Monthly Archives: March 2013

HEY, THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT!

Smartphones lead to decline in Web use

In 1997, the year I graduated from high school, my parents gave me a cell phone for graduation. I was, after all, going off into the big bad world of college. It was a black Nokia with nighttime illuminating buttons. Yuck it up, youngsters. It was hip, and it certainly was more advanced than my best friend’s bag phone.

Fast forward to 2001 when I landed my first job as a journalist. I was working as a photographer for an NBC affiliate in Alabama. The station was in the number one ratings slot in the market and was pretty financially sound. We even had the cool (insert gasp here) pagers that alerted us to station information, as well as breaking news headlines from around the world. Life was good. I had made it. I had a personal cell phone, work cell phone AND a pager.

I would receive a page, log on to a computer to find out more and then grab a phone to call the office and ask if the assignment editor needed me to come in. Technology is great, right? I never imagined back then that all of those efforts would one day be possible on a single device. However, the devices that have given us easier access to the World Wide Web are the same devices that have moved consumers away from the Web, itself.

In June 2011, which is a lifetime ago when discussing technology, a mobile analytics firm, Flurry, released a report comparing the amount of time people spent using mobile apps and mobile sites versus the amount of time information gatherers logged on to personal computers. Flurry found that consumers spent nine percent more of their time accessing mobile apps rather than getting information from a desktop computer.

Flurry noted that the increase of mobile app use was likely due to accessing Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites more times, rather than simply increasing their time spent during one use. The Flurry data gathered also showed how we were consuming data in May 2011, which I would venture to guess is much the same today. Thirty-two percent of the time we spent online for social networking, nine percent for news, seven percent for entertainment and 47 percent for games.

Note that Flurry’s data showed consumers were already spending more time on mobile devices than time on computers in 2011. That’s two years ahead of what Gartner Research predicted back in 2010. But the transition to mobile consumption didn’t stop there. The trend has altered even further into how we access data on our smartphones and tablets.

Now, I rarely log on to the Internet at home to search for anything. I also rarely use my phone’s mobile browser. I have a Weather Channel app on my iPhone to check the temperature, a Facebook app and Twitter app to go right to my social networking feeds, an app to buy movie tickets, an app to download music and an app to check email. I even have apps for news. I have little need to log on to the World Wide Web outside of the office. In fact, in most cases, it is even easier for me to grab my phone and click an app than it is to log on the Web through a browser and search for what I need even when I am at my desk in front of a traditional computer.

And it seems I am not alone in my application love affair. According to a BusinessInsider.com post from March 20, 2013, “Apps are the Internet portal of choice for U.S. mobile consumers.” The article notes that Neilsen numbers from August of last year show that minutes spent each month in mobile applications was 4.6 times the time used accessing the Web. During the time between March 2011 and August 2012, mobile app use grew 200 percent while mobile Web use only increased by 75 percent, the BusinessInsider.com article states. The most popular mobile activity, according to the article, is gaming, followed by social networking. Both of those are mostly accessed through apps. That’s no surprise. Gaming and social networking were the top ways consumers spend their time in the 2011 Flurry report, too.

Why have we switched over to using applications? Time is precious. The World Wide Web has lost its technological allure. We are no longer attracted to the bright, shiny glow of a personal computer monitor. Even though the amount of information online has increased, there isn’t much “surfing” to be done, anymore. We now want what we want, and we want it now. Using an app is a direct way to get the information consumers most need and want. Up until the end of 2011, consumers had not really gotten very app happy. However, by that time, user patterns swapped and mobile app use had overshadowed mobile web browsing by about 20 percent, according to a Mashable post.

While mobile web sites are less expensive for companies to create, it is now becoming evident that consumers want apps. If companies want to stay relevant and keep their businesses growing, apps are where it is at. Mashable reports that consumers would rather spend time downloading an app, now, to prevent wasting time on a browser later. That’s especially true if you are in the shopping or entertainment business.

While it isn’t always financially feasible for companies to bite the bullet and invest in a mobile app, businesses can’t ignore what consumers want and maybe a mobile site is better than nothing. Here’s a neat infographic that compares the pros and cons of both formats, including speed and development costs. The graphic also shows that while mobile web use has hovered between 64 and 72 minutes online from June 2010 to December 2011, mobile apps have produced a steady climb. The graph depicts almost a straight uptick from an average of 43 minutes spent using a mobile app in June 2010 to 94 minutes used in December 2011.

What do you think? Should businesses jump in the deep end and go for a mobile app, or at this point, should they wait and see if there is some new development just around the corner. Can companies afford to wait, or is it more important to stay relevant with the technology we already have?

Just can’t get enough communications talk? Here’s a link to the article that sparked this post. It’s from 2010, but is an interesting two-viewpont take on the death of the World Wide Web just more than two decades after its “birth.” Interesting takes on both sides.

