This morning, I bet that the first thing you did - even before you had that first cup of coffee - was check the news. In fact, you didn't open an actual newspaper. Chances are you read the news on your phone.
Every day our world is becoming increasingly more digital and more mobile. It wasn't long ago that laptops made the (at the time) shocking move past desktops as the computer of choice. Pretty soon, there won't be a need for a device that doesn't fit in your pocket. Times have changed, and the tipping point is behind us.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and a significant number of them rely primarily on their smartphone for access to pretty much everything. As more people migrate online, fewer people are reading physical newspapers. According to Pew Research Center's State of the News Media 2015 Report, last year newspapers underwent a decline in circulation by three percent.
Today, digital traffic is the major force driving news consumption, and mobile platforms especially outpace desktop platforms; 39 out of 50 news sites gain more traffic from mobile devices. The media industry has kept pace with this change -- beginning to recognize that mobile platforms, with their large readerships, make non-mobile devices less relevant.
Next week, I will moderating a panel on today's news environment - exploring the push and pull between print and digital news with two experienced journalists, Noah Shachtman, Executive Editor at The Daily Beast, and Dennis Berman, Financial Editor of The Wall Street Journal. I'm sure it will be a lively and informative discussion.
Notably, the trend doesn't suggest or reflect any less of an interest in news in general, or any less of a standard for quality reporting. Throughout the television industry, local and network news actually increased their numbers of viewers this year. Cable news, saw declines last year but their website audience grew.
The media world is changing so rapidly it has been difficult for many print outlets to figure out how to adapt. Newsweek, one of America's oldest weekly news magazines was rocked by declining advertising and subscription revenues several years ago and was forced to merge with The Daily Beast, a next generation news outlet at the time. But the marriage wasn't a good fit and a few years later the magazine was sold off and The Daily Beast remained - and today it is one of the fastest growing news sites.
Savvy media outlets haven't just been sitting back and watching their circulation numbers drop. They've recognized the audience's hunger for mobile news, and have adapted. For example, The Wall Street Journal recently launched a new mobile app for subscribers called "What's News". The app isn't trying to provide long reads - it simply provides the most recent 'Top 10 News Items of the Moment' - entries are a maximum of 350 words. This content is written exclusively for the mobile consumer, on the platform they want.
This past year, podcasts broke through to a mainstream audience in an unprecedented manner. 'Serial', a spinoff of radio stalwart 'This American Life', made history by reaching 5 million downloads at a never-before-seen rate. Podcast numbers have doubled since 2008. Outlets such as NPR have capitalized on this trend as well.
In this new space, as advertisements have become increasingly synonymous with mobile platforms, editors will continue to worry about revenue. This is an integral part of the media industry, and it's not changing anytime soon. As distribution channels go in and out of style, and content demands change depending on shareability, download-ability, emotional appeal, and speed, editors will continue to seek relevancy. Still - not all is lost.
In the end, quality will always be the difference maker and the biggest attraction for consumers. People will always want the news, distribution and form aside - and we know that content will always be KING - something the savviest of media brands have known all along.