April 1, 2015

A report from the Pew Research Center released Wednesday shows that smartphone ownership has nearly doubled in recent years as more Americans have come to depend on the devices for access to information about news events.

The report is another thread in the ongoing narrative of the growing importance of mobile devices to the news industry, as readers — and news organizations — increasingly turn to smartphones to access and deliver information. The findings are based on two polls from November 2014 and include information from a survey of more than 2,000 smartphone owners that provides details about how they use their devices.

The big takeaway: A majority of news consumers now use their smartphones to occasionally follow along with breaking news events and stay abreast of goings-on in their respective communities. Here’s an excerpt from the report:

The survey also finds that a substantial number of smartphone owners use their phone to follow along with news events near and far, to share details of local happenings with others, and to navigate the world around them:

  • 68% of smartphone owners use their phone at least occasionally to follow along with breaking news events, with 33% saying that they do this “frequently.”
  • 67% use their phone to share pictures, videos, or commentary about events happening in their community, with 35% doing so frequently.
  • 56% use their phone at least occasionally to learn about community events or activities, with 18% doing this “frequently.”
  • 67% of smartphone owners use their phone at least occasionally for turn-by-turn navigation while driving, with 31% saying that they do this “frequently.”
  • 25% use their phone at least occasionally to get public transit information, with 10% doing this “frequently.”

The numbers track with traffic trends that many news organizations, including BuzzFeed, The New York Times and CNN, have seen in recent years. In 2013, mobile traffic doubled as networks quickened their pace and the size of smartphone screens increased, Brian Chen wrote for The New York Times.

As readers flock to their cellphones, news organizations have adopted strategies to create a mobile-centric news report. BuzzFeed’s content management system now incorporates a mobile preview to encourage journalists to emphasize cellphone and tablet presentation, and some outlets, such as The New York Times, have adjusted their product development teams to tackle mobile assignments. The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times have de-emphasized the importance of the front page in editorial meetings, preferring to develop a continuous Web and mobile-focused news report.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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