Tablet storytelling is visual, tappable, deep

Three years after Apple and others put digital tablets firmly into the hands of consumers, what do we really know about the way the devices are used for news?

Hundreds of people filed in to a large ballroom at South by Southwest last week for “Lean Forward, Lean Back: Tablet News Experience” to hear perspectives from Poynter research, focus groups and practical case studies from news organizations around the world.

The session brought together part of Poynter’s research team, led by Poynter’s Sara Quinn, who shared findings of the Institute’s EyeTrack: Tablet study, with Mario Garcia, CEO and founder of Garcia Media, and researcher/developer David Stanton from Smart Media Creative. Jeremy Gilbert of Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern was also on the research team.

“It’s essential for editors to rethink how the audience consumes content,” Garcia told the crowd.

The international news designer recommends a multisensory approach to designing for the brain, the eye and the hands. “You must keep the finger happy,” he said, meaning that a tablet user expects to find elements of surprise and engagement. “Like a children’s pop-up book,” he said.

When Garcia maps out the possibilities for interactive “pop-up moments” in a story, he thinks of it much as a screen director might develop a storyboard. He sketches out each facet and puts it up on the wall to step back and look at the flow.

“You should be able to click on an image or photograph for more information, or for a video,” he said. “Pop-ups don’t have to be complicated. But if all you do is turn the pages, your readers are not going to be happy.”

Poynter’s eyetracking study showed a strong tendency for tablet users to focus on content by keeping nearly constant contact with the screen — touching, tapping, pinching and swiping frequently.

“A high expectation comes with the device,” said Quinn. “During our study, we saw readers tap and tap on elements that weren’t tappable,” she said. “The element of discovery is one of the joys of the tablet. And for journalists and storytellers, it takes practice to develop the skills to create consistently strong interactive experience in a story — especially in a daily product.”

recent study shows that tablets engage online users longer than smart phones, Garcia reported.

The Adobe Digital Marketing findings, released March 6, found that said people read at greater length on tablets than on other devices. Adobe found that “on average, users view 70 percent more pages per visit when browsing with a tablet compared to a smart phone.”

Tablets have become the primary device for mobile browsing, Garcia said. Global websites are now getting more traffic from tablets than smartphones, 8% and 7% of monthly page views respectively, according to the study. This includes surfing, video use and shopping online.

“Smart phones are used for shorter visits and moments between moments,” said Quinn, “the tablet lends itself to more leisurely use — perhaps ideal for more in-depth reading and browsing.”

“All of this means change for both storytellers and advertisers,” said Garcia, mentioning the morning and evening editions of Dubai’s Gulf News app and others. “We have seen evidence that users prefer to use it in the evening hours which, we assume, allows for more of an in-depth experience as users are in a more leisure mode,” he wrote in a recent post on The Mario Blog.

“We are going to see more ‘editioning’ — the creation of mini-newspapers and mini-magazines on smartphones,” Garcia said by email.

Garcia commended the German tabloid Bild and the Huffington Post tablet edition for great multi-sensory work. Bild currently has eight staffers who create three to four pop-up experiences each day. They also make good use of templates, he said, so that they are able to focus on the quality of the content.

Tablet research continues, as this summer, Poynter will release results on how touch and interactivity help people understand and remember what they’ve read.

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How the Seattle Times made an iPad book from its best photos of the year

Seattle Times | iTunes
At the end of each year, The Seattle Times chooses its Pictures of the Year to feature in online galleries and its weekly print magazine.

This year it added something new — a $2.99 e-book for iPads that lets readers swipe and tap through the full-screen immersive images.

The table of contents for the e-book.
Read more

Pew: Men, highly educated are more engaged with news on mobile devices

“In the growing realm of mobile news, men and the more highly educated emerge as more engaged news consumers,” says a new report on the demographics of mobile news from the Project for Excellence in Journalism. The report continues:

While they are much lighter news consumers generally and have largely abandoned the print news product, young people get news on mobile devices to similar degrees as older users. And, when getting news through apps, young people say they prefer a print-like experience over one with high-tech or multi-media features.

