I’ve just published a piece at the Press Gazette which explores a significant milestone for the BBC and anyone else involved in the world of fast moving, content-rich websites. For the very first time more people visited the BBC online via mobile phones than via desktop and laptop PCs. It happened on Sunday 14 July. And then again on Saturday 20 July.
As I note in the piece this is merely an extreme case (for now) of a trend that has been apparent for a while:
The direction of travel is clear: more and more people are accessing news-based websites from mobile devices (tablets as well as smartphones) and we have plenty of evidence that this is the case.
In an effort to identify the meaning of this milestone, I suggest that it matters in three ways*:
Tumblr is a blogging platform but it isn’t WordPress. If that feels like a distinction so minor that it’s not worth making, I do think the differences between the two platforms, however small, do matter.
Tumblr tends to be more visual, more instant; less of the analysis, more of the bite-sized. Of course all these rules are there to be broken but those truths about the platform most likely explain why lots of people (and by people I mean newspapers, magazines, broadcasters etc) are struggling to work out how to use it.
As a counterpoint, here are four traditional media outlets that are using it well:
Nine out of every ten visits to the Guardian website from tablet devices still come via an Apple iPad. This compares to 98 per cent two years ago and is despite the proliferation of Android-based alternatives since then (Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire are distant runners-up).
He also demonstrated how tablet usage was altering web consumption patterns across the weekday. Note the large green peak in the graph below which shows heavy tablet usage during the evening.
By cross-referencing the means of access (mobile network, WiFi, fixed network etc) the Guardian is able to make an educated guess that most of that tablet consumption is happening at home rather than on the move.
How? Well, according to Sullivan, 93 per cent is coming via WiFi which strongly suggests sofa/kitchen table/bed rather than train/bus/office.
Anthony intended to show this and four associated graphs during the session I ran at the conference but issues with the audio visual — familiar to any regular conference goer — meant he was restricted to describing what we couldn’t see.
Finally, it is worth revisiting the FT graph I posted last week which shows some really interesting weekend consumption patterns brought about by increased mobile device usage. Both trends are reflected on other news and current affairs websites.
There was a really smart piece of analysis by Jasper Jackson over on The Media Briefing yesterday where he looked at the impact of mobile device usage and how it affects “when consumers access your content”.
His findings, based on data from the FT and the Guardian, mirror the experience of the New Statesman and the Press Gazette – specifically how heavy usage of smartphones and tablets at weekends is filling the deep Saturday and Sunday troughs previously typical of news-based websites.
The FT graph also shows clearly the pre- and post-work ‘check-in’ via mobile devices during weekdays.
A key point here is that the bulk of this traffic is additive – the FT is seeing high levels of traffic to its website during times when there was previously very little, simply because people now have a way of accessing it.
Again that mirrors my own experience.
So what lessons can digital publishers draw from this data? For one answer Jackson quotes Tom Betts, FT’s head of data:
We are starting to see a number of changes to the way editorial teams publish. Obviously having someone working nine-to-five on mobile publishing doesn’t work.
And if you don’t have a weekend operation, perhaps now is the time to start. More over at The Media Briefing.