I really love this study by Pew on the state of mobile devices and news consumption. It crystalizes some things a lot of news organizations have ignored (or don’t realize, yet?) about the migration of users from desktop to mobile/tablet, and the effect it’ll have on their businesses.
Consumers are engaging with news more often and on more devices. The landscape is becoming more fragmented as consumers migrate from desktop (website) to mobile/tablet (app & mobile web), and news organizations are faced with increased competition for attention. To complicate matters further, the mobile/tablet ad spending is nowhere near that of on desktop. There is a major disparity in CPM rates. 2013 will likely be a pivotal year for news organizations. The reckoning is coming.
The Pew study confirms this fragmentation and increased consumption, saying:
For most with multiple devices, there is not a single place for news. People who acquire mobile devices appear to be using them to get news on all their devices. This also suggests they may be getting more news more often. About a third, 34%, of desktop/laptop news consumers now also get news on a smartphone. About a quarter, 27%, of smartphone news consumers also get news on a tablet. While this smartphone/tablet news consumer group is small, just 6% of the population over all, it is a large percentage of those who own smartphones and tablets; fully 44% of people who own both kinds of devices use both for news. What’s more, most of those individuals (78%) still get news on the desktop or laptop as well.
That analysis seems to be echoed in this slide from Henry Blodget’s presentation on the future of mobile and how smartphone/tablet sales are now outselling desktop PCs.
This fragmentation can further be underscored in the amount of time spent using the device and the consumption of news in the Pew study:
Smartphone news users are now nearly split between their laptop and smartphone as their primary news platform; 46% still get most of their news on the desktop/laptop; 45% get most on their smartphone. Another 7% of these smartphone owners say they get most of their news on a tablet. Early tablet news users are moving in the same direction, but remain somewhat more reliant on the laptop or desktop computer. Of tablet owners, 47% still get most of their digital news via desktops or laptops, while a third, 34%, have already transitioned to consuming most of their news on the tablet.
And, from the Blodget presentation, you can see the disparty in ad spend vs consumer time spend:
And, to complicate matters further, the news organizations are losing the war for attention as social networks are increasingly becoming the starting point. Consumers are likely becoming less brand loyal as a result.
For those who get news on both the smartphone and tablet, social networking is a much more popular way to get news. Among that group (13% of all digital news consumers), fully two-thirds (67%) have ever gotten news recommendations from Facebook. That compares to 59% who get news on just one of those devices and 41% who only get digital news via the desktop/laptop. Similarly, 39% follow news recommendations on Twitter, compared with 24% who just use a smartphone or a tablet and 9% who use only the desktop/laptop.
All in all, it’s becoming clear that consumers are using multiple devices to consume more news than ever, but paradoxically, it’s at the expense of the news organizations themselves! As consumers move upstream to smartphones and tablets, news organizations will earn less revenue per consumer till the gap closes between consumer time spend and ad spend. And, coupled with the fragmentation of sources, like social media, the news organizations are no longer the starting point. 2013 is shaping up to be a rough year for many publishers…