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Pew on the demographics of mobile news

by: Amy Gahran |

Who's in your local mobile news audience? This week, a major new report offers insight could help you reach your local mobile news consumers.

The Pew Project on Excellence in Journalism and The Economist Group teamed up to produce The Demographics of Mobile News Habits. This report builds upon their October 2012 collaboration, The Future of Mobile News.

While most mobile news audience demographics parallel those for news delivered via print, broadcast and the computer-based web, there are some differences.

1. Mobile browser more popular than mobile apps. "The browser remains more popular than apps for getting mobile news, and its popularity has risen over the last year. Roughly 60% of tablet news users and smartphone news users mostly use the browser for news while about a quarter mostly use apps (the rest use a mix). But, the survey also found that app users tend to be more active mobile news consumers, carrying special appeal for news organizations."

Insight: Since the overall audience for any community news/info outlet is usually fairly small, it's best to make the core of your mobile strategy the channel likely to attract the most people, and play well with inbound links: the mobile web.

2. Gender dynamics. The mobile news audience skews male: about 40% of men get news daily on their mobile device, vs. about 30% of women (numbers vary slightly for smartphones vs. tablets). Also, men are especially likely to check a tablet frequently to get news, and to read in-depth articles. Women are more likely to use social media to get and share news. They're also more likely to use mobile social media daily -- especially on smartphones.

Insight: This may affect which stories or angles you emphasize in your mobile website vs. your conventional website. Also, if you have gender-targeted initiatives, such as local women's health, you might focus mobile efforts appropriately (say, via social media that includes mobile-friendly links).

3. Education and income. Overall, people with a college education are more likely to get mobile news daily, and they're slightly more likely to do so on a smartphone than on a tablet. In contrast, people who did not attend college are more likely to get mobile news on a tablet.

People earning $75,000 per year or more are most likely to get mobile news daily (39% tablet, 37% smartphone); while those earning under $30,000/year were the least likely (35% tablet, 30% smartphone).

Insight: If your community includes a significant low-income population, it's even more important to implement responsive web design that easily serves a greater diversity of mobile devices. This is especially true with the growing popularity of smaller tablets such as the Kindle Fire HD, the Nexus 7, and the iPad mini -- all likely to be popular gifts this holiday season. It's possible that the prevalence of wifi-only tablets, which do not require a carrier data plan, might account their popularity among lower-income mobile news users.

4. Older adults like tablet news. By age, the highest incidence of daily mobile news consumption was among tablet users aged 50-64 (43%). Adults aged 18-29 are lighter mobile news consumers, and they prefer smartphones (37%, vs. 33% for tablet mobile news).

Insight: Don't assume older community members aren't interested in mobile news. Doing some local mobile market research can help spot patterns and opportunities.

5. Mobile ad effectiveness. "A quarter or 18- to 29-year-old tablet news users touch ads (25%) versus 12% of 30- to 49-year-old news users and 7% of those 65 and older." But on smartphones: "The groups more likely to tap on ads are blacks and Hispanics ...[who] are both more than twice as likely as whites to at least sometimes touch or click on ads on their smartphone (23% of non-Hispanic blacks and 22% of Hispanics), compared with only 7% for non-Hispanic whites."

Insight: If you're selling mobile ads (which you can do on your website or in an app) knowing the demographics of your community can help you target advertisers for this offering, as with any ad offering. Communities with sizable Hispanic and Black populations might have an edge in this respect.

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Amy Gahran

Amy Gahran is a journalist, editor, trainer, entrepreneur, strategist, and media consultant based in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to writing
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