In fact, most of the people (58 percent) who read news on tablets prefer to see a print-like reading experience, while 41 percent want a more high-tech interactive experience with audio, video and graphics. Read more


Charts: 5 mobile trends to watch

Mary Meeker delivered an updated version of her Internet trends report this week at Stanford University, full of charts and data about where our digital world is heading.

News folks will want to take note of what the partner at consulting firm KPCB had to say about mobile.

Trend 1. Mobile device Web traffic rising

Mobile accounts for a significant and growing share of visits to websites, increasing the importance that news organizations have mobile-friendly sites.

Read more


What journalists should know about the new iPad mini

Of all the mobile devices launched in recent years, the iPad has been the most promising for the journalism business.

iPad owners are more likely than others to use the devices to keep up with news, and compared to other types of tablet owners they are more likely to download news apps and over five times more likely to subscribe to digital news products.

The iPad hasn’t been a savior for legacy media companies, but it has offered the brightest light at the end of the tunnel.

So many journalists should be watching closely and thinking critically today as Apple makes its biggest tablet-related announcement since the original iPad launch in 2010. At 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. in San Jose, Calif.), Apple will reveal a new smaller version of the iPad — nicknamed the “iPad mini,” but we don’t yet know what the company will call it.

The video of the event will be live-streamed on Apple’s website (you have to use Apple’s Safari browser to watch it).

Price will matter greatly

Since Apple debuted the first iPad, it has owned the full-size tablet market.

Competitors have failed to make a dent against Apple’s 9.7-inch tablet, but recently several — including Amazon, Google and Samsung — have carved out a niche market for devices that are smaller (7- to 8-inch screen sizes) and cheaper.

Apple's iPad has dominated the large tablet market, while Amazon's Kindle Fire leads the small tablet market, according to research by the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Price has been the main differentiator. Apple product owners cite the brand, the operating system and the apps as their top reasons for buying. Android tablet owners cite price. iPad owners report greater overall satisfaction with their devices.

And so until now we’ve really had two classes of tablet owners: Those willing and able to pay $499 to $829 for Apple’s product and those willing to pay $199 to $299 for smaller Android-powered alternatives.

Today the two shall meet. And if Apple can price the smaller iPad competitively, it may win on every other measure.

Analysts are predicting a starting price as low as $299. It would seem odd, though, to give the new iPad the same price point ($299) as the smaller iPod Touch. So don’t be surprised if it’s a little higher than that.

Is it a small iPad or a big iPhone?

Or a third class altogether?

We won’t know this for sure until we get our hands on the device and see how people use it in the wild. But the question matters to designers of news products and other apps or mobile sites.

User interface designers will need to adjust to the smaller screen dimensions. Is that button that was just right on the iPad now too small to tap comfortably? Is that two-pane layout now too cramped?

User experience designers will need to determine how and where people will use a smaller iPad. The full-size iPad is mostly left at home, used in the evenings while relaxing. The iPhone is carried everywhere and used in short sessions throughout the day. The user needs and environments are different, so you have to design differently for each. If the new smaller iPad turns out to be significantly more portable, that will change what users want it to do.

In the long run, the additional complexity may be yet another nudge for news organizations toward using responsively designed websites that adapt fluidly to any screen size.

Related: Other observations, including that one-handed reading is quite different than the larger iPad (SFN Blog) || Earlier: Steve Jobs hated the idea of a 7-inch tablet. Read more

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One-third of people under 40 used the Internet to follow the presidential debate

Pew Research Center
Presidential debate watching is still primarily a television event, but many Americans are also using digital devices simultaneously to get more information or reaction, according to a new Pew poll released Thursday.

The poll focused on which media Americans used during the first presidential debate. It finds 32 percent of people under 40 used digital devices while watching the debate and the same number followed public reaction live online.

A majority (51 percent) of people under 40 got at least some coverage online or through social media.

This phenomenon creates a huge demand for news organizations to provide live second-screen coverage. The Washington Post tells me its Politics app for the iPad saw a 44 percent jump in visits the night of the first debate, and a 600 percent increase in usage of its Forum section that tracks political players on Twitter. Read more


Survey: Americans turn to established media for breaking news, mobile

Most digital news consumers now get information from Web-native sources like The Huffington Post, but they turn to “established” news outlets like the New York Times, CNN or Fox News for big events and mobile news, according to new research.

