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Mobile Driving News Consumption, Participation & “Reporting”

Topic: Mobile Marketing, Mobile Research | Author: Jeff Hasen | Date: October 8, 2012

As a former journalist, I have more than casual interest in how news is gathered, delivered, and consumed in this mobile age. Regular readers will know my passion for the truth and I have loudly argued against the notion that a “witness” is a “reporter”, capturing this in several posts including this one. In my view, reporters are trained and experienced, whether they are delivering “information” via mobile, social networks, or by other means.

That debate continues — and so do the developments that shed light on how mobile has impacted news consumption.

A new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project validates our belief that mobile users in different geographies consume news in different ways.

The report reveals that residents of large cities (a segment that on the whole skews younger and are more mobile than other populations) are most likely to stay informed about local topics that interest them through a combination of online and traditional sources. They are particularly likely to get local news through Internet searches, Twitter, blogs, and websites of TV and newspapers.

In contrast, small city (31 percent) and rural (34 percent) residents are more likely than those in larger cities (21 percent) and suburbs (16 percent) to rely solely on “traditional” forms of media for their local news such as local print newspapers and broadcast television.

Suburban residents are distinct in their higher dependence on local radio (likely due to longer commutes to work), while small city and rural residents stand out in their reliance on word of mouth for some types of local information.

Urban and suburban residents on average use more sources of local news than their small town and rural counterparts and are more likely to consume local news on mobile devices.

In an average week, residents of large cities and suburbs use more sources of local information than others.  On average, residents of large cities and suburbs use just under four sources per week (3.63 and 3.72, respectively) compared to those in small cities or towns and rural areas who use closer to three sources per week (3.31 and 3.28, respectively).  In addition, more than half of urban (53 percent) and suburban (57 percent) residents get some kind of local news or information via cell phone or tablet computer compared with 45 percent of small city and 35 percent of rural residents.

The most active “local news participators” also tend to reside in suburban and urban communities. Suburban residents are more likely than any of the other groups (53 percent vs. 45 percent large city, 36 percent small city, 32 percent rural) to actively participate in local news and large city residents are more likely than small city or rural residents to be classified as local news participators, meaning they email local stories to others, post news or information about the local community on social networking sites or Twitter, comment on local stories they read online, contribute to online discussions on message boards about the local community, and the like.

Rural residents are the least likely to say it is “easier” to keep up with local news and information today than it was five years ago.

The impact of mobile on news — and everything in our lives — is profound. I therefore applaud the decision by CNN to dedicate a month to examining all the ways mobile technology is changing our lives.

Readers of my Mobilized Marketing book know that I included many insights from Louis Gump, vice president of mobile for CNN. He is behind this initiative that tells us how “mobile technology has shifted from nicety to necessity.”

Appearing across all of CNN platforms, the month-long coverage looks at the impact of mobile devices on many aspects of our daily lives including personal relationships, work habits, cultural quirks, heath, finance, and etiquette.

This coverage will be supplemented by other in-depth reports from CNN Digital, which will investigate topics related to our mobile society, and The stories cover all regions of the world and air across CNN International properties.

How I See It: Because of my background and training (12 years working as a reporter for United Press International), I believe that consumption is driving how (and how fast) information is gathered, even by “credentialed” reporters. Just look at the many mistakes that have been hailed as breaking ‘news’. The false reports on the “death” of United States Congresswoman Gabby Giffords top of the list. Yes, we as mobile subscribers want our information in real-time. But it is up to the trained journalists to follow proven practices like double sourcing to make sure that what is reported is indeed fact. And it’s up to others on social networks to not cause confusion, hysteria or something worse simply because they have used the mobile medium to instantly distribute mere hearsay.

South Africa loves BlackBerry (!)

I’m fresh from an unforgettable trip to South Africa, where I spoke at events, soaked up local culture, identified areas of mobile marketing opportunity and spent some time in a game reserve.

A huge surprise that speaks volumes (literally) was the sight of BlackBerry devices — everywhere. In fact, some South Africans carried two – one for work and one for pleasure. Imagine that, for pleasure (!).

But BlackBerry isn’t only popular; it has ‘cult’ status. In June, South Africa’s youth named BlackBerry the ‘Coolest Brand Overall’ in the Sunday Times Generation Next 2012 Brand Survey Awards. BlackBerry also topped the ‘Coolest Cellphone’ and ‘Coolest High-Tech Gadget’ categories for the second year running.

What do the numbers tell us? BlackBerry’s BBM, a messenger service that has now peaked in the U.S., is used by 98 percent of South Africa BlackBerry customers, according to parent company RIM. RIM reckons there are more than 56 million active BBM users worldwide, and 70 percent of them use it to communicate daily.

The lesson here for marketers? Open your eyes and minds. What happens in one region isn’t necessarily mirrored in others. Know your audience is a universal rule, and you can reach them by using the devices they use. Be prepared to adapt that approach to local preferences. In South Africa, BlackBerry rules.

Case in point: the news about the new iPhone 5, which went live while I was in South Africa giving the keynote at a CMO Conference and conducting a mobile workshop. The countdown to the news and the live blogging was a ‘happening’ in much of the world, but my audience did not fawn when the iPhone 5 was announced. Many were unaware of the news being made 11,000 miles away. Others simply didn’t care.

Here are some other data points (via Ogilvy) to guide you, should you decide to sharpen your strategy to take tap into opportunities in South Africa.

  • 80 percent of South Africa’s population is on mobile
  • 33 percent of all mobile users access Web via mobile
  • 20 percent of mobile subscribers have smartphones
  • Mobile phone use increased from17 percent of adults in 2000 to a whopping 76 percent in 2010
  • Smartphone penetration is expected to hit 50 percent in the next four years
  • 38 percent of users access Facebook via their mobile devices; it’s 58 percent among mobile subscribers 25 years old and younger
  • Churn rate among prepaid users is 43 percent

How I See It: As much as I went to South Africa to teach, I traveled to learn. And I learned a lot. Mobile marketing is moving fast, and using other approaches and channels to reach impressive results. As I traveled the country, I heard text message calls-to-action on the radio, saw them on billboards, and I even grew to expect them. Groupon has also made inroads in South Africa. Marketers I connected with spoke highly of the service and continue to run Groupon programs. These folks have the same goal as we do – to sell more stuff.  Yes, I learned a lot — including the fact that game reserve visits belong on everyone’s ‘bucket list’ 😉


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