The next big thing
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Finding revenue streams in a multi-screen world

The future of mobile news

Last week, we unveiled our latest research (with the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism) that examined the demographics of mobile news readers. In an interview with radio host Craig Fahle, The Economist‘s global digital publisher (and Lean Back 2.0 contributor) Nick Blunden offered his thoughts on what the research reveals about the future of publishing.

One of the year’s biggest digital debates has been whether publishers should invest in sustaining their publication’s app — or instead move resources to creating a mobile web experience. Blunden, however, suggested that apps and browsers shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as opposing forces, but instead complementary experiences. 

“We live in a multi-screen world — not a digital world, but a multi-screen world,” Blunden told Fahle. “People will use apps for a very lean-back, rich experience where they consume lots of content in one sitting. But people will use browsers in a lean-forward ‘I’m searching for something specific’ mode or in a social context where news is shared through Facebook or Twitter.” 

The conversation with Fahle inevitably turned to the question of what this new research reveals about potential revenue streams. Including digital access with the print subscription does add to the overall experience, making the subscriptions ultimately more valuable to the reader. And there is evidence that the advent of tablets and mobile devices has encouraged a new group of people to take out subscriptions. “But the numbers are still relatively small,” Blunden reported. “I think we as an industry have to do more to demonstrate the value of digital-only subscriptions – especially to Millennials. The research is quite positive about the degree to which Millennials are interested in consuming content.”

Another thing the research suggests about young people is that they’re much more likely to click on ads.  

Why are young adults more likely to click on tablet ads? Blunden has a theory: “In the new generation, there’s a realization that there is a value exchange in the world of media — that we consume content for free because its creation is funded by advertisers. Certainly the Millennial generation is well aware of this trade off and willing to be part of that equation. What that says to me is that media companies of the future should be trying to get revenue streams from subscriptions, while also making the most of the advertising opportunities.”  

Of course, in order to appeal to the younger generation, publications need to be where these younger readers are — everywhere.  ”The media community needs to make sure that our content is available on as many screens as possible,” Blunden remarked. “We definitely now live in a multi-screen environment.”

You can listen to the full conversation here.