Should News Providers Focus on Mobile Browsers, Not Apps?

Jan 25, 2016

Article ImageAccording to The New Mobile Mantra, a report from Millward Brown Digital, over half (55%) of mobile users access news on their smartphones every day. That's a lot, but desktop use is still holding on, with 50% of users accessing news every day. When Millward Brown asked respondents, "How often, if at all, do you read, watch, news using each of the following mediums?" smartphones and desktops continued to lead the pack with 93% and 92% respectively. Tablets came in behind TV and radio with just 71% of respondents choosing that option.

Why is desktop still holding strong in the increasingly mobile world? "The majority of Americans are dual-screen (both desktop and mobile) users, and they consume news on whichever device is most convenient to them at the moment," says Margaret Hung, SVP, consumer dynamics & strategy at Millward Brown. "The increase in smartphone adoption and usage allows for the consumption of news during new ‘moments' due to the mobility it affords, but it has not completely replaced those occasions that people would use their desktop computer... yet. This is true among all age groups, although as can be expected, older age groups' news consumption are still more likely to be on PC."

Millward Brown Digial's research also confirmed something else many of us already knew: News consumers don't pay much attention to the source. According to Millward Brown, "Most search referrals--93% for mobile and 85% for desktop--are from non-branded terms, meaning that most consumers search for news topics, rather than news publishers." In other words, content remains king. More importantly, as a news provider, if your mobile strategy has leaned too heavily on apps, you may be creating a problem for your site.

While the top 30 mobile properties by vistor see relatively little difference in how their mobile traffic in coming to their sites--59.2% of visitors visited via browser vs. 60.3% in app--these numbers will not necessarily hold true for all news providers, and can be misleading if you have limited resources to devote to your mobile strategy.

"Search activity and actual news consumption behaviors show that news content takes precedence over brand and in the current environment, greater reach is achieved through mobile browser than apps," says Hung. "Downloading a news app requires a commitment of mobile phone real estate that only the most brand loyal visitors or subscribers are willing to make. The implication for news publishers is that more effort needs to be allocated to make the mobile browser experience as easy to navigate as mobile apps."

And how does all of this affect advertisers? "The implication for [publishers'] advertisers is that they need to consider the differences in audience size and composition between mobile browser vs. app users in placing their ads. Many advertisers favor mobile app advertising without fully understanding the trade-offs they are making in reach," Hung says.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)

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