. Instead of just copying-and-pasting news items from its portal site to mobile end, NetEase realized that one distinctive feature of mobile reading is that people won’t have that much patience to finish up long pieces on the tiny screen of their handset, so they shortened titles, added sum-up, altered contents and illustrations to make stories on the app fit into the mobile reading scenario. Reading experience, along with UI design and product features, consisted of the overall user experience of NetEase news app, Wu said.
When being asked whether there’re any concrete plans to monetize the mobile app, Wu said that in addition to several pilot programs, NetEase for now is still focusing more on curating a top-notch news apps and winning over more users.
Mobile trend gave birth to numerous startups, these small players who discern opportunities clearly and move fast have a big chance of succeeding. At the same time, established companies can also leverage on the change to revitalize its businesses. NetEase news app is just one of the typical and latest examples of big guys riding on the mobile tide.