Oakland Local studied cell phone users before developing a mobile strategy

Knight Digital Media Center
Talk to your audience before you embark on a mobile strategy, writes Amy Gahran.

Gahran, a co-founder of Oakland Local, helped organize a local market research survey of cell phone users this summer to gain insight into how people use their phones.

The study, which involved a handful of staffers and 84 cell phone users, returned invaluable information, writes Gahran.

About 70 percent of those surveyed used limited-capability “feature” phones, and half had no broadband Internet connectivity (3G or Wi-Fi) on their devices. Gahran reports that information had a direct influence on Oakland Local’s mobile strategy:

“It became clear that if we hoped to use mobile to grow our audience and deepen our community engagement right now, we must focus on ‘lean’ mobile offerings that work well on limited feature phones. These are the phones which most Oaklanders have, and which they value so much that their phones are rarely out of reach.”

Gahran writes that the data for Oakland may not be relevant in other cities, which is why it is important to do your own local research:

“Even if your target niches mainly use smart phones, don’t simply assume you should build an app to deliver your content. Ask these people careful questions about how they use their phones overall, and find ways to work with the mobile features and services they already love. Your survey will probably give you ideas about new ways to reach your goals that you’d never have considered if your news organization had to imagine everything all on its own.”

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