The Ascent of Mobile

March 28, 2012 7:58 p.m.

For you news and tech geeks only, here’s an update on the furious growth of news readership on mobile devices — through the prism of TPM. Join me after the jump.You don’t need anyone to tell you that mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are proliferating at a galloping pace. But the numbers may still surprise you. Back in September 2011, 12% of visits to TPM came from mobile devices. By February, it hit 19%. Greater than 50% growth in under 6 months. But the breakdown of the devices themselves is instructional too.

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Here’s the breakdown for iPhone, iPad and Android. For our audience, the audience share of the other contenders is negligible. (The only exception is Blackberry which had just under 3% of mobile visits. Windows Phone was .03% of visits.) You can see some spikes in mid-2011 which were tied to overall audience surges for TPM. But filtering out those spikes you can see that the speed of growth really picked up in mid-late 2011. What continues to surprise me is that pace of growth of iPhone usage hasn’t slackened at all. If anything it seems to be accelerating.

As I noted last month, these trends really upend a publisher’s understanding of what their publication is. If 20% of our ‘audience’ isn’t visiting through what we might call the desktop web, then the site is no longer just the website. Our website is just one platform where you can read or look at what we produce. It’s still by far the biggest. But it’s not totally dominant. And it’s easy for me to see in the not too distant future that its share will dip under 50%. My own sense is that iPhone or other handset devices will never be the primary way people will want to read news. It’s just too small — totally functional and extremely useful but not what you’d probably gravitate towards if you were at home and had a desktop or tablet to use. But I can easily imagine tablets becoming the preferred way to reading news.

For hand devices like the iPhone, I don’t see them becoming dominant. But our experience at TPM suggests they may simply increase people’s overall news consumption. This is actually borne out by a recent Pew study which found that mobile and tablet readership actually isn’t siphoning readers away from the web. It’s actually increasing the total amount of news consumption.

As you can see, our own site data gives us a lot of insight into how you read TPM. But there’s nothing like anecdotal qualitative insights. So I’d really appreciate if you could write in and let us know how your own reading habits are evolving, particularly as it applies to mobile devices and tablets.

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