Robin Neidorf Going mobile in the middle of the pack, lesson 1
Jinfo Blog

Monday, 26th March 2012

By Robin Neidorf


What can libraries and information centres learn from publishers about mobile strategy? A lot, as it turns out. This first of three Features provides hard-won lessons from publishers that information centres can use to move their own mobile efforts forward.


A recent speaking slot at Computers in Libraries on mobile strategies gave me the opportunity to think differently about everything FreePint Research has learned about mobile content over the past two years.

My other recent presentations have reported "state of the industry" for libraries and information centres seeking to put external, licensed content onto the mobile devices of their workers. I gathered this information through interviews with information managers and published in the FreePint Research Report: Enterprise Market for Mobile Content 2012. Although many of the interviews also touched on the need to get internal information to users, we tended to talk mainly about the challenges, costs and requirements of external content.

For CIL, however, participants wanted to hear how to put their own resources onto mobile devices  what did a library or information centre need to think about to create a mobile strategy for its own content?

In other words, how does an information centre become an effective publisher?

In preparation for the session, I realised that FreePint's work with publishers on their mobile strategies was equally applicable "across the aisle", as it were. As the board chair for the Content Division of the Software and Information Industry Association, I'm constantly talking with other publishers about their hard-won knowledge about publishing for mobile users. Through VIP's product reviews, our researchers have explored the good, the bad and the ugly with regard to mobile applications by a range of publishers.

This insight is critical for any organisation now thinking for the first time (or thinking strategically for the first time) about providing its users with mobile content. In fact, it's one of the great advantages of waiting for the second or third wave of development  let someone else take the risks at the bleeding edge of technology!

Here, then, are three of the key lessons, each as a separate Features article. If your organisation, library, information centre or department is facing increasing pressure to "make it mobile", these lessons can help you avoid expensive and time-consuming errors. 

Know the use case

Although mobile development had already been active, the first flush of excitement over tablet computers really pushed a lot of publishers into a development frenzy. Suddenly everyone had an app... and everyone wanted VIP to review the app.

But what was the point of the app? What did a user want or need to do away from a desk, with specific content, which required certain functionality accessible via the mobile device?

Not enough publishers could answer that question with clarity. And so many apps developed early in the adoption cycle did not enjoy widespread uptake among enterprise users. The use case simply wasn't there.

Today, publishers have gotten a lot smarter about understanding use cases for mobile applications. They've learned (or remembered) to ask questions about how, when and why the content is business-critical.

Those new to mobile deployment need to dig into the workflow of potential users. Do they need:

  • All content a desktop user might want, or only a subset?
  • The same functionality or will limited do?
  • Access to the content in its raw state or in a post-processing state?
  • The ability to incorporate one source of mobile information with another?

To be sure, these are basic questions that must underlie all product development. It was only the blindness that can accompany disruptive technology that briefly eclipsed good sense.

Get help on applying these lessons in your own organisation: email me at for information.

Three-part series:

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