Both if resources permit it. Large or well-funded orgs can do this.
CNN announced last week that mobile page views accounted for 40 percent of its overall traffic, the result of equally emphasizing its mobile website and mobile apps even as some in the industry remain stuck in an either-or debate.
ESPN’s traffic crossed the 50 percent mobile threshold late last year and BuzzFeed’s traffic is also majority mobile, but CNN’s 40 percent is impressive for a general news organization — one known to take particular advantage of softer content. “We’ve been saying 2014 is going to be the year that we go over 50 percent for mobile usage,” said Meredith Artley, CNN Digital’s managing editor.
Artley said mobile traffic remains pretty consistent throughout all seven days of the week, but desktop drops by half on weekends, reflecting industrywide trends. She also, interestingly, said desktop was becoming a “niche platform” with massive numbers mainly between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Desktop still accounts for a majority of CNN’s traffic, so that’s a pretty big niche.)
I wondered if CNN was shifting resources away from apps and toward the mobile web, especially in light of reports like the latest from Flurry Analytics that indicate news apps struggle to compete with social media apps for mobile users’ attention. (Flurry found use of social/messaging apps grew 203 percent in 2013, compared with just 31 percent in the news/magazines category.)
But Artley told me via phone she doesn’t get caught up in the ever-shifting rhetoric surrounding mobile apps:One month, they’re dead, they’re hard, they’re expensive, you have to get approval, they’re closed off. … Then the next month you hear they take advantage of the mobile platform in a way the mobile web can’t. It feels like a roller coaster that really I think is a red herring, mobile web versus apps.
It’s impossible to argue that the best answer to the web vs. app debate is “both,” and Artley acknowledged many news organizations don’t have the global resources — as CNN does — to devote to every platform imaginable.
On the other hand, it’s hard not to be persuaded by one of the common arguments we hear and that Artley brought up: apps are too walled-off to remain relevant in an increasingly connected media landscape.
why should CNN push readers to an app that doesn’t offer an experience significantly better than its mobile website does? And given the relentless dominance of social apps, why not make sure your website reflects your best foot forward on mobile? Is 2014 the right time to be directing readers away from the web and toward an app?
Then again, the social/messaging platforms that are growing fastest and perhaps at the expense of news/magazine apps — WeChat, SnapChat, Instagram, etc. — hardly offer much to news organizations. So it’s not as simple as saying, “Social is huge, so the best strategy is to be as shareable as possible on social.” Some of the hottest new social apps aren’t built for the type of sharing that would draw heavy traffic to CNN’s mobile site anyway.
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