The move toward mobile devices as the primary channels through which users access the internet has been a well-known trend for years, but the move away from desktops for news consumption is emerging as a new sub-trend. In Pew Research’s 2015 version of its annual study “State of the News Media”, the research group found that — as of the start of 2015 — 39 of the top 50 digital news websites have more traffic to their sites and applications coming from mobile devices than from desktop computers. Although, half of the sites see the visitors who come through desktops stay on their pages longer. For only 10 of the 50 sites did mobile users spend more time than desktop users. The top 10 digital news sites by total number of uniques for January 2015 were Yahoo-ABC News, CNN, NBC News, Huffington Post, CBS, USA Today, BuzzFeed, The New York Times, Fox News, and the Daily Mail.
This trend echoes what tech giants have known for some time now: that media outlets need to be mobile-friendly or risk falling behind. And some of them are not only recognizing the shift towards mobile news consumption use, but making it an essential part of the evolution for some companies. On April 21, Google changed one of its algorithms to make its search engine more mobile-friendly. The company said that it intends on “expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal”. This change is affecting mobile searches in all languages, and sites that are not formatted well for mobile devices will find themselves potentially ranked lower. It’s a push Google is making to improve the mobile user experience while seemingly forcing slower-to-mobile companies to get their acts together.
This trend towards mobile news consumption also makes sense when considering how heavily social media companies have been looking into providing news-based services. Facebook, most prominently, has elevated its news delivery features over the last couple of years to include “FB Newswire” updates in user feeds as well as current events and breaking news. Indeed, Pew published last year that roughly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults use Facebook, and half of those users get their news there.
Pew makes a point of stating, though, that legacy platforms are not entirely being left behind: local television is still a popular platform for news consumption. But cable news had another dismal year — something that, by this point, is expected from that industry as more users defect to streaming, online TV services. And here is where YouTube comes in. The site is a massively popular outlet for news; Pew’s research last year says that the Google-owned network is used by about one-fifth of Americans for news consumption.
All in all, American media has been scrambling to fill the mobile need, and it doesn’t look like they will be able to take a breather any time soon.