Use cases for digital media: comScore report shows why they matter
Audiences aren’t what they used to be, especially for the news business. Once upon a time, publishers and advertisers mostly cared about were audience demographics. That’s because most people—regardless of age, income, etc.—know how to find and use a newspaper, magazine, tv, or radio. But technology (especially mobile) is radically changing how people engage with and are influenced by media. So media outlets can no longer take their “use case” for granted…
Audiences aren’t what they used to be, especially for the news business. Once upon a time, publishers and advertisers mostly cared about were audience demographics. That’s because most people—regardless of age, income, etc.—know how to find and use a newspaper, magazine, tv, or radio.
But technology (especially mobile) is radically changing how people engage with and are influenced by media. So media outlets can no longer take their “use case” for granted…
By Amy Gahran
This week comScore released its Digital Omnivores report, which hints at how publishes might borrow a page from product developers. Understanding your “use cases” might form a more solid business foundation for your media venture.
The report covers a wealth of data concerning how mobile technology such as tablets, smartphones and other “connected devices” (e-readers, game players, etc.) are changing U.S. digital media consumption habits.
What are “digital omnivores?” Here’s how comScore explained it:
“Not too long ago, consumers depended solely on their desktop computer or laptop to connect online. Now, a growing number of consumers are likely to access a wide variety of digital content across a multitude of devices on a daily basis. With smartphones, tablets and other connected devices, consumers have become digital omnivores—not just because of the media they consume, but also in how they consume it. Cross-platform consumption has created a vastly different digital landscape, and it is one that requires insight into both the individual usage of devices as well as the nature of their complementary use.”
...In case you missed it, comScore is actually talking about an already sizable part of your digital audience—which will soon grow to comprise the majority of your digital audience, whether you’re ready for that or not. IDC recently predicted that by 2015, more Americans will access the internet via wireless networks than hardwired broadband (cable modems, etc.).
Some highlights from this report:
1. Half of all U.S. mobile users currently access mobile media. The report noted: “The mobile media user population (those who browse the mobile web, access applications, or download content) grew 19% in the past year to more than 116 million people at the end of August 2011.” This category includes not just smartphone users but all kinds of portable devices that can interact with the internet and/or wireless networks such as the iPod Touch, tablets, e-readers and more.
This means that your potential mobile audience is probably broader and more diverse than you’ve imagined—so there’s room to experiment with offering different categories of mobile-friendly content and services. Mobile offers ample opportunities to capitalize on niche markets.
2. Tablets are a small market right now, but possibly important to the news business in the long run. “Nearly 60% of tablet owners consume news on their tablets. 58% of tablet owners consumed world, national or local news on their devices, with 25% consuming this content on a near-daily basis on their tablets.”
3. Devices do not exist in isolation. Understanding complementary usage is key. “Devices influence the way people consume content and it is important to remember that they do not exist in isolation of one another, but have a complementary relationship in consumers’ lives. ...Understanding how consumers are utilizing the full spectrum of digital devices available to them will become increasingly important to building effective digital strategies.”
In other words: What matters is not just that an audience member has a tablet that can run your app. It’s that she also gets timely, relevant text messages from you on her phone (smart or otherwise), and may sometimes engage with you on-the-go via social media. Such multi-channel and even multi-platform experiences can change the kind of value you can offer each other. Your connection may grow richer; or it may fragment and dissipate.
4. Ripple and amplifying effects count, but may be hard to measure. According to comScore: “In the example of selected publishers within the News category, accounting for the total audience for these sites beyond home and work computers yields a significant incremental reach from mobile and connected devices.
“...Incremental reach and unduplicated audience are critical to the digital ecosystem: Understanding one’s total audience across all platforms will be central to the future of the digital advertising ecosystem. For publishers, the incremental audience wrought by mobile and tablets provides additional reach as one’s total audience expands. For advertisers, understanding unduplicated audiences across these various platforms will be critical to optimizing campaigns. For publishers such as Pandora who source a significant portion of their audience away from computers, these insights are essential to an effective multi-platform digital strategy.”
All of this got me thinking about use cases.
A “use case” is a methodology that people who develop software, products, or systems employ to identify, clarify, and organize what an offering must accomplish in the real world. They consider how people will likely encounter and interact with the offering. This may or may not have anything to do with the demographics of the user.
According to Search Software Quality, a use case is a document that defines “a set of possible sequences of interactions between systems and users in a particular environment and related to a particular goal.” That article also recommends good resources for developing use cases, understanding their limits, and avoiding pitfalls—all written for software developers, but the concept applies more broadly.
The Guardian project—an effort to create mobile tools and security for activists, journalists, and citizen journalists—offers one example of what mobile media use cases can look like. Each use case focuses on a goal the user wishes to achieve, and then explains how to use Guardian tools to get there.
For digital publishers, journalists, and community managers, the added challenge would be considering how to support users’ goals (and your own business or mission) across a variety of types of devices, and in a variety of at-rest and on-the-go settings. If you understand the kind of engagement and effects you want, then it gets easier to be flexible about the technology used to achieve them.
That’s important, because your audience will always use the mobile devices they want (or can afford). And they’ll probably change devices fairly frequently. If your mobile strategy focuses on mainly specific devices (such as the iPad), platforms (such as Android), or channels (such as native apps), you’re basically demanding that mobile users come to you on your turf and terms.
Use cases can help create a mobile strategy is flexible enough to meet your audience on their turf—the devices they’ve chosen, whatever they are. From this starting point you can foster deeper engagement that serves everyone’s interests.
The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Your article essentially indicates media companies need to continue to sculpt content for an increasing number of platforms/devices/etc. to remain viable. How do you think this element of the changing industry should be reflected in how journalism schools instruct and new reporters are trained?
By WilliamDiepenbrock, 10/12/11 at 6:45 am
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