The days when everyone sat down to read the newspaper are over. Now they download. With 87 percent of American adults accessing the Internet, they are keeping up with the daily news in different ways. Established print media outlets are creating new ways to capture that readership, providing them with the latest news everywhere they go.
According to the Pew Research Center, at the beginning of the year 90 percent of the adult populace had a cell phone, and most of those are smartphones. The research center’s nationwide survey also showed that half of the cell phone owners use them to download apps.
New digital formats are transforming the newspaper industry and the rising use of mobile devices is changing the face and form of news delivery. In addition to buying more smartphones than ever, now 42 percent of the country’s adults own a tablet computer. In the three years since Apple introduced the iPad, tablets have become the fastest growing digital technology on the market. That jump is causing print publishers to rethink their digital delivery format and offer readers a variety of apps.
It remains to be seen how the iPad or tablet format will revolutionize traditional newspapers, but the latest news is readers want instant access to their news and online publications are rushing to comply. They are offering consumers more choices for receiving the news than ever before. There are endless options, from Twitter one-liners and RSS feeds to dedicated on-the-go mobile apps.
The search is on for new delivery platforms in the highly competitive newspaper industry. The giant media company Tribune turned to Silicon Valley for a former top Yahoo executive to lead the company’s digital ventures. Through its Tribune Digital Ventures division, the company is trying to expand its appeal. The venture includes stories from many sources in addition to the Tribune newspapers like the flagship Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun.
A lot of apps provide personalized streams to users, but the Tribune outlets want to focus on the news of the day by mixing personalized podcasts with other audio streams, using a text-to-voice technology. A lot like talking books, it’s talking news.
Many leading papers are customizing content for readers in free apps they offer for download. The Wall Street Journal, which ranks No. 1 in nationwide readership with 2.4 million readers, also is turning to video versions with its innovative app called WSJ Live. Available in iPad and smartphone formats, it features live, original video programing.
The WSJ still offers an app version of the daily paper along with their “Now” edition of breaking news, but started featuring video segments in 2011.
The New York Times, the next best-read paper with a 1.8 million circulation, also redeploys content through a free app. Once installed, it delivers news via Wi-Fi and cellular Internet connection.
USA Today is slightly behind the Times in the number of readers but also has an iPad app for free download along with mobile downloads for smartphones and tablets. Offering moving updates on the national publication’s highlights, the app concentrates on four main categories: news and headlines, money, sports and life, appealing to different USA Today reader interests.
Other newspapers are localizing their appeal. The Denver Post is pulling back its digital focus on national and international news to concentrate on being an information leader in local markets.
Seeing that their digital users spent more time on their tablets than smartphones, the Post decided to emphasize that platform and develop content related to their geographic region. One popular example is their colorful Colorado Ski Guide, which is formatted for swiping on the iPad.
Many newspapers may just wisely be following the money when developing new digital data for a changing readership. Statistics show the most tablet owners are mature adults age 35-44 living in households earning above $75,000 a year, and that almost half are college graduates.
Traditional print publications could find that the cost of not catering digitally to a wealthier and better-educated demographic might just involve folding.