The mobile news market in the US will soon be ripe for mass consumption, according to Robert Samuels, Director of Mobile Products, Mobile Web, Messaging, Games and Alternative Platforms at The New York Times.
"It's been a runaway success," said Samuels, speaking of the growth of the Times' mobile site. "Numbers will continue to grow, there is a lot of industry dynamic supporting this."
The Times' mobile site, which drew 500,000 page views in January 2007, received over 10 million hits by December of the same year, and soared up to 19 million views in May 2008.
Although "most of the consumption on our site is through high end mobile devices so far" such as BlackBerry phones, Treo mobile devices and iPhones, the market is rapidly growing for the mass market, especially amongst commuters.
Generally speaking, the consumption patterns are similar for the online and mobile editions: business and politics are very popular, as well as blogs or most-emailed stories. "But amongst the mobile applications we've been rolling out, some of them are particularly tailored to the mobile user such as the mobile user real estate listings," said Samuels, which enable users on the go to receive listings based on specific criteria such as number of bedrooms, price...
According to Samuels, text messaging will continue to grow for specific uses, such as stock listings or weather forecasts (see this study about text messaging and mobile usage), but "the predominant, long-term mass consumption, will be more than likely be browsing just because that's such a dominant behavior here in the US," he said. Still, "Text messaging for content adoption will grow in the US, we are simply well behind other markets like Europe and Asia."
As of now, the Times' hasn't created any position dedicated to editing or rewriting content for mobile consumption. "I don't think we'll hire specific people to tailor content for mobile per se," said Samuels.
However, most mobile articles are slightly edited upstream in the production process, to make headlines appropriate for mobile devices - for example, an E-hed for mobile can be made to stand alone without a picture, or pictures can be cropped to fit the device.
Is mobile news more adapted to local news outlets that can send out locally relevant alerts to users? "I think it is most definitely appropriate for them but by no means exclusive for them," said Samuels. National brands can also establish themselves on the local mobile news market. In the second half of the year, Samuels plans to roll out restaurant listings, in addition to its show time and weather services.
The Times is also developing news alerts for scheduled news events, such as the Olympics or the presidential elections in the US. For the Olympics, users can sign up to receive various updates including postings from the Rings blog, Top-10 medal count charts or the schedule of events.
While most of the Times' mobile news alert services are free, its mobile games and products will remain paid-for for the foreseeable future. "Through experience and industry research, still the model of paying for a mobile game is something that users are willing to engage in," said Samuels.
Source: Robert Samuels, Director of Mobile Products, Mobile Web, Messaging, Games and Alternative Platforms at The New York Times