App download trend is a good story for news media

A new Nielsen study found 33% of smartphone and tablet owners downloaded a news app in a recent 30-day period.

In the news
A new Nielsen study found 33% of smartphone and tablet owners downloaded a news app in a recent 30-day period.

Why does it matter?
The survey was good news for the media as it found that nearly one-in-five smartphone/tablet owners had paid for a news app, an encouraging sign given the challenges journalism has faced in monetizing PC-based online content.

Monica Bannan, VP of product leadership for mobile media at Nielsen, notes that smartphone/tablet news apps are attracting a broad audience. "The two most popular age groups are 55-plus and 35 to 44," she says, though younger audiences have an appetite for news, as well. In a 30-day period, one-in-five app downloaders of USA Today, ABC News, The New York Times, Huffington Post, and AP Mobile were 13 to 24 years old, reports Bannan.

Brian Akaka, founder and CEO of boutique New York firm Appular, says PR pros needn't tailor their pitch - or the content they provide reporters - for the mobile news app space.

"The articles smartphone consumers are reading are the same ones that appear on traditional news sites," he explains.

Competing with dedicated news apps from well-known media brands are a host of news-reader apps, including Flipboard and Google Reader, which pull stories from different content generators, and niche mobile news apps focused on specific topics such as entertainment or sports.

"If you can find a tech slant to your story, it is more likely to show up on both news apps and news-reader apps because that audience is biased toward technology," adds Akaka.

Key facts

1. The top three dedicated news apps Nielsen found are CNN Mobile, Fox News, and USA Today.

2. A 2011 survey of tablet owners from the Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism found 11% had paid for news directly.

3. News was eighth on a list of app categories, while games ranked first, according to Nielsen.

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