Apps vs Browser In Mobile News Consumption

October 17, 2014

Over the past five to ten years, minor and major news outlets all around the world have become very aware first of the possibilities of the Web, and then — the possibilities of mobile. The development of the Internet and hardware has created a twofold trend — on one hand, more and more people switch to online news consumption from traditional sources, and on the other hand, this process is driven first of all by those who read news on their smartphones and tablets.

In August 2014, Raynolds Journalism Institute released a report stating that more than half of Americans use smartphones, and more than third use both a smartphone and tablet.

The same report states that more than three quarters of smartphone users consume news from their devices.

Another report presented by Reuters, which studied consumers in 10 countries with high Internet penetration, found that more than a third of them use two or more digital devices each week to get their news.

The question here is how exactly users get their daily doses of news and feature stories from the media. Unfortunately for news app developers, most of the users still prefer either surf through the links in social media or go directly to news outlets’ mobile websites.

The latest elaborate statistics that we have on this matter are from 2012, however there’s little reason to think that anything has changed significantly. According to the Pew Research Center, only 23% of smartphone users and 28% of tablet users said that they consume news mostly from apps, while 60% and 61%, respectively, stated they mostly do that through the mobile browser.

More recent statistics show that the majority of overall media consumption (not only that of news stories) is done via mobile apps. In a comScore report published in August, it’s stated that people in the US spend seven out of every eight minutes of mobile media consumption in apps.

Then why dedicated apps released by news outlets still remain relatively unpopular?

One of the most probable answers is that, as Cory Bergman of Breaking News put it, “simply extending a news organization’s current coverage into mobile isn’t enough.” In other words, most of the news apps today work merely as an intermediary between the user and content on the web — no wonder many prefer leaving the middleman out in the cold.

Actually, Breaking News itself is a good example of a good mobile news app, as it aggregates content from a few places and, what’s more important, allows to create customizable alerts and send push notifications to the user depending on their location or topics they’d like to follow.

To sum things up, if you’re a mobile developer working on a news app, think genuinely “mobile-first,” not just “mobile too,” and come up with the ways to make your app impossible to replace by a browser window.