Jacob L. Nelson and Ryan F. Lei, both of Northwestern University, have analysed news readership data from over a million Americans. They wanted to measure whether desktop users differ from mobile users, and mobile app users from non-users.
Firstly, the authors were able to confirm that the number of mobile news readers now surpasses desktop news readers. However, desktop readers are, on average, more engaged than mobile readers. Per month, a desktop user will spend on average 12 minutes on a single news website, while mobile users spend only 7 minutes.
The apparent inattention of mobile news readers, however, is only half the story, Nelson and Lei point out. A small subsection of mobile users is extremely invested, spending 10 times longer reading news than desktop users – and 20 times longer than other mobile users. Specifically, these engaged readers use mobile news apps, rather than mobile web browsers.
The article “The Effect of Digital Platforms on News Audience Behavior” was published by the journal Digital Journalism. It is available online on the publisher’s website (abstract free).
Picture: Untitled by Pashi, licence CC0 1.0.