The latest Comscore figures reveal people are using the web less and less. Total Internet audience is stable in the US with 222 million unique monthly visitors. But from February 2013 to February 2014, the average time spent on the web per visitor went down by a scary 17 percent from 35 hours per month (2108 minutes) to 29 hours per month (1741 minutes).
News Websites are Shrinking. Quickly.
News websites are especially suffering from this dramatic shift. Yahoo News, the number one news website in US with 73 monthly million unique visitors, dropped by 25 percent to 54 million unique visitors over the last year. Even worse, the average time a user spends on the site went down 14 percent. Usually when the base decreases, the average number of minutes remains relatively constant because the site retains its core users. In this case, both users and time decreased dramatically, signaling a sea change in user behavior. In another example, NYTimes.com saw a decrease in users by only 6 percent but the total number of minutes spent on the site fell by 41 percent. What Yahoo! And The New York Times are experiencing is a global trend, as illustrated in the graph below. The web news industry isn’t just losing users, but time spent on their sites at an impressive speed.
News applications are flourishing.
On the other hand, mobile applications continue to grow. Last year saw a 23 percent increase in unique visitors from 109 million in February 2013 to 134 million in February 2014. But, based on Comscore’s latest report, the most impressive figure is the average time spent per visitor on applications, which has increased by 9 percent and represents 59 hours each month. That means mobile users are spending twice as much time on their phones as they are on the web. Total unique mobile users are still less than web users (40 percent less), but the amount of time spent on those devices is outpacing the web by 24 percent. In November 2013, for the first time in the US, time spent on applications was above the web. As shown in the graph, we can expect this trend to accelerate significantly.
Again, news applications are feeling the effects the most. Mobile news apps saw a total audience growth of 23 percent last year and now represents 72 percent of the audience. In other words, three out of four mobile users check at least one mobile application every month. US application consumers are spending close to two hours per month reading the news on their phone, representing 3 percent of total time spent on applications.
Easy Access = Intense usage
It’s very likely that the increase in mobile use has contributed to the decrease in web use. But that doesn’t mean sites like Yahoo! and the New York Times should bemoan their loss of web users completely. In the end, mobile use has increased the amount of time users are spending with the brand. Yahoo News usage in the US was at 1.2 million minutes in February 2013, the time spent on Yahoo News web and mobile in February 2014 reached 1.9 million, representing a 50 percent increase. The New York Times also increased in usage, as shown below.
The increase in mobile use over web isn’t surprising when we consider Jerome Mc Carthy’s marketing concept widely held since the 1960s. It works for any consumer good or service: the easier the access, the more often consumers will use it. It is why smartwatch and other connected gear will increase applications usage (I will talk about that in an upcoming post).
This shift in eco-system has given new mobile players a huge opportunity to capture some of news market share, applying pressure to traditional news companies to retain their readers. If existing brands can’t keep up with mobile innovation, they will surely lose out to newcomers, such as big brand Facebook Paper or smaller players, like news aggregators.
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