We came to the conclusion that focusing on the consumer goal of “time saved” trumps the newsroom goal of “time spent.”
Folks, Facebook is a news app
This terribly misleading study by Reynolds Journalism Institute perpetuates a common misconception in journalism circles that news consumers prefer the mobile web over apps. More importantly, it also illustrates how the news industry is underestimating the disruptive impact of mobile by defining its business too narrowly.
The study asks “news consumers” their preference of using the mobile web (52%) over apps (31%), but in actuality, usage is skewed dramatically in the other direction. In a presentation this week, comScore’s chief research officer, Josh Chasin, said apps devour 85% of all time spent on smartphones and tablets. That jives with Flurry’s numbers earlier this year that put the number at 80%.
Sure, gaming accounts for 32% of all mobile time spent, which skews it toward apps. But even if you extract that number, apps continue to dominate mobile usage, with Facebook leading the way at 18%. In fact, Facebook is so big, if you calculate the time spent in the app’s web view — where you read a story inside the app — it surpasses the time spent of any mobile web browser (Safari, Chrome, etc.)
That leads into my second point. The study above limits the respondents to people who said they used a smartphone to consume content “within news websites or news apps.” But that filter ignores how most people consume news on a mobile device: from Facebook, Twitter and scores of mobile aggregators — nearly exclusively from apps, not the mobile web. Facebook alone outnumbers news apps and sites in time spent by as much as 600%, according to Flurry’s numbers.
The Innovator’s Dilemma — that revolutionary book by Clayton Christensen that journalists herald but often ignore in action — underlines the danger of narrowly defining the business that you’re in. If you doubt that Facebook is a news app, just listen to CEO Mark Zuckerberg call it the world’s “best personalized newspaper.”
There’s a big difference between limiting a study to people who use traditional news sites/apps and people who use their mobile devices to get caught up on what’s happening in the world around them. Semantics are everything, and the study’s results subsequently would’ve leaned heavily toward apps, not the mobile web.
What’s this mean for news organizations? First, if your news org doesn’t have well-rated iOS and Android apps, you’re missing out on massive distribution channels. “As a publisher with a robust responsive site but no native apps, this RJI study doesn’t ring all that true,” explained “Texas Tribune” in comments under a blog post about the study. “We routinely receive requests for native app versions of our publications, and many of our users don’t think to try it on their mobile browser. Rather, their default position is to go to an app store to find a news publication.”
Second and the most important of all, people prefer Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard and other mobile-first apps more than your own standalone news apps. That’s because users can get the best content from everywhere, posted immediately, personalized just for them and recommended by their friends. In order to compete, news orgs must personalize their mobile experiences, encouraging users to import outside sources, leverage social connections and participate in new ways — all things that apps do better than HTML5, at least for the time being.
Mobile is not a design — or just a shorter story — but an entirely new technology with new use cases, user experiences and business opportunities. Let’s not make the same mistake as many industries before us.
Mobile ads to surpass desktop in 2017: Research company eMarketer has once again bumped up its mobile advertising forecast, predicting that mobile advertising revenue will outpace the desktop four years from now. And when you work the numbers, the forecast calls for desktop revenue to peak next year and begin a slow decline.
By 2017, eMarketer expects US advertisers will spend 59.6% of all digital search dollars and 48.4% of display dollars on mobile. Doing the math, desktop ad revenue will peak in 2014 at $34.5 billion and decline to $30.2 billion in 2017. If you extract search dollars from the equation, desktop ad revenue is essentially flat from 2014 to 2017.
Mobile pennies no more. As publishers plot their next moves, it’s clear that mobile is not only where the growth is, but where the revenue is moving at an unprecedented rate. And that presents a problem: the overwhelming majority of mobile ad revenue today is driven by a small handful of companies employing a combination of native-like advertising with data-driven targeting at tremendous scale. That’s what’s driving the growth, not desktop-style ads ported over to mobile experiences.
Further evidence that a responsive design is not a mobile strategy. Most publishers currently lack the technology, investment and scale to adapt to the revenue shift, and this where the second disruption lies.
"It’s talking to Google"
For the first time ever, the Internet has surpassed TV as the “main source” of national and international news for people under the age of 50, according to a new study.
Meanwhile, mobile is poised to surpass the desktop — as early as next year — as the primary way people get news over the Internet. You can see where it’s all headed…
Poynter asked for a longer-form version of my earlier blog post, and here it is with mobile insight from Boston Globe, NBC, CNN and others.