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It’s Official: We’ve Passed the Mobile Tipping Point

As people move to mobile news tools, it’s time to rethink, re-cut and refresh Web site content.
July 12, 2015
It’s an historic changing of the media guard: Pew Research Center reported last week that the majority of visits to digital news sites are now coming from mobile devices instead of desktops.
This happens even as there are those who are still just getting past the “anger” stage in dealing with the death of print. The bad news is that the aging of internet access to information may be too much for the more sensitive communicators among us to bear.
Beyond “responsive design.” But short of a mass emotional collapse, the big challenge in this shift in the way people get information is that companies, agencies and the rest of us also have to shift the way we make our information and news available. This requires something beyond just responsive design, which reformats Web content to fit on smaller screens. Web content itself – its format, its organization, the way it’s delivered – needs to change, sooner rather than later.
If it’s not a video, a graphic or a podcast, content probably needs to be shaved into ever-finer, visually accessible and one-click-tells-all slices.
A nuance-free world? The prospect for people who like to read and browse and sample human knowledge, frankly, is of a more precipitous, depressing decline into a black-and-white world without nuance.
I’m being only half-facetious here. The smaller screens and less nimble navigation on phones lend themselves to consuming directory, video, graphic and podcast content more easily that full sentences. IF the text goes much beyond one sentence, it is likely to go unread just because it looks harder to read than the next slice of information on the screen.
Shorter time on site. People, in sum, simply use Web sites differently when they’re accessing them via a mobile device than when they’re using a desktop or laptop computer.
For one thing, they’re flightier. The Pew Report, for example, also found visitors who access information via a mobile device don’t stay on sites as long as they do when using a desktop computer. So if you’re counting on people using their smartphones or tablets to take the same deep reading dive into the wonders of your printed or normal Web page messages, you’re probably out of luck.
Given the growth in mobile traffic, you also may be out of visitors soon. We passed the tipping point in 2014 where mobile access to content surpassed internet access. comScore, a research firm, found that mobile made up 60 percent of all online traffic in 2014, compared to 50 percent in 2013. More than half of the mobile traffic, moreover, came from mobile apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Spotify.
More directory information, videos, podcasts. I started paying attention to mobile traffic into the web sites I oversaw in 2009. Our big hospital site (big for me, anyway, with 400k visits per month) was at about 7% mobile back then. By last August, when I moved on, we were at 23% mobile. I recently talked to a colleague at another, somewhat smaller hospital site who told me they were at 40% mobile as of January.
Any way you cut it, these are a lot of people to stop serving well.
Pew’s State of the News Media 2015 report further suggested the switch to mobile might require creating and posting podcasts. It noted that clients of Libsyn, the podcast hosting service, had 2.6 billion podcasts downloaded last year. Sixty-three percent were downloaded to mobile devices.
And podcasts’ popularity also seems to be growing. Seventeen percent of Americans now say they’ve downloaded a podcast within the prior month, up from nine percent in 2008. About a third of all Americans over the age of 12 say they’ve listened to a podcast, triple the number who said so in 2006.
First steps. But this isn’t necessarily a recommendation to start doing podcasts and videos willy-nilly. It’s not a stern warning to rework your expensive Web architecture.
It is, however, a strong recommendation to audit, re-think and realign your content. It’s not enough to make your site responsive to mobile. It requires changing your news, your information, your offers, your brand qualities – everything – to be easily consumed and enjoyed on a mobile screen.
Of course, none of us needs another thing to do. But failing to move is in itself a risk of losing some hard-earned transactions.

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