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News Consumers Can't Choose Between Apps and Web

In some cases, there was more of a tilt toward apps

November 3, 2015

For some activities, mobile users have a clear preference about app vs. browser usage. For example, according to August 2015 Millward Brown Digital polling, US smartphone owners typically lean on apps for online banking activities, but turn to browsers to research cars and trucks.

Usage of Browser vs. App When Accessing News via Smartphone According to US Smartphone Owners, Aug 2015 (% of respondents)

For news consumption, however, mobile preferences are not so clear-cut. Across a range of news topics, Millward Brown found, nearly equal shares of smartphone owners say they mostly access content via app vs. via browser.

For example, 36% of respondents said they mostly used apps to read entertainment news. But 37% said they mostly used a browser. For human interest stories, 36% turned to apps and 38% to mobile browsers. And for science or technology news, the breakdowns were identical, at 38% each.

In a few areas, there was a clearer tilt toward apps. Forty percent of smartphone owners mostly used apps to read business news, vs. 32% who mostly used a browser. Similarly, 42% of smartphone owners focused on apps for sports news, 10 points ahead of the 32% who preferred browsers. In both cases, however, one-quarter of respondents or more were ambivalent about how they accessed news content on mobile devices.

Leading Reasons that US Smartphone Owners Prefer Using Browser vs. App When Accessing News via Smartphone, Aug 2015 (% of respondents)

Among those respondents who preferred using apps to access news generally, half said they were easier to navigate than the mobile web. More than two in five favored apps because they could use them for notifications for breaking news. Similarly, 35% noted apps let them save preferences for better functionality.

Users who preferred browsers tended to focus less on their individual news preferences and more on the fact that they used many sources for news. Nearly half noted that if they read news on the mobile web, they did not need numerous apps to accommodate their interests. In addition, 39% said they did not read any one news source enough to bother downloading a particular app.

Digital news consumption—and especially mobile news consumption—are growing as readers look for timely updates on what’s going on.

According to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), half of the US digital newspaper audience is mobile-only as of August 2015, with another 23% accessing newspaper content via mobile as well as via desktop or laptop PC. Among the mobile newspaper audience as a whole, 80% use only smartphones to access such content.

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