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WELCOME TO MY NEST

If you found your way here, it must be because you are a lover of all things communication. Either that, or you mistyped something and you now can’t figure out why this blog is relevant to you. Hopefully, it’s the first reason.

I am the managing editor of a daily community newspaper in Alabama and also a Strategic Communications graduate student at Troy University. I’ve spent time as a television photojournalist, live truck operator, television reporter, newspaper reporter, newspaper editor, radio personality and was once an international spokesperson for a non-profit organization.

Communication and finding new ways to communicate have been an important part of my career, but emerging media has also provided ways to stay in touch with friends across the globe and network with others in the communication business.

Communication efforts have come a long way. I remember the first cell phone I had, which could only make phone calls. So strange, right? A phone that makes phone calls? Sixteen years later, I’ve moved into the iPhone 5world and it’s hard to imagine not being able to text, talk and surf the Net – all with the help of Siri.

Remember that nifty little social networking fad, MySpace? Who would have thought back then that we’d trade that in for a Facebook and Twitter combo?

It’s common now to read a newspaper on a Nook or Kindle or even a smartphone instead of wait for the morning print edition to arrive on your doorstep. So, what happens to traditional papers and magazines?

This blog will explore some of those ideas and will provide a weekly update on emerging media and strategic communications. Sometimes topics will be serious, sometimes they will be funny. Other times, they could be seriously funny.

There will also be “quick hits” from time to time on communication trends and tidbits as I do my best to be a thirty something trying to keep up with the “cool kids.”

I hope that you will check back often to see what’s new in the world of communication and even offer your own insights as to what will help (and hurt) the future of journalism and public relations.

This week’s topic is the changing face of media and how we consume news. The Poynter Institute cited an online survey by Knowledge Networks that was released last year, noting that 53 percent of people get their news from what is known as Web-native news sources. Those are sites, such as Yahoo! News, the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report, that are independent of a print product and are only known because of an online presence.

Forty-three percent of those surveyed said they trusted sources such as CNN, Fox and The New York Times. Fifteen percent of folks, Knowledge Networks found, used social media sites to catch up on the day’s events.

Furthermore, the study showed that news consumption varies based on age groups. Millennials are more likely to get their news from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, followed by Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. That’s really no big surprise to anyone, though, I don’t think.

How we share news was no big surprise, either. Baby Boomers are more likely to share news by word of mouth, Gen Xers are more likely to email news to other people and Millennials are more likely to post links to news stories on social network sites or feeds. Knowledge Networks also found that a significant number of Baby Boomers still clip items from newspapers to share and save.

Something I found from the study that was a little surprising is that fewer people subscribe to newspapers than have smartphones, but more people get their news from newspapers than they do by reading on their phones. Also surprising, even with all the social networking done by young people, older people are more likely to get news first. The survey results reported could be because young people sleep in and older one get up early. The early bird gets the worm, AND the news, it seems.

So, what does all this data mean?

For starters, it means that media outlets who want to stay relevant have to find a balance between retaining older, more traditional, news consumers, while also attracting Millennials who have smartphones glued to their hands for most of the day. Some newspapers, such as the Times Picayune, The Birmingham News, the Mobile Press-Register and The Huntsville Times, have modified their news production to include daily web news and abbreviated printing schedules. That may prove to be the solution for metro papers, but those changes are relatively new when it comes to tracking success. So, it’s a wait and see process to find out if that route is a financially viable option.

According to a piece on USAToday.com, some companies are looking to segregate their profitable print products from failing ones, or sell print products all together. The story notes that Time Warner is in talks to sell magazines, including People, InStyle and Real Simple and keep Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune. The Tribune Co. is known for The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune and wants to sell some of it’s eight total papers so the company can focus on their television stations.

But while larger print products have been feeling the heat for quite some time, smaller papers seem to be hanging in there. And some investors, such as Warren Buffett, see the value that could still be there. His purchase of 60 small papers, including The Dothan Eagle, is evidence of that.

I tend to think the longevity of community papers will be greater than metro newspapers. I see that in our subscribers at the paper I help to manage. While our paper is in a town with a strong college population, it’s also in a rural county. There are farmers and their families who live in areas with little to know cell phone coverage and older people who don’t even own computers. While subscriptions aren’t as strong as they used to be, advertisers and community members prefer that their ads and stories are in the traditional print edition of our paper. We aren’t suffering as much as newspapers in larger cities where morning commuters are using tablets to peruse the news.

What do you think? Any great answers for helping media companies, both print and broadcast, retain their customers and gain new ones? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, take care! You’re welcome to visit my nest at robbynsnest.wordpress.com, any time, or bookmark the blog. I look forward to future encounters!