News for Digital Journalists

August 23, 2012

What “mobile first” means to BreakingNews.com

Reaching mobile audiences takes thoughtful strategy and execution. Community and niche outlets, or any news startup, might take a page from how one national news curation site delivers mobile news.

BreakingNews.com focuses on curating in real time the top breaking news stories from around the world. The bare-bones website and mobile apps are intended for quick glances—but they have a strong presence in all of the most popular social media (especially @breakingnews on Twitter).

This week, in a blog post, general manager Cory Bergman observed: “While social media gets lots of the attention, the explosion in smartphones and tablets is reinventing the way we consume and interact with content.  We’ve seen it firsthand here at Breaking News: traffic from devices surpassed desktop traffic back in January, doubled it in June and the gap continues to grow.”

He shared these insights and lessons:

  1. “Mobile first” is a mindset. “The key is to start envisioning a product optimized for devices, and work backwards to the desktop web.”
  2. Aim to solve problems. “Leverage the unique form and features of devices to solve problems for people. For us, the stream is the story—which is a mobile-friendly form—with push alerts as a feature.”
  3. Your users can make or break your product. “Imagine a world where users had to click past comments from others about your website before they ever saw your home page. That’s how people discover and download mobile apps.”
  4. Live in the devices world. “How do you start thinking in devices?  Like anything, it helps to immerse yourself.”
  5. Dig into the metrics. “Breaking News’ mobile traffic jumps 15-20% on the weekends. By digging into your mobile metrics, you can learn about consumption patterns and the true momentum of your products.”
  6. Recalibrate goals around mobile. “Most newsrooms measure their digital performance in desktop and social metrics, but for a truly ‘mobile first’ approach, goals should reflect performance on devices.”
  7. Take advantage of mobile tools. “There’s a new crop of mobile companies offering useful tools for user tracking, search engine optimization, A/B testing, advertising optimization and more.”
  8. Experiment and fail (quickly). “Mobile-first companies often iterate on a mobile web version first, grafting the best features into subsequent app releases.”
  9. Recognize that mobile is hard and costly. “Your users have choices.  If your mobile products are slow, clunky and more focused on being ‘scalable’ than ‘delightful,’ you have an uphill battle.”

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