How Journalism should react to Mobile Internet

From the data generated from Morgan Stanley’s 2010 report, the most important trends are the soaring usage of mobile Internet and social networking, as well as the implication of huge potential of online commerce.

According to the data, here we come to the era of mobile Internet. It’s surprising to see that the acceptance of iPhone and iTouch is taking place more than 11 times faster than that of AOL, and about 5 times faster than that of Netscape. The report predicts that the number of global Mobile Internet users will surpass that of desktop Internet users within 5 years. The leading two devices that occupy high share in global unit shipments, mobile page views and app usages are iPhone and Android phone – smartphones with access to mobile Internet. Helping to drive this is 3G technology. 2010 is an inflection point, which means 3G is available to more than 20% of the global cellular users. The report predicts that this percentage will increase to 43% in 2014.

On the social networking side, report shows that social networking passed email in terms of time spent in 2007, and passed email in terms of raw user numbers in mid 2009.

One important implication of mobile access is a growth in online/mobile commerce, featuring things such as location-based services, time-based offers, even virtual goods. Data shows that online commerce and paid services made up 32 percent of mobile revenue in Japan in 2008, up from just 14% in 2000.

Online commercial also has a huge upside potential. Internet/mobile occupy 28% media consumption time, however, Internet advertising spending only occupies 13% among total media advertising spending. One graphic shows that average online CPMs are still well below other media, which means buying a commercial space on Internet is cost effective. Yahoo’s owned and operated display advertising is increasing 20% a year, and 32K customized homepages are delivered every five minutes. Facebook also offers significant new ad opportunities. These facts illustrate that online targeting and personalized advertising will be the new trends. Japan shows potential for mobile commerce. Part of online commerce revenue is derived from Mobile, 18% ecommerce revenue is from mobile in 2009, comparing with 4% in 2004. The revenue percentage still keeps rising.

Facing with the above trends, newspaper and broadcast news organizations should open a new contents distribution channel, changing the traditional formats of news, and be open mind to new business model.

It’s worth to notice that consumers still need news, because data shows that the first three activities Mobile browser users did are searching (48%), social networking (43%), and news (30%). Since mobile Internet is the trend, news organization should distribute news in both text and video form through mobile Internet.  But remember, “paywalls” won’t work, you must be “open source”, distribute free contents on mobile to keep readers and drive advertising revenue. News application for mobile can be a direction to go, as it can make readers easily and quickly get access to your news without specific searching. You can also sell ad spaces on your mobile news site to earn profit. But these ads could not be random ones, but be highly targeted. For example, provide ads on new digital devices to those who always read technology news. Internet ads have large growing space; revenue would soar if ads can be pushed to those who need them.

Success always relies on realizing and responding to customers’’ needs. The traditional formats of news should be altered because of the characteristic of mobile news consumption behavior and limitation space of mobile screen. People won’t have time and space to read those long and well organized news articles, or watch those long broadcast news packages on mobile. People want information instant, want to know them fast. Therefore, information can be packaged differently and more effectively online – reporters can produce short and dense news messages, or short news clips to consumers immediately after an event happen, then send a news text message to readers to let them know what’s going on recently. If readers are interested in certain news message, they can reply reporters by clicking a “like” button below the message. By calculating the number of “like”, news organization can get data of what their customers like, and use these data to build up customized contents. Reporters can also use these data to decide whether to do more follow-up stories on certain topics. Interactivity, personalization, tagging, maps, multimedia seem to be more important on mobiles than desktops, because it’s easier to realize through mobile.

Also considering the popularity of social networking, news organization must set up connection with social network website such as Facebook and Youtube. This doesn’t only mean to add a “facebook” icon at the bottom of the story for readers to share, but also means to create opportunities for user-generated contents. For example, for certain local events, some people were actually there and witnessed the event. So, you can encourage readers to “reshape” the news by uploading their own experiences (either texts/pictures or self-recorded videos shot by their mobile phone) on certain event. It’s an approach of interactivity. Another idea is to create a “news community”, let readers share the news they like to their friends; it’s similar to the model of iTune and Ping.

Regarding the potential of online commerce, news organizations cannot fully rely their business model on advertising selling. I recently saw a British community news website called “Teesside Evening Gazette” is selling collectable news photos online. This is a model that news organizations may consider. Although news stories cannot be charged, some granular contents may be valuable and chargeable, such as a wonderful news photo, a classic quote from a columnist, or a distinct video/sound clip.

Another thing worth to bring up is the line between different news organizations has blurred, consumers won’t care whether this piece of news is from CNN.com or New York Times, they only care about the information itself. Google news become very popular online, because it integrates news from all news sources and shows top news regardless where the stories come from. To deal with this, maybe new partnership should set up between traditional news companies and companies with new platforms.

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About conniezhangq

Media Management graduate at Syracuse University, NY
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