The Hockey News expands its mobile reach

The Transcontinental pub is launching a new VIP program for its mobile alert service, extending its reach with SMS-specific strategies and sponsorship opps.

While smartphone apps may be all the rage, there are a significant number of mobile phone users who don’t have that specific device, relying a regular ol’ cell phone. It’s those millions of people that The Hockey News is hoping to reach with its upgraded mobile app and new THN VIP premium mobile alert service.

The new program expands the functionality of the mobile app into the paid realm, offering users the opportunity to sign up for a monthly subscription service. For a fee, users receive exclusive access to videos on the mobile site (iPhone only), and real-time, in-app hockey alerts, such as game reminders and scores. Each alert arrives on the phone and drives the user back to the mobile site for additional information.

BlackBerry and iPhone users can sign up for the new service too (for $2 and $1.99 respectively), but most significantly, says Tom Emrich, product manager, mobile and e-reader platforms, Transcontinental Media, the VIP mobile program is being extended to ‘regular’ handset users via a premium-paid SMS program.

The goal was to open up THN‘s mobile capabilities to a much wider audience, which Emrich pegs at approximately 80% of the cell phone-owning population.

‘Of course we expect more downloads for the app because of new functionality, but really, the expansion of reach comes from the fact that THN mobile was only reaching a fraction of the handset population. Now, you don’t have to be a Blackberry or iPhone user to engage with the brand through the mobile platform.’

THN will be promoting the app through its own properties, including (348,000 unique monthly visitors, Google Analytics), its e-newsletter (with 23,000 subscribers) and its print edition (with a total paid and verified circulation of 106,630 issues, ABC, December 2009).

Print ads will include a call-to-action based on a shortcode, which Emrich thinks will drive more response because the reader doesn’t have to go to a site, but rather just punch in five numbers on his or her mobile keypad.

Ad opportunities tied to the program are not yet final, but The Hockey News is currently exploring sponsorship opportunities for both the smartphone and SMS alerts, in addition to the traditional mobile display ad inventory already available on THN mobile, Emrich says.

The Hockey News mobile application (for iPhone and BlackBerry) has been available since 2008, garnering 515,000 unique downloads from hockey-news hungry fans since its launch.