The mobile dynamic

Last fall I wrote about an interview that Nieman Journalism Lab conducted with Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, who talked with Joshua Benton at length about disruption in the newspaper business. Christensen also addressed his idea that consumers "hire" products and services to fulfill an identified need.

I linked the interview to three actionable strategies that consulting firm Innosight finds useful in dealing with disruption. These included:

  1. Understanding the criteria customers apply in choosing between solutions.
  2. Pinpointing an important job that isn't being done adequately.
  3. Unlocking markets by eliminating barriers for customers.

The interview and my earlier post came to mind when I read "People aren't news reading; they are 'news snacking'", which appeared on mediabistro's 10,000 Words blog ("where journalism and technology meet"). The 10,000 Words post distilled a survey conducted by a global news syndication company into three trends:

  • People are checking the news more frequently and for shorter amounts of time.
  • It’s all about aggregators.
  • Social media is on the rise for checking news.

There's a bit of tautology in the research. Mobiles Republic, the content aggregator that sponsored the study, obtained survey answers from 8,000 of its News Republic app users. Not surprisingly, those app users were more likely to use an aggregator to obtain their news.

At the end of the 10,000 Words post Gille Raymond, CEO of Mobiles Republic, argues that "[news organizations] must have multiple streams of mobile news distribution in order to reach the mobile audiences and continue to thrive.” That may be true, although they could offer that distribution through apps (native or skinned HTML5) of their own, not just through aggregators.

In fact, two sets of data points make a reasonable case for creating and maintaining a branded mobile presence. The first is the growth in use of mobile platforms for reading news more than 30 minutes a day: 52% of smartphone owners and 42% of tablet owners claim to use their devices this way.

The second is "the most important things when it comes to news". Those responding named accuracy (82%) and freshness (57%), although to be fair, they also said "free" (57%).

This led me to ask, "Why does mobile work for news consumption? What job is someone "hiring" mobile to do for them?"

There's plenty of data in the Mobiles Republic report, but little of it gets at why mobile platforms are making such gains. Better understanding that dynamic could prove profitable for publishers.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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