It’s no overstatement to say that mobile technologies have revolutionised the way we consume news.
In a recent piece of research we conducted among 1,000 UK consumers, news was only behind social networking and looking up directions as the most popular reason for browsing on a mobile device.
For the over 45s, news is the most important reason to browse on mobile.
What’s more, the research found that mobile hasn’t just matched print and desktop in consumer preference for consuming news, it has surpassed both to become the favourite way to get the headlines. Just 19% now prefer print and 23% desktop, compared to 42% who’d rather read on mobile.
So there’s no denying that mobile is important to consumers and, by extension, it must be to publishers. Adam Tinton of Reed Business Information reckons media brands have six months to get themselves a mobile strategy, but what are the key components to address in it?
We asked consumers what the most important elements of a mobile experience were, then we benchmarked 12 of the UK’s biggest news publishers to find out how they were doing.
Personalise and contextualise
Personlisation is a hot topic in digital marketing, and it is even more important on mobile where your audience has less time to browse around for relevant content.
Keep context in mind, in terms of device and location. On a smartphone readers want the headlines relevant to them, as quickly as possible, but that may change on a tablet device where they are browsing more leisurely and have the screen space to take in more.
The FT’s web app is a good example here, adapting intelligently to the device. It offers you a personalised home page when signed in and giving you the option to see either live content or articles from that morning’s print edition.
Search and value add
As with personalisation, the potential time constraints of mobile devices make search important too. Search functionality must be clear and easy to find, allowing users to find the content they are looking for quickly. The Independent adds value in this respect by allowing users of its iPad app to ‘favourite’ articles for quick access later.
The importance of community
An established method of building engagement on desktop sites is also of great important on mobile, allowing users to share and comment on articles. As mentioned, social networking just about topped reading news in top mobile activities in our consumer research.
The GuardianWitness app is a great example of this,. Dedicated to the publisher’s strong online community, it enables users to act as citizen journalists and really get involved by submitting their own content.
Align the look and feel
As a media brand, your audience is your main asset, and as in our tips for mobile commerce, providing a unified experience across devices is key to achieving loyalty. Try to make UX elements as universal as possible, and ensure that mobile sites and apps all have similar design elements to maintain a coherent look and feel.
Mail Online’s iPad app has a good approach, using some of the additional functionality that is afforded on a touch screen while echoing the branding and some of the layout of the desktop site.
When it comes to consumer expectations from mobile sites, our research found that speed is the most vital aspect. And it’s the biggest problem people come up against, as 49% cited slow load times as the most common issue they have when browsing on mobile.
Of course there are elements here which may be out of the publisher’s control, but network speeds notwithstanding it clearly makes sense to ensure the load time of your mobile site is super snappy in order to deliver readers their headlines as quickly as possible.
In our benchmarking, we were particularly impressed once again with The Guardian. Its mobile site loads very quickly, keeping the frustration of waiting to get the latest news to a minimum.
With the mass adoption of mobile as a medium of consuming news, there is a huge opportunity for publishers to take advantage of here, and only a short time to capitalise on it.
To read the full Episerver report and see who topped the publisher league table, download Mobile Strategy: What Customers Want from Digital News Publishers.