Mobile versus Desktop – What’s the Future of News?

Mobile v. Desktop on Engagement

Attention and engagement with news websites is highest with mobile apps, according to a new study by Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on media, politics and public policy. That could be a canary in a coal mine, a data point to marshal your resources around. Add that global tablet sales have surpassed computer sales while fewer people are paying for broadband subscriptions and shifting to wireless.

Still – we all need context, not just a trend.

According to the study, far fewer people download news apps when compared to the large numbers accessing sites via their desktop computers or mobile browsers. AND, while mobile browsers win for reach, desktop computers win for greater engagement.

    “Time spent on sites via desktops is more than double that of the time spent through mobile browsers.”

Source: comScore, Media Metrix Data for March 2016. Audience reach is the estimated average number of individuals (in thousands) visiting any content of a website per day in the report month.Source: comScore, Media Metrix Data for March 2016. Audience reach is the estimated average number of individuals (in thousands) visiting any content of a website per day in the report month.

    “…the time spent on sites when accessed by mobile app exceeds the time spent on sites accessed through desktops or mobile web browsers. However… the mobile news app audience is only a fraction of the desktop or mobile-browser audience. … time spent on sites via desktops is more than double that of the time spent through mobile browsers. Another look at (the above graphic) points to a reach vs. engagement tradeoff. Though mobile browser users’ average time on news sites is short – audience reach is greatest through that mode of access.”

The study, which is full of data, explains shows how little we know of the growing use of mobile.  Apparently, users scroll more than read and engage with news sites when they’re on their phones. And, beyond raising awareness of where news organizations should invest, this study raises the bar on a far more important issue – how we as a society stay informed and make decisions.