That is one finding from a national survey commissioned by The New York Times that examines the cross-platform behaviors of news consumers. Brian Brett, executive director of customer research, will present the findings today at the International Newsmedia Marketing Association’s Audience Summit in Chicago.

This data came from an online survey this spring by Knowledge Networks (a company later acquired by GfK Custom Research) of 3,022 U.S. residents 18 to 65, weighted to match the general population. Eighty-five percent of the respondents qualified as “news consumers” who get some kind of news at least a few times a week.

A majority (53 percent) of digital news consumers said they get information from Web-native sources, citing their convenience and accessibility. Only 43 percent regularly use traditional news sources for digital news, but they prefer it for in-depth reporting and trustworthiness.

Newer online outlets are more likely to be used as a daily news source.

The credibility and depth of established media outlets gives them an edge during breaking news situations. No matter which source first delivers a piece of breaking news, 60 percent of people said they turn to an established outlet as their “second source” to learn more.

Traditional outlets also have a significant lead on emerging mobile platforms, where they draw more readers than the upstart digital sources, the study says:

Majorities of smartphone news readers and tablet news readers turn to traditional news sources.

Social network surprises

The survey provides telling comparisons of how different social networks are used for news consumption.

Facebook has a huge base of one billion users, with more than one-third of Millennials using the network for news. Meanwhile, Google+ shows surprising parity with Twitter, and Pinterest does not register as a news source.

These patterns vary by age groups, with younger generations more likely to get news from social media.

More than one-third of Millenials get news from Facebook.

Social media also is a much bigger news source among people using mobile devices, a pattern consistently found in other recent studies.

30 percent of mobile users find news on Facebook.

Sharing is more than social media

Despite all the social sharing buttons littering news sites, the study finds the top methods of sharing news are still word of mouth and email. (See earlier: Limited use of sharing buttons | Sharing buttons look “a little desperate“)

A significant number of Baby Boomers still tear out articles from print media to share with others.

Young people get more mobile news

The results include a chart that contrasts the types of media people use generally with the types of media they use for news specifically.

The contrasts are instructive — for example, the percentage of print newspaper readers is smaller than the percentage of people who own smartphones but greater than the percentage who get news on smartphones.

TVs and computers are the leading media for news consumption.

But that analysis varies quite a bit across generations. Millenials are more likely to own smartphones and to use them for news, and far less likely to use print newspapers, radio or TV for news.

Millenials show different news consumption habits.

Mobile users get more news

Mobile news consumers also are increasing their news consumption faster than non-mobile users. (See earlier: Mobile news consumers get more news from more sources)

Almost a third of people who get news on mobile devices are getting more news than they did a year ago, the research found.

Older generations get news earlier

Perhaps this is not too surprising, but it’s interesting to see the pattern charted: Young people sleep in and get news later in the day, while older generations consume their news earlier in the day.

I combined three charts into one animation so you can clearly see the leftward shift in time-of-day usage from Millenials to Gen X’ers to Boomers:

The overall lessons of this survey are that young people are driving big trends in social media and mobile news consumption, which means those trends will last and grow into the long-term.

Traditional news sources have some helpful advantages in brand loyalty and credibility as they move into these uncharted spaces, and should lean on those strengths while trying to adapt appropriate lessons from newer digital news outlets. Read more


Ad Age: ‘Digital dimes are turning into mobile pennies’

PEJ | Ad Age | IAB | Econsultancy
The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism released the results of a significant study today on the state of mobile news consumption in America. Pew found that some people consume more news after acquiring tablets and that getting news is the second most popular activity on tablets behind emailing. It also sheds light on the difference between people who use apps vs. the Web to get their news.

