It’s been quite a week for news publishing with three landmark newspapers. The Washington Post, Newsweek and The Boston Globe all sold to new owners (Amazon CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos, International Business Times and Boston Red Sox owner John Henry, respectively.) It’s clear that traditional news publishers are at a crossroads, challenged to create profitable business models in an age when news is increasingly consumed in real-time and on mobile devices. It seems to us that figuring out how to design for and engage mobile users will be news publishing’s saving grace, especially now that more than half of the U.S. population owns smartphones and tablets are outselling PCs. Bezos, International Business Times and Henry should all take note of our new research, which underscores how mobile news apps are increasingly important for reaching and engaging audiences. Offering content mobile-friendly, easily digestible and highly social is something that new news publishers like Circa and Pulse are already doing.
We studied the behavior of people users of more than 500 mobile news apps from July 2012 to July 2013 and found that:
- People are snacking on news via mobile apps in shorter – but more frequent – sessions: The number of times people launch their news apps has grown by 39 percent year-over-year, from 18 times per month to more than 25 times per month. However, session lengths have shrunk by 26 percent year-over-year.
- Still, people spend more time in news apps over the course of a day than most other apps: In aggregate, users spend a total of just over four minutes per day reading their news apps. This is almost one minute longer than time spent on average in other types of apps (for the first half of 2013) and up 5 percent for the year.
- Tablets are the device of choice for mobile news consumption. Time spent accessing content in news apps on tablets is 50% higher than on mobile phones.
- The largest chunk of content sharing from news apps is not happening via social channels. 80 percent of content shares from apps are actually by email.
News isn’t going away. Publishers just have to figure how to – profitably – adapt to the new normal, which is mobile. The key to unlocking monetization for mobile news apps – such as paid subscriptions and in-app advertising – lies in having deep insights about your users, their lifetime value, and how they engage with your content and then personalizing the app experience. Jeff Bezos, International Business Times and John Henry: Are you listening?