We should probably stop considering mobile as “a fad”

Mobile Traffic And Informed Populations

I’ve talked to a lot of random high-middle-management people in my life who have told me that there isn’t really a logical reason to invest in mobile, because it’s a “fad.” (As in, “Well, something else will come along.”) I agree with the second part — something else always comes along, or, phrased another way, Facebook might be irrelevant in 20 years. But I don’t know if mobile is a “fad” per se, because there’s currently more mobile devices on the planet than human beings. Google dropped Mobilegeddon on brands about a week ago, and while the results are so far inconclusive, I’m sure it caused a lot of running around and all-hands meetings at various companies about how “mobile is now a priority!”

What’s interesting about those companies is that they probably fly their top guys all over to close deals, right? Which means those guys are always in airports and hotels checking out stuff on their phone … yet they can’t understand that other people (i.e. potential clients, buyers) check stuff out on their phones as well. Phrased another way? Mobile is important, and even if you can’t see mobile impact on the bottom-line, well, it’s there. And it’ll be there more in coming years. Embrace it.

In the same vein, here’s some new research on the 2015 “state of the news media.” You can think this is stupid — “the news media is dead!” — but it’s actually really relevant. If you look at how and where people are consuming news, that speaks directly to how informed society is. You can obviously quibble over what that means and its importance, but frankly, a society needs to be informed or else stuff happens like Baltimore (and other cities) keep burning, and/or the workforce declines, etc. It’s important, and it’s important for people who create the news to understand the trends around how people get and intake the news.

Look at this:

Mobile Traffic And Informed Populations

So … 39 of 50 (78 percent) of the top 50 news sites get more traffic from mobile than desktop. OK. That’s a big number.


Only 10 of 50 (20%) have mobile visitors spend more time than desktop.

What does that mean?

Tons of people are coming in via mobile, but they’re not staying as long.

There are two reasons for this:

1. Site isn’t mobile-friendly in terms of design. (A problem for a lot of places because of competing priorities.)

2. It’s not easy to quickly figure out what you need on a mobile site.


3. Since this is about news sites predominantly, the other thing is obviously the prevalence of social. The home page is dying, and people come in through a specific link that interested them on their phone. They read that and maybe don’t go to another page (because of No. 1 above). So their time spent is less than someone sitting down, at a desk, clicking through related stories.

What does this all mean?

Whether you’re a news site or a brand, you need to:

(a) Believe in and prioritize mobile, because you’re leaving customers/clients/money/revenue/page views/so much on the table when you don’t.

(b) Design an experience for a mobile user that encourages them to stay around for a bit and find the things they need. Remember: clean, easy interfaces.

(c) Think about what you need as you hire new people. I realize headcount is a train wreck, but one good mobile designer these days might be worth two strong copy line-editors. Honestly.

(d) At base, think about how you consume content and research things. Then operate from the assumption that others probably do the same.

Ted Bauer

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