Poynter’s Rick Edmonds looks at the business implications: While tablet ownership doubled to 22 percent in the past year, those tablet owners don’t want to pay for content and they aren’t crazy about advertising either. That leads Rick to conclude that “bundled subscriptions are looking better than ever.” Read more


Pew: After email, getting news is the most popular activity on smartphones, tablets

The growing number of tablet owners are developing an increased appetite for news, according to a new study from Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Tablet owners spend more time with news from more sources.

The survey measures how many smartphone and tablet owners use the devices to keep up with news, and how they consume news. One key finding is that after email, getting news is the second most popular activity on mobile devices.

Another key finding: Almost one-third of people who acquire tablets find themselves reading more news from more sources than before.

What they’re reading is also interesting. Almost three-fourths of tablet news readers consumed in-depth news articles at least sometimes, with 19 percent saying they do so daily.

A strong majority of tablet readers also said they read at least two-to-three articles in a sitting, many of which they just came across while browsing headlines.

Tablet owners read in-depth articles, and explore articles they weren’t initially seeking.

Most of the people (60 percent) who read in-depth articles on tablets said they get them from just a few specific publications they read regularly, and almost all of those people (90 percent) look at those favorite publications at least once a week.

Overall, the study paints a bright picture of the news consumer’s behavior in the emerging tablet market:

News is a large part of what people do with their mobile devices. Fully 64% of tablet owners get news on their devices at least weekly, including 37% who do so daily. The numbers are similar for smartphone owners – 62% consume news weekly or more and 36% do so daily. For both tablets and smartphones, news is among the top activities people engage in on the devices.

The amount of time spent on these devices getting news is also substantial. Mobile news consumers spend an average of 50 minutes or more getting news on their tablet or smartphone on a typical day.

The introduction of smaller, cheaper 7-inch tablets has expanded and diversified the market in the past year, the study says. A similar study in 2011 found the iPad accounted for 81 percent of the market, while this year’s study has it down to 52 percent. Android-powered tablets, led by the Kindle Fire, have increased to 48 percent in the survey. And this data was collected before the release of Google’s Nexus 7 tablet or Amazon’s newer Kindle Fire HD.

The Android tablet owners, however, are less likely than iPad owners to use the devices each day. The study found 29 percent of Android tablet owners got news daily, compared to 43 percent of iPad owners.

One other lesson to keep in mind from the survey is that “mobile” news consumers are actually not that mobile.

Eighty-five percent of tablet users and 58 percent of smartphone users said they tend to get news on the device while at home.

“In short, while mobile technology allows people to get news on the go, relatively few people do so,” the study says. “The lure of home as a place for news consumption is also linked to the findings about when people get their news. Even though mobile devices make it easier to get news whenever you want, mobile device owners still seem to have habitual times of day when they consume news. And for about half of mobile news users on each device, it is just a single time each day.”

The study also analyzes the revenue conditions of the mobile news market, and my Poynter colleague Rick Edmonds writes about that in a separate post.

One notable piece of data sheds light on the questions of apps vs. websites. The findings reinforce last year’s analysis that while more users prefer websites than apps, the app users consume more news and are more likely to pay for it.

The smaller number of users who prefer news apps to websites spend more time with news, read more news and are more likely to pay for news.

Some caveats

As with any questionnaire-based survey, we should have some skepticism about the respondents’ ability to precisely describe their true behavioral patterns. Asking people to recollect when, where or how they get news is less precise than directly recording their behavior through observation, diaries or analytics.

The survey questioned a random sample of 9,513 adults. The full about mobile news consumption was completed by 1,928 mobile device users, including 810 tablet news users and 1,075 smartphone news users. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for tablet owners and 5.4 percentage points for tablet news users. The margin of error is 2.4 percentage points for smartphone owners and 4.1 for smartphone news users.

Related: Mobile devices offer new business opportunity for news orgs, with old challenges
Earlier: 17 percent of Americans got news on a mobile device yesterday (Poynter) Read more

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Quartz takes the latest step in Web apps evolution

Atlantic Media’s new business news website, Quartz, launched today. I wrote earlier about the five things journalists should know about this new project.

The first of those five things was Quartz’s tablet-first focus, which we can now see in action.

Although the site is focused on reaching globetrotting business executives on their smartphones and tablets, you won’t find it in your favorite app store. Read more


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