The digital audiences of newspapers grew as much as 16% in the US in the past year, outstripping internet usage growth by 10% in the 18-44 year age group. Central to the findings was that this growth was underpinned by mobile access, and in the majority of cases mobile was the only platform used for accessing this news.
Research by comScore released a few days ago shows that we may be revisiting an era that values curated news.
Here are some key points emanating from the comScore report:
- More than nine in 10 men (93%) and women (92%) ages 25-44 who were online in August 2015 engaged with newspaper digital content.
- The newspaper digital audience grew more than twice as fast as the overall internet audience for age groups 18-24, 25-34 and 35-44.
- Half of the newspaper digital audience is composed of those who use only mobile devices (smartphones or tablets) for their newspaper digital content.
- Eight in 10 of the newspaper mobile audience use smartphones exclusively for access.
- The adult digital audience engaging with newspaper content in August totalled more than 179 million adults in the US, up 10% from a year earlier.
While I agree that South Africa is not the US, I am certain that we are likely to follow – at some point. In SA the growth in smart phone usage is rapid and will extend to the vast majority within a few years – at present it is about half of all cell phones.
Taking the above comScore findings a step further it was shown that across all people accessing the internet in the US during August 2015, as many as 83% of adult men and woman engaged with online newspaper content. This excludes newspapers that are only available online. The splits by age show the extent to which newspaper content is accessed by different age groups … including those considered fairly young! The category labelled 18+ is the cumulative total of all adults.
The actual rate of growth for different age groups for digital newspaper content compared to the internet overall is:
As we know, and are reminded regularly, mobile audiences are the ones that are important. They hold the future for marketers. Importantly we know that this news seeking audience interacting with digital newspapers is both educated and productive. This alone creates a valuable differentiation from a broader, often ill-defined mobile user audience. What this is really telling us is that digital newspapers, suddenly and perhaps surprisingly, are making strong inroads to a valuable segment that others are struggling to reach.
The rapid growth in mobile exclusive unique visitors is demonstrated below. Will SA follow this trend?
This trend is re-enforcing. It has become a virtuous cycle because newspapers are revising their business strategy to compound the shift in usage. Firstly for some newspapers, and I believe the New York Times is a leader, there is a return to the maxim that newspapers provide news – content is the product – and subscriptions are revenue. This differs from the approach that sought unique visitors and ad revenue. The differentiation is subtle but significant.
In the words of Ray Chelstowski, CEO of the Newspaper National Network LP in the US, “The two biggest issues facing the newspaper business today are readership and revenue. In fact you can probably say the same for all traditional media. While the focus for most companies has been advertising, the reader has proven to be difficult to ignore. Readers are now an essential piece of the total revenue picture as circulation dollars have begun to match (and sometimes exceed) ad revenues. What’s clear is that the local market coverage that newspaper platforms provide still has no real competition. The breadth of content alone has established a value proposition that readers have shown a willingness to support. So looking toward the consumer for a pathway to a new business model would seem logical. It certainly does to The New York Times.
“The Times recently announced that they had hit a new milestone. They now have more than one million digital subscribers – an impressive statistic by any measure.
“Last week Times CEO Mark Thompson shared a document that presents a road map for doubling the company’s digital revenue over the next six years.
‘”We see ourselves as a subscription service first, which requires us to offer journalism and products worth paying for. Many of our competitors focus primarily on attracting as many uniques as they can with a view on building an ‘advertising only’ business.'”
At a value level the shifts in behaviour may be significant. Could we be moving beyond the current narcissism in which we seek only stuff that is important to me in my micro-targeted headspace? Are we surprised to discover there’s a big world beyond the music, fashion, videos, zombies, wiccans or whatever else gets us going?* Maybe, and just maybe, we are looking at the possibility that some of us are becoming more embracive of the broader world including news that’s simply important to know rather than implicitly important to me.
*Paraphrasing of Bill Maher!