If you think “mobile first,” you might be doing it wrong

The Financial Times CTO John O’Donovan drew attention as MWC wound down in Barcelona by suggesting to¬†The Drum that the term “mobile first” is a myopic strategy for content publishers in a cross-platform world. O’Donovan, whose company has built an impressive track record in mobile, said publishers who think mobile-first “are thinking of a point-specific solution, which is only one way of thinking of your audience,” and risk minimizing other platforms.

Coincidentally, Google’s Neal Mohan made headlines just one day later at a conference in Mountain View when he claimed that app developers and online publishers who focus solely on mobile are “solving yesterday’s problems.” Consumers move from device to device when they access content, Mohan said, so it behooves publishers and their advertising partners to establish marketing campaigns that can perform across multiple screens. And, that simply isn’t happening yet, he said, opining that “Consumers are way ahead of where advertisers and publishers are.”

“Mobile first” has become something of mantra in the world of digital content, but I think that is because so many publishers were so slow to react to the dramatic uptake of smartphone apps and the mobile web in general. It’s a fine strategy for stand-alone apps like, say, Flappy Bird, but publishers looking to reach their audiences across multiple hardware platforms need to start thinking more holistically about how they can create a relatively consistent user experience across those devices. And then they should start focusing on how to build apps and sites that are best suited for each type of device.