A report based on research carried out by Pew Internet shows a dramatic increase in the use of mobile phones to access the Internet, with a 13% growth since last year. "While overall mobile phone ownership has not grown over the last year, cell owners now take advantage of a much wider range of their phones' capabilities," the report states.
Even though adults between ages 18 and 29 are leading the trend, with 65% of them accessing the Internet from their mobiles, other age groups are catching up. In fact, more than half of mobile phone users go online daily using their phones, with 43% of users going online several times a day compared to 37% in 2009. Recent studies in the UK by comScore had similar findings, with more than a third of smartphone users regularly accessing the internet through their phones.
Karen Peterson of The News Tribune confirms both studies: "The number of News Tribune readers getting news on their cell phones accounts for 5 percent of our Web traffic - about 60,000 unique visitors a month. The number has grown 165 percent in the past year," she writes. And unlike traffic to the newspaper website which is cyclical (building all morning and peaking at about 1 p.m. and dropping as low as 40% during weekends), mobile phone traffic remains consistent.
While newspaper houses have been taking advantage of the mobile trend by making news apps available, and building more accessible websites, Peterson highlights the advantages of direct web access over apps. "While apps are popular these days, the mobile Web pages allow us more flexibility. As we see which content is popular, we can make it more prominent on the phone display."
Jeremy Copp, comScore's vice president of mobile feels the same way, stressing that the increase in direct internet access is undermining the effectiveness of apps. "What we're seeing is a disconnect between the hype around apps and the number of people who are actually using them," he says. "Apps are by no means the dominant channel, although it would be unwise to abandon them altogether." Even when newspapers develop excellent apps, the importance of a mobile website should not be forgotten.