March 31, 2014
Enola Labs

Enola Labs creates custom strategy and products for mobile and web.

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​As mobility becomes a top priority for businesses in every industry, it’s no surprise that our news has shifted from print to television and now, to the palm of our hand. As breaking news has evolved from the 5 o’clock special to on-the-minute tweets and Facebook posts, news outlets have developed mobile strategies for their products to reach their mobile users, which are quickly becoming the majority.

The New York Times recently announced their new low-price app NYT Now, which is set to be available on the iPhone on April 2. The app offers an $8/month plan that is part of the company’s “push to expand its digital offerings.” Current paying subscribers will not have to pay extra for the app. NYT Now will offer curated news from the entire Times site that a team of editors will be selecting, as well as a morning and evening briefing that will summarize the news of the day for readers. According to The Times, half of the publication’s online traffic comes from mobile, and they plan to release two more apps, one that focuses on food and another on opinion articles, this summer.

The New York Times began its online shift and strategy three years ago with its online subscriptions plan, and has since increased its “digital subscriber base” to 760,000 readers. The new app is yet another push to expand its readership and keep up with how subscribers want their news delivered. However, the biggest question floating around the launch of the app is whether it will incentivize unsubscribed readers to finally start paying a monthly fee. Only time will tell. The editor of NYT Now Clifford Levy said that the app is “a leap like we took when we went from print to the web,” referring to The Times.

In addition to The Times’ app launch, another study is giving hope to the world of news. The Pew Research Center State of the Media report released on March 26 showed promising numbers for journalism in its switch to the web. The numbers in the study showed what many journalists have always believed is happening- the world of news isn’t dying, it is merely evolving. A few key statistics from the study include:

  • Of the over 16,000 newspaper jobs lost from 2003-2012, 5,000 have been replaced with the creation of 500 digital news outlets in recent years.
  • Thirty percent of U.S. adults said they get their news from Facebook.
  • Half of U.S. adults over 18 said they watch online news videos.
  • While newspapers cut foreign reporting bureaus by a quarter from 2000-2012, other news startups like The Huffington Post and Vice Media are filling in the gap of international reporting. Huffington Post is seeking to rise from 11 to 15 countries this year, and the U.S. may “be seeing the first real build-up of international reporting in decades.”
  • Survey data showed that half of social media users shared or reported new stories, images, or videos and 46 percent said they talked about news or events on their social networks.
  • 11 percent of online news users have tried to submit their own content to websites and blogs.
  • Online ad revenue from digital news videos grew 44 percent from 2012 to 2013 and is only expected to keep increasing.

With these numbers and expectations in mind, it is no surprise that journalism has been attempting to switch from print to web over the past decade, and that now mobile has become a focus as well. A report from late 2013 by the Pew Research Center showed that 64 percent of tablet users and 62 percent of smartphone users got their news from their devices.

Locally, the Austin-American Statesman has a Breaking News app for mobile devices, as well as a Statesman app for the iPad. As the demand for news on our devices grows, so, too, will the market of apps for major news outlets.

Do these numbers mean that news outlets are shifting to a “mobile-first” perspective? In 2013, Pew Research reported that 54 percent of Americans stated they got their news from a mobile device, and 84 percent said they used a desktop or laptop to get news as well. Though these numbers are promising, it may take time for news outlets to shift into “mobile-first,” when they’re really just getting the hang of “digital-first.” “Mobile-first” thinking for news publications would be extremely costly and, even though the numbers say half of Americans use their mobile devices for news, it’s extremely risky- a major news outlet has not yet tested the longevity of a subscriber-based app for news curation, though this is soon to change with NYT Now. With the success or failure of NYT Now, we may see a huge shift in digital priorities for news publications.