Not all mobile devices are equal when it comes to access.

Smartphones and tablets have revolutionized how consumers access media content. But move away from the big picture and there are essential details to consider, such as when consumers access your content.



The Financial Times is just one business investing a great deal of resources in analysing digital usage patterns. The graph below shows subscriber access during the day – the blue section shows desktop and laptop access and the orange section shows mobile devices.

— Desktop/laptop: The FT tells us that PC usage peaks when FT subscribers reach their desks and drops off steadily during the day. Usage is low at weekends.

— Mobile devices: There’s a big spike in mobile usage as people check the FT on their tablet or mobile when they get up, keep reading through their commute, then tail off as they get to work and presumably switch to their PC. There’s then another, smaller peak in the evening on the commute home, which lasts into the evening.

— Weekends: One of the most interesting aspects of mobile usage for the FT is the usage at weekends. As you can see there’s a big spike in mobile access on Saturday morning, a smaller one on Sunday morning, and another peak on Sunday evening. Mobile is by far the most common method of access to the FT online during the weekend.

A key point here is that the bulk of this traffic is additive – the FT is seeing high levels of traffic to its website during times when there was previously very little, simply because people now have a way of accessing it.

We are not seeing a substitutional effect,” FT head of data Tom Betts tells TheMediaBriefing. “People reading across multiple devices increases their consumption, they read for more and longer.”

You can see a similar weekly consumption pattern in data from the Guardian, as presented by Steve Wing, The Guardian’s former director of mobile who spoke at one of TheMediaBriefing’s half day Market Briefing events last year but has since left to run CBS’s UK consumer division.

PC access starts high during the week, dips slightly by Wednesday, climbs again towards the end of the working week, then plummets on Saturday before climbing again slightly as the weekend ends.

iPad, smartphone apps and the guardian mobile website all also start strongly on Monday, but stay lower than the PC website throughout the week. Yet at weekends usage climbs, approaching the same levels seen on the website mid-week.

Another chart from Wing shows that the print consumption pattern mirror iPad access, though it tails off earlier in the evening.

Different kinds of mobile

Not all mobile devices are equal when it comes to access.

The below graph, presented by Guardian mobile apps product manager Tom Grinsted late last year, shows the share of traffic taken up by different mobile access methods and

The white line, though not labelled, is iPad access via the mobile web rather than The Guardian’s (paid-for) app. This shows a very different access pattern to all other methods, with just a small peak in the morning and a far larger one in the evening. One explanation for this is that evening consumers are following links to articles, rather than browsing all content.

It’s also worth noting that access via The Guardian’s Facebook app roughly follows the PC pattern, suggesting evidence of the “bored at work network” theory proposed by Huffington Post and BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Peretti.

So what to make of these different consumption patterns throughout the day?

Always on: The internet fundamentally changed publication priorities, making continuous publishing throughout the day not only feasible, but increasingly necessary. Mobile has simply extended the hours during which consumers will access content – no longer just working hours but all waking hours.

Right time, right place, right content?: Because access is taking place on different devices at different times of day, the sort of content delivered needs to vary. The FT’s Betts tells me: “On mobile devices, weekend content, and life and arts coverage is extremely popular. Whereas when you look at the desktop, so much is focused around working patterns and how (readers) work.”

Different working patterns: Those different content demands mean a different approach to how journalists work. It might not mean writing different editorial at different times, but it does mean someone needs to be making editorial decisions about which content to deliver when, based on those usage patterns.

Betts says: “We are starting to see a number of changes to the way editorial teams they publish. Obviously having someone working nine-to-five on mobile publishing doesn’t work.”

Mobile devices have extended the time frame during which publishers need to pay attention to the content they are putting in front of consumers, but it has also massively increased the complexity of news consumption throughout the day. That makes delivering the right content in the right way at the right time far more challenging.

Photo credit: L’Atelier

Via The Media Briefing