5 reasons local publishers should pay more attention to mobile news

What are you using to read this right now? A laptop, a tablet, or maybe even a desktop? Probably not. Chances are, you’re reading this on your mobile phone. A lot is happening in the digital publishing world, and that goes double for mobile.

Publishers of all sizes should be paying attention to the changes in technology as well as media consumption habits. Local publishers, especially, have to constantly study and find ways to incorporate the latest apps and trends in mobile media in order to keep up with their readers.

With that in mind, here are five reasons why local publishers should be paying more attention to mobile publishing:

1. Most digital traffic comes from mobile.

According to the Pew Research Center, a whopping 70 percent of the Washington Post’s traffic comes from mobile devices. Nearly half of the adults in the United States get their news from Facebook, and more than half of Facebook’s entire user base access the service entirely through mobile. It may seem obvious to us now that mobile would be the inevitable victor in the war for our attention, but it wasn’t always that way.

2. Mobile is where the money is.

Mobile now accounts for more than half of all digital advertising revenue. Pew’s latest annual survey of the news media says mobile consumption and platform domination continues to grow. Between 2014 and 2015, mobile advertising spending increased by 65 percent and topped out at $31.6 billion spent on mobile ads in 2015 — that’s 53% of the total spent on digital advertising for the year.

3. Long-form articles get more than twice the engagement of short-form articles on mobile

Source: Pew Research Center

In a 2015 Pew analysis of cellphone news habits, long-form article were shown to garner more than twice as much engagement time when compared to short-form articles.

Long-form engagement timed out at 123 seconds, while short-form engagement hovered around 57 seconds.

4. Mobile users are incredibly platform-loyal.

Snapchat has more active users than Twitter, and that number was virtually unaffected by the introduction of Instagram Stories. This may not seem immediately relevant, but it shows that mobile users are incredibly platform-loyal when it comes to the apps and services they use. They aren’t as distracted by every new shiny thing as you might assume.

This can work against you as much as it can work for you, but that all depends on whether or not you, as the steward of your brand, stay up to date on mobile user tendencies and brand perceptions.

5. There are a million bad ideas for every good one.

Mobile labs like the Guardian’s and R&D centers at big publishing companies are focused on mobile for the masses. Local publishers, however, often don’t have the time or money to invest in chasing new mobile technology on their own.

News apps are a good example of technology that was all the rage and expensive to implement for small publishers, with a shaky ROI. Apps were the future — until they weren’t. Even giants like the Washington Post don’t see a justifiable benefit—about 64 percent of their mobile traffic comes from their mobile website, and only 7 percent can be attributed to their mobile app.

What’s a publisher to do?

Most local publishers are overworked and don’t always have time to keep up with the latest industry think piece. Most local publishers are so wrapped up with advertising and editing issues that it would be silly to expect them to spend hours going through the latest Pew report or testing the latest mobile messaging apps.

This is why a regular mobile newsletter or similar communication service along the lines of the Local Fix would be valuable for the local digital publishing community.

“A mobile innovation lab,” said Chris Satullo, former Vice President of News at WHYY, “plays first a role in just being able to sift through everything that’s happening and give reliable advice and counsel to a variety of publishers.”

With that in mind, I’ve created a Medium publication called the NJ News CoLab, where I’ll be writing about experiments, trends, and topics in mobile publishing at the local level. I will include those posts, along with links to relevant articles and useful resources, in a regular newsletter starting in October 2016.

You can sign up to receive the newsletter by clicking here.

If you have questions, you can leave them as comments on my posts, email them to me at joseph.amditis@journalism.cuny.edu, or tweet @jsamditis on Twitter.

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