Every morning before I leave the house, I do a quick scan of the top news stories on Flipboard. Later during the evening, as I’m watching TV or making dinner, I’ll check Flipboard again but this time for the more interesting and “cool” stories. I assumed that most mobile news readers generally had the same consumption pattern: getting news through apps (such as Flipboard, The Economist app or The New York Times app) rather than browsers (finding news through Chrome or Safari, for example). Wrong!
Over the last year, even as the number of smartphone and tablet users continues to grow rapidly, tablet users have moved even more towards using browsers rather than apps. A whopping 60 percent of tablet news readers and 61 percent of smartphone news readers use browsers for their news. This is a substantial increase from a year ago when 40 percent of tablet users said they mainly went through their browsers while 21 percent said they mostly used apps.
One factor in this shift could be the confusion over what apps are. 52 percent of tablet news readers who replied that they didn’t use news apps were then given a definition of what an app is and asked again on their usage. Of the 52 percent, 71 percent changed their answer and said they had used news apps. With the boundaries between app and online constantly changing as publishers get more creative, this confusion seems likely to stay. For more clarification on the distinction between apps and browsers, here’s a useful primer.
While consumption information is useful for print media companies as they transition to digital, what can the data tell them about the amount or sources of news consumed? Since browsers are more popular than apps, browser users should be more engaged with news, right? Wrong again. App users are more likely to use their tablets daily, while fewer of those who use browsers get their news daily.
Many apps like Flipboard encourage users to get their news from different sources, and the data reflects this. 29 percent of those who mostly use apps get their news from four or more sources, compared to only 11 percent of browser users. In addition, app users are more likely to turn to new sources of news and are more likely to read in-depth news articles.
The best news for print media companies is that tablet app users are more likely to pay for news. So how can companies encourage app usage? Some of the best apps I’ve seen are those that integrate online content. For example, when a Time reader downloads the latest issue of the magazine, within a few pages of tapping they will most assuredly encounter an ad unit that displays a feed of the latest content on the website. This enables readers to read in-depth articles while being able to scan quickly for the top news headlines.
What do you think? How can print content providers encourage usage of their tablet apps? Are there any companies you are think are doing a good or a bad job?
Tags: Apple, apps, browsers, news, print, smartphone, tablet, websites