The Associated Press took an interesting approach to a report released today by the Pew Research Center about news consumption in an online world. That headline highlighted that 26 percent of adult Americans now get their news from their mobile phones, an interesting statistic. It also noted that 43 percent of "younger' cell phone owners - that under age 50 - are also reading news stories on their phones, compared to 15 percent of cell phone owners who fall in the "over-50" category.
There was a lot more to that report and CNET breaks it down nicely. For example, 59 percent of the audience get their news from both online and offline sources and 57 percent said they have between two and five favorite Web sites to visit for their news. It also found that 37 percent are engaging in the news, either by commenting or pushing headlines to their friends and associates via social sites like Facebook and Twitter.
But I found the statistic about mobile especially interesting because, just a few weeks ago. a fellow of the Reynolds Journalism Institute and an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, published a blog post that sounded the alarm about the news industry's need for a mobile strategy for content delivery.
In his post, Clyde Bentley warned journalists that they have 36 months before mobile phones overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide - that's 1.82 billion mobile phones in 2013, compared to 1.78 billion PCs, a forecast released by Gartner in January. Bentley, challenging the news industry to put mobile on the front burner, created a timeline for rolling out a mobile strategy worthy of the new majority audience.
On a personal level, I commend Bentley for what he's doing to advance the mobile landscape for news. Some might argue that, while some news outlets (I refrain from calling them newspapers) have already launched mobile products, others have been slow to jump into the smaller screen. Newspapers have already been clobbered once by the Internet because they were slow to adopt to new formats, such as blogs. Had they moved faster, they might have been spared some of the bloodshed they've experienced in recent years. More importantly, I like to think that they could have been instrumental in actually shaping the direction of online news - as a business - had they gotten into the game earlier.
Here's their second chance. From the Bentley blog post:
As a journalist, I respond best to deadlines. But three years? This is a killer deadline — within 35 months the whole newspaper industry needs to move its emphasis from the static Web to the mobile Web. From 17-inch displays to 3-inch displays. From full keyboard and mouse to one-handed navigation. And you can’t really wait until the deal is done if you want to be a major player in technology. If Gartner’s prediction is accurate, newspapers really have just 18-24 months to position themselves as the leading news content provider for mobile platforms...
I rather hope you look at [the timeline] and find a shortcut, but anyway you cut it we must put our mobile strategy efforts in high gear. The alternative is to let the independent entrepreneurs, the GoogleZon mega companies and the folks with more interest in quick cash than service to society take away our business. Again.