It's Not All Cat Videos — Study Shows Mobile News On The Rise For Younger Demo

December 14, 2012

mobile news, mobile devices, online news

The swan song of print journalism is an overstated narrative, so there’s no use delving into the apocalyptic state of that medium.  It’s dying, will be dead (somewhat soon) and that’s that.  Let’s instead focus on some good news for media companies!

Just because the world of print news is dying, doesn’t mean the world of news is anywhere near death — the rise of mobile continues to be encouraging.  

But the best part of this story is that mobile news usage is actually growing at the fastest rate amongst young adults.  It turns out that the coveted 18-29 demo loves getting their news on the go and will check out the latest stories on their favorite devices more often and for longer periods of time than their parents.

According to a recent Pew study — 37 percent of smartphone owners between the ages of 18 and 29 get news on their devices daily, along with 40 percent of smartphone owners aged 30 to 49 vs. 31% of adults ages 51-64.   What’s even more encouraging for media companies with a strong mobile presence?  With the younger audiences, sharing is caring.  Younger mobile device users have an affinity for sharing stuff and this certainly applies to news they want to tell all their friends about using social media on said devices. And wouldn't you know it, this youthful crowd even likes to click on advertisements more, actually about twice as often than their older counterparts.  

According to Amy Mitchel, the project's acting director and study's lead author, it is paramount for media organizations to pay attention to how their different audiences consume the news.

“The study provides a snapshot of the emerging differences among mobile news users.   Understanding these patterns is important for news organizations as they try to engage their audiences — and build new revenue streams to support journalism.”

Survey participants also displayed a greater tendency to watch news videos (download the Newsy apps for free for your mobile device!) with 40% of them under the age of 40 looking for more audio, video, and graphics in their news.

It’s not all awesome news though for news companies, especially the ones who are looking for users to pay for a  digital subscription.   The study also found that only 9% of news consumers 18-49 paid for a digital-only subscription versus 25% still having a print-only subscription.

The final takeaway from this study is that younger users still prefer a ‘print-like’ experience on their mobile devices, which seems contradictory, but in my opinion, this is a comfort issue.  Just because they are adapting to consuming news on their mobile devices, doesn’t necessarily mean the younger crowd wants to view their news in an ‘uncomfortable’ or foreign manner.  They’ve grown up with reading a newspaper but now want to carry their mobile devices everywhere they go.  There’s a kind of strange intersection between an old school look and a new school device that seems to be the sweet spot for this generation.  

Early adopters will disagree with this statement but the interactive experience, however cool it might look, can be intimidating for some users and outside of the comfort zone of consumption that the majority are familiar with.  Check out the following quote from the study on native apps vs. web browsing for evidence of that.

“Despite the fact that media organizations develop apps tailored to mobile viewing, almost 60 percent of those surveyed said they read the news through a web browser on their tablet or smartphone.”

That 60% includes younger viewers and is a fairly significant majority in this discussion.  Will that number eventually change for the younger demo?  As the mobile shift continues to progress and as mobile devices continue to grow in popularity, I believe it will and sooner than later.  

It's still early in this game and this study is an encouraging indication for news companies that are playing it and hoping to win.