Blog Post

Most Publications That Have A ‘Mobile Strategy’ Really Don’t

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of political news network TPM Media LLC. He wrote this look at mobile strategy for Talking Points Memo; we’re publishing it on mocoNews with his permission.

Every so often I’ll find something when I’m working on the planning/publishing side of our operation that I think might interest you. Click through to read more only if you’re up for some discussion of how many people read TPM on mobile devices.

The key line in the graph below is the blue one, which represents the percentage of visits to TPM that come from all mobile devices. As you can see, it’s still relatively small: just under 7 percent. But 12 months ago it was less than half that. And it’s now going up at just under 1 percentage point every two months.

As you’ll also note, about half our mobile device audience is from iPhones. But that number has been relatively stable. In October it was 3.5 percent. What’s really driving the growth are a slew of other gizmos that have come onto the market over the last year — particularly the iPad and the range of smart phones that use Google’s ‘Android’ operating system. (An important context for these numbers is the fact that Mac usage runs much higher among TPM Readers than on the Internet at large. Roughly 1/3 of our readers use Macs.)

For those of you who follow the world of tech or digital publishing these numbers may not be that surprising. And they make sense in the context of the craze amongst publishers to find the right ‘mobile strategy’ and throw a bunch of money at it whatever ‘it’ might turn out to be.

I had to put this graph together because we’re currently putting together the business and scheduling plans for a major expansion of TPM. And getting a good read of how we see our mobile readership developing is critical to getting that right. We’re planning on dramatically upgrading the mobile versions of the site for iPhone (where we have a passable iPhone optimized version now), iPad and Android.

Many of you have asked about this … a lot. And trust me, it’s on the way.

More generally, my own sense is that most of the publications that have a ‘mobile strategy’ think they have one when they really don’t. I watch these things pretty closely — both because I need to for the line of work that I’m in but also because I’m just into technology and news. And mobile news sites are about where websites were in the mid-1990s when it was just people taking newspaper journalism and sticking it on a website with little sense of the new technology’s potential or pitfalls. It was only about the turn of the century that you started to see people applying genuinely new ideas about how to form and present news that were in some sense native to the medium. The ‘blog’ metaphor — with a running stream of updates, reverse chronological order and more audience-engaged style was part of that. But far from the only part. These were structural differences at the surface; but they were tied to very different ideas and practices about how to report news.

I’ve seen very little of that yet on the mobile front.

This article originally appeared in Talking Points Memo.