UK marketing director Rich Keen talks about how mobile is driving the future of its male-interest web properties...
The changes made by Facebook last week were a drastic reminder of the speed with which the web is changing. The old idea of having an attractive site that draws a discrete audience to it and keeps them there seems like something from the dinosaur age.
Today, it's all about sharing, syndicating, going where your users go.
This is scary for some online brands. For others – those who have grasped the opportunity – it's all rather exciting.
IGN is certainly in the latter camp. It began life as the classic Web 1.0 site, drawing a significant audience to editorial around video games with a family of sites including IGN.com, GameSpy, FilePlanet, TeamXbox, Direct2Drive and others.
It could have stayed this way. Instead, it built on its hardcore of young male visitors to add more general interest properties such as AskMen. Today, it boasts the largest concentration of 18-34 year old men online, with a reach of over 40 million unique visitors.
However, editorial content aside, what has really transformed IGN from a games site to a media giant has been its willingness to embrace web 2.0 ideas. IGN content is now available across all digital platforms – optimised for mobile, tablet, console and TV – and the firm has also launched 'external' properties with eye-catching success.
Today, for example, IGN has more than 1.4m subscribers to its YouTube channel, and has registered over one billion video views.
Now, the company is turning its attention to new forms of mobile discovery – NFC, AR, barcodes – and how they can move online brands even closer to where its users are.
This is why it chose to sponsor ME's Monetising Mobile conference on 'next generation mobile discovery'.
We spoke to IGN's Marketing Director, IGN Entertainment UK, Rich Keen...
Why is IGN so interested in mobile discovery?
We've moved on from the idea of bringing everyone into our site to going where they are via APIs. Obviously mobile is now changing things radically because it's no longer about where they are on the web but where they are in the world. And this is very exciting for an organisation like IGN. Its opens up more opportunities to trigger content discovery, whether it's through a barcode or a billboard or multiple other new technologies.
Is that a concern if it takes users away from the site?
I think there's no doubt that web audiences on particular sites will be smaller, but that shouldn't mean your reach is any less. You have to understand that content will go anywhere, and you have to want it to go anywhere. Our advertisers pay to reach our users on whatever channel.
Brands know that it's not about a banners on popular sites any more. It has got to be about using your content in an interesting way by making the most of the new platforms we have.
For example we're looking into feeding our editorial content into free-to-play online and mobile games, where it can be used as a tool to keep people playing and engaging where traditionally they would drop out of the game. We haven't worked out the ultimate solutions but we're open to experimentation, as a business we're constantly striving to innovate.
We're trying to think about the customer and not the channel.
Can mobile help bring new users in?
I think it can. We have alpha users that are the key influencers for the rest of our audience; they are the early adopters on our mobile platforms. They're traditionally tough to get to, but they're incredibly important and valuable. But ultimately we're aiming to get in front of everyone. If you look at what Nintendo and Apple have done in the last few years, they've shown that gaming can be universal.
It's obvious that these new mobile technologies have the power to change the way everyone uses digital services and make them more popular. It goes beyond just having app, obviously. Take Foursquare as an example. Its done well, so far. But there are still plenty of people who don't quite see the value in it and find the process of checking in a bit fiddly. You can see why they're looking at NFC, because 'touching in' just transforms the user experience, and that in turn opens up possibilities in payments and retail and loyalty.
How has the 'social graph' affected the way you interact with your users?
It's been fascinating. We're seeing interesting patterns emerging around social recommendations. "There's an argument that the Facebook 'like' is becoming more important than a Google link; one is about human recommendation, the other a static algorithm.
We saw this with a video we published for a game - which hadn't even been made at that point - called Dead Island. The video was so stunning that within 48 hours it had 5m views from 350,000 Facebook likes on YouTube. That equates to around 40m Facebook users. On the strength of that the game was made, and went to number one.