Regional newspapers need to re-think their mobile strategies if they want to make money from the platform, according to new research.
Journalism researchers Francois Nel and Oscar Westlund say newspapers are currently directing their content to mobile channels with “no hint of a business model.”
They found that newspapers in 66 cities have mostly abandoned experiments with paid-for SMS delivery and have instead created free mobile websites.
A report drawn up by the pair concluded: “Unless newspapers rethink their current approaches, there is little evidence to indicate that newspapers will have any more economic success with mobile than they have had thus far online.”
The survey found that of 23 papers with mobile sites, only three sell display advertising against their pages, and that classified advertising, which was launched onto 11 of those sites in 2010, is now entirely absent.
In addition, according to the report, only one regional title, the Belfast Telegraph, currently charges anything for a mobile/tablet app.
The report, entitled ‘The 4 Cs of Mobile News: Channels, Conversations, Content and Commerce,’ concluded that the vast majority of publishers are not engaging with their users through mobile channels and publishers are tentative about developing content for this platform.
“Limited commercial practices from the web have been transferred to mobile. Current commercial approaches do little to bolster fledgling online businesses, much less make up for any losses in print circulation sales and the concomitant decline in advertising income,” it stated.
The findings were revealed at the recent Future of Journalism conference at Cardiff University.
Presenting the paper at the conference Oscar Westlund said: “Publishers are actively pushing readers away from one medium to the other with no revenue stream.
“For the last two decades, most publishers have operated with one overriding mission – to republish their content on multiple new devices. But mostly that content is retained in its original form.
“By pushing that same content out to new devices for free with no corresponding business model, publishers risk readers substituting their lucrative print habit with cheap or free mobile consumption.”