Archive for October, 2015

The News Isn’t Just Mobile, It’s Social Too

With tablet growth slowing and the desktop computer becoming redundant, it’s safe to say that there is a revolution going on.

Tablet use is slowing down, and because of the ascendance of smartphones with bigger screens and unlimited apps and adequate battery life, the need for a separate, less portable touch screen device or desktop unit in the home is diminishing. The role of the laptop and desktop computer has definitely changed. Recent trends show that these devices are not now considered it the most important device for accessing online news at home, although desktop computers still remain the most important device in the office environment. It is becoming the norm for people to use two or three devices to access their news. Smartphones and tablets allow people to remain connected to their news and information in their homes and on the move.


News as a category is being particularly affected by the fundamental changes that news consumption is undergoing worldwide. More people than ever are accessing journalism of all types through their phones and mobile devices, and when they do, chances are that they will be getting their information through social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.

Social media platforms have become de facto middlemen in the news business, and journalism and journalists are becoming ever more dependent on these new distribution platforms to find their audience. Publishers are being compelled to react and to examine their business models and strategies for the future if they hope to survive. If any news organization, even the legacy stalwarts of the industry, wishes to reach a large audience on the web and stay relevant it has little choice but to develop relationships with third-party platforms.

Smartphones are not going away, and we have not yet seen the epitome of their technical prowess. The social media trend propelled by the importance of smartphones will not stop, and in fact is growing. News organizations are in a fight for their lives, and they must evolve, but they are facing issues new to the industry. Publishing is ancient, and the business model had remained pretty much the same for decades. These companies are scrambling to find technological solutions to compete with the new social media giants created by Silicon Valley.

These new models are a win for consumers. News can be accessed in virtual real-time from a device that fits into a pocket. The many venues to access and share news is a great empowering force for information and for journalism as a whole, but existing publishing houses and their ancillary industries must have a strategy to deal with a future which is centered on a mobile distribution model which is dynamic and constantly changing. Control of the media and the message means something very different now.

We’re Getting Our News Differently Now

For well over a decade, as the desktop/laptop/smartphone era of multi-device computing developed, traditional news organizations were at a severe disadvantage. Their business model, which had served everyone well for decades literally unchanged, was suddenly competing against flexible and financially stronger tech companies. The change is not complete even now. It’s all about mobile, both in the technology and the way of thinking about how we access information.

The rise of mobile access among digital news audiences has been incredibly quick and relentless, and in less than a year has gone from being on par with desktop audiences to nearly 50% greater. The shift is permanent, and the implications for digital media economics are profound.


These trends are not national phenomena confined to the United States or North America. They are playing out all over the world.

Jacob L. Nelson (@JNelz), a doctoral student in Northwestern University’s Media, Technology, and Society program, and Andrew Lipsman, comScore VP of Marketing & Insights conducted an analysis of leading digital news properties in order to understand this shift – See more at:

Americans over 50 are still somewhat less likely to consume news digitally as those under 50: some data suggests that approximately 40% of those aged 50 and older get some form of digital news compared to more than 60% of younger users. The degree and speed to which those under age 30 are moving away from traditional delivery systems is what is causing the upheaval.

Mobile access may finally be displacing the desktop model, but this development is not all bad. The ability for people to access all types of news on many different devices at anytime and anywhere has contributed to the net growth of news audiences. This is important because more eyeballs typically translate into more ad or subscription dollars.

Mobile use continues to replace desktop use and is even increasing the news audience overall. Desktop access is still significant, but the trend is clear. Audience growth is coming from mobile, and that fact should be the impetus for digital news organizations to develop their business models accordingly.

Until recently, online advertising has generated only a fraction of the revenue print or television advertising once earned, and mobile ads were bringing in only a fraction of what online ads typically did. Mobile app developers are creating more programs and campaigns to become new sources of subscription revenue and readership. But the economics are not that simple. Audience engagement is tricky to manipulate and translate into revenue generation. Nelson and Lipsman posit that while the mobile web is a much more important driver of audience, apps have a disproportionately high impact on engagement. This is only the beginning.