Guardian’s executive editor of digital: ‘Mobile has snuck up on us’

Forty-six per cent of people now access news on their phones on a weekly basis as smartphones are changing the way in which news is consumed by audiences, influencing formats and business models, according to the Reuters Institute 2015 Digital News Report, published today.

Speaking on the panel at the launch of the report in London, the Guardian’s executive editor of digital Aron Pilhofer said “mobile has snuck up” on publishers and it is a platform that they “have only recently started to take seriously.”

News organisations are now trying to catch up, he said, citing The New York Times’ recent experiment of banning employees’ access to the desktop homepage for a week in order to get them to think ‘mobile first’.

The survey conducted by the Reuters Institute also showed people in most countries were more likely to access news via a mobile browser, rather than an app.

In the UK 46 per cent preferred mobile apps over mobile browsers and it was revealed that a third of respondents used a mobile news app in a given week, even if 70 per cent had one installed on their phones.

Pilhofer said most journalists “immediately jump to apps” when thinking about mobile and sometimes this is a mistake. At the Guardian, most of mobile traffic and growth is happening in mobile browsers.

Robert Shrimsley, managing editor of the Financial Times, said publishers have been slower to react to mobile because it gives them fewer options to “play with index pages and formats,” particularly at homepage level. 

“I don’t think people reacted quickly enough to 3G – mobiles were not very good and then, suddenly, they were very good.”


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