warning KDMC resources are archived here. We are no longer updating this site.


Got a cell phone? You're probably online with it, says Pew.

by: Amy Gahran |

If you're trying to engage your community with digital news and information: they're on their phones. You should be there, too. This week, a new report from Pew Internet underscores the importance of putting mobile first in engaging almost any community.

Pew found that nearly two thirds of U.S. adults now use their cell phone to go online -- nearly double the proportion since 2009. Furthermore, one in five cell phone owners report that their cell phone is their primary access to the internet.

…And that's in reference to all kinds of cell phones, including feature phones (many of which support e-mail and web access). When focusing only on the 56% of U.S. adults who currently own a smartphone, the vast majority (93%) of smartphone owners use their phone to go online.

Pew defines "cell internet users" as anyone who uses their cell phone to access the internet or use e-mail. Pew found that one third of all cell internet users rely mostly on their phone to access the internet (as opposed to other devices like a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer).

Pew did not specify whether "accessing the internet" means only accessing websites and e-mail, or whether it also includes using apps that deliver information transmitted via the internet -- something that many apps do, especially for news and information.

Some demographic highlights about cell internet users from the Pew report:

  • Age. 85% of U.S. cell owners aged 18-29 use their phones to go online. For all other age brackets excepts those 65 and older, a majority of cell users accessed the internet from their phones.
  • Ethnicity. African Americans are most likely (74%) to go online via their phones; followed by Hispanics (68%) and whites (59%).
  • Urban and suburban cell phone owners were most likely (66% and 65%, respectively) to go online via their phones, vs. 50% of rural cell users.
  • Income and education People with higher incomes and educational attainment are more likely to be cell internet users: 79% live in households with an annual income of $75,000 or higher. (Only 55% live in households earning $30,000 per year or less.) Also, 74% hold a college degree or higher. (Only 51% of cell users did not complete high school.)

In contrast, Pew found that cell-mostly internet users are mostly non-white (60% Hispanic and 43% African American, vs. 27% white), less educated (45% without a high school diploma, vs. 21% with college degrees), and lower income (45% of people from households earning less than $30,000/year, vs. 27% of those earning $75,000/year or more).

Pew's data indicates why it's helpful to put mobile users -- and especially smartphone users -- first for digital media and community engagement efforts. In short, this means: don't build your website primarily with a computer experience in mind, and then scale down. Rather, consider a small touchscreen and slower digital connection first, and then scale up. Responsive web design is perhaps the easiest way to achieve this goal.

Similarly, keep cell phone users in mind with your e-mail alerts and newsletters and social media efforts. Wherever possible, include links to mobile-friendly destinations. If you're not sure how mobile-friendly a link might be, look it up on your phone before you share it via e-mail or social media.

For this report, Pew surveyed 2,252 U.S. adults this spring. Mobile usage patterns vary widely by community -- but in the absence of more current and specific local data, Pew's data is a sound baseline for strategic mobile assumptions.

Amy Gahran

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

Newspapers under siege as 65 percent of digital ads go to tech companies

By Nancy Yoshihara
6/14/2016 | 10:00 pm GMT

Newspaper revenues and circulation, print and digital combined, continued to decline in 2015 while both cable and network TV enjoyed...

The Diversity Style Guide: Important resource updated and expanded

By Nancy Yoshihara
6/5/2016 | 10:00 pm GMT

Anyone who dismisses or ignores this guide should not be working in journalism. The updated Diversity Style Guide is one...