More People Access News Via Mobile Than Ever. How Do News Apps Keep Up?

Read Time: 5 min

The news apps ecosystem is an interesting one. Constantly-evolving tech changed the news industry really, really quickly, leaving outlets scrambling to catch up to a mobile world. But despite growing pains, there’s real opportunity; via a custom research study done by Nielsen and the Knight Foundation in late 2015, 89 percent of the adult U.S. population with a mobile phone access news and information from their device. Globally, these numbers are obviously higher -- with a good portion of Asian countries reporting high mobile news consumption.

This is all fairly logical: there are more mobile devices than people in the world, and a primary way of interacting with the broader world on mobile is accessing news and information--more so than desktop. In fact, when Steve Jobs died, President Obama said this: “There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

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There’s one more aspect you can toss into this complex equation: while news consumption through social media is growing, only about 22 percent of Americans fully trust news they get on social media. (That number is similar in some global studies of trust in social media-acquired news.)  So while the overall audience for news apps is smaller compared to some social media sites, this smaller-but-engaged audience of mobile news apps users presents a great opportunity for mobile marketers, as we’ll discuss in one second.

First, though: what brands/companies are engaging with users in unique, successful ways?

Quartz. Founded in 2012, Quartz is a business news outlet that publishes stories created to be consumed on mobile devices. It’s well integrated with the big social apps, while also creating a unique app presence of their own. Via the Quartz app, you interact with their chatbot to discover the stories you care about.





"We know that the future of news will be written in code."

Quartz, we agree. 


Circa News: Remember those old ad campaigns (across multiple industries) promising solutions for “... the man on the go?” (Razors, clothing, briefcases, etc.) Circa News could use that branding for news apps. After shutting down in 2015, the app was re-born this year with the same focus on the core facts of importance, plus a new emphasis on video. It's a good way to be up on the latest news in a way that’s not tremendously time-consuming.


AP Mobile: The Associated Press is a logical place to turn for vetted coverage of breaking news. (You can turn to Twitter, yes, but reference that stat above about trust in social media-acquired news.) The AP Mobile app actually refreshes automatically (so you never miss anything) and you can input news preferences so that you get specific types of stories. More than some of the other mobile news apps, this is a good one to allow push notifications on. As something unfolds, you’ll constantly be in the know without having to toggle between different apps or social feeds.

Pocket: This is another from the “on the go”-type category. Basically, if you see an interesting headline or story but don’t have the time to read it right then, you put it in your pocket (app) -- get it? -- and can browse, organize, and consume it later. There has been some research that long-form journalism does, in fact, have a place in a mobile news ecosystem and that’s helped along by news apps like Pocket.



CNN News App: This one will be crucial for a lot of people in the coming weeks because of the Presidential election (CNN has specific apps for that run-up), and one great thing about CNN’s app ecosystem is that they’re constantly iterating. For example, Turner Sports (same parent company as CNN) bought Bleacher Report (a sports website) years ago. Bleacher Report had a mobile app called “Team Stream,” allowing users to follow news on one specific team (i.e. the Red Sox). CNN used that and created MoneyStream, which allows people to follow companies and CEOs in the same way -- and gives real-time market insights and conditions too. For a busy entrepreneur, that’s a huge mobile advantage; you can follow specific industries as well.


Those are a just few news apps that stand out for uniqueness, although many of the big names -- New York Times Now, LinkedIn Pulse, BuzzFeed, Apple News, Google News/Weather, SmartNews, Flipboard, and more -- provide quality content and good user experience as well.


So how does a news app connect with audiences that like to get their news digitally?


Never stopIn the news apps space, understanding your audience -- and finding ways to capture more information about them and customize their experience -- is crucial, because the numbers are smaller (as noted above), but also more engaged.


Create a user experience that helps users find the news that matters to them.
Any time your organization develops any approach to news apps or the presentation of content, user experience / user interface must be a priority. Almost every major study on mobile news consumption of the past 10 years shows that people quickly close out of apps with bad interfaces or those that feel too cluttered.


Integrate with social.
Finally, social media must be embraced. (You knew this already.) When people discover a story they care about, they want to debate and connect with others about it. Facebook is a massive traffic driver for many news sites, and can’t be ignored. In the case of specific niche areas or industry events, Twitter and LinkedIn are usually goldmines for brands trying to expand their message or reach new audiences.


What kind of experience do you want to get from your favorite mobile news apps?



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