Report Suggests Mobile Helping Revive Some Traditional Media

Buried in comScore’s recent and extensive U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus report is a chart that shows mobile usage is helping traditional newspaper publishers and magazines grow their digital audiences — sometimes significantly.

This was something of a surprise to me. Conventional wisdom holds that most newspapers and magazines are dead men (people) walking. Yet there are a number of stories like that of the SF Chronicle (Hearst), which has come back from near death through digital. This is not to say that all is right with the newspaper or magazine publishing worlds, but things are not as dire as they once appeared in many cases.

comScore Future in Focus report

According to the data above, a number of traditional publishers saw growth of more than 30% year over year. The Washington Post saw 78% audience growth between 2014 and 2015 based largely on mobile usage increases, according to comScore. In many cases these are new/younger audiences as well.

The report doesn’t try to account for the growth beyond saying it was mostly about “leveraging mobile.” However I’m going to speculate it’s a product of several things:

  • High levels of interest in news and “content” among smartphone and tablet users
  • These brands still matter locally and nationally and reflect some level of quality to users
  • The appeal of branded apps, which increases frequency, loyalty and engagement

In this context, content producers such as newspapers and magazines are, arguably, differently situated from other traditional media companies such as radio, local TV and directories. In these latter categories the digital competition is intense. For example, Hulu, YouTube, Neflix, Spotify and Pandora are stronger brands and offer a better experience to users than could local TV and radio.

The question in my mind is whether directory publishers could (almost 10 years in) still use mobile to revive their consumer businesses. YP has managed to maintain a large consumer audience in the US and Yellow Media/YPG has done so in Canada. It may be “too late” for many publishers but I tend to believe that with creativity and experimentation, directories could still do some interesting things to address gaps and unmet local consumer needs.

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