Desktop vs. Mobile

Part
01
of four
Part
01

Website versus Mobile: News Sites

We were able to determine that more U.S. adults gravitate towards receiving news through their mobile devices. However, most of them still find it more convenient to watch videos on a desktop rather than on a mobile device.

Overview

  • According to a Pew Research Center survey, six of ten U.S. adults (57%) get their news using a mobile device, compared to 30% who get their news from a desktop or laptop computer.

Website-Only Platform/Desktop on News Sites (Pros)

  • Content variety: An important aspect of a news site is the variety of content is can showcase on its website. The desktop version is always rated better than the mobile view because there is a lot more room for content on a desktop device.
  • Consumers of news sites prefer to view an assortment of content on a spacious platform which correlates better with the desktop version.
  • About 82.13% of surveyed users prefer content variety when viewing news websites ahile 76.53% of them prefer viewing content on the mobile version.

  • Videos: The video section is of great importance when it comes to how users are consuming the news they receive.
  • According to Testbrids, 74.04% of the users tend to be more tilted to their desktop when it comes to news websites video viewing while 70.73% prefer viewing videos on their mobiles.

Cons

  • Clutter: The desktop version is usually cluttered with different things like bullet points, headlines, pictures, stories that are all arranged in an unstructured manner. It makes it difficult to digest all the information and to recognize which headline belongs to which story or image.

  • Accessibility concerns: It is much easier to access a mobile device than a desktop.
  • In fact, 58% of the total site visits to news websites in 2018 coming from their mobile versions.

Mobile Platform on News Sites (Pros)

  • Clarity: The user experience (UX) of consumers on news sites related to clarity is considered one of the reasons people prefer to use the mobile versions of news sites.
  • According to Testbirds, the front page of a news website is usually clear and well-organized on the mobile version.
  • In fact, 80.77% of the users of news sites prefer to view content on mobile versions because it is viewed as cleaner and more structured while 66.38% of news sites users prefer the desktop platforms.

  • Prioritizing breaking news: The way breaking news is displayed and prioritized has an immense impact on the UX of consumers of news sites.
  • About 76.15% of surveyed users of news sites lean more towards the mobile version than the 73.19% of those on desktop websites.

Cons

  • Less video quantity: The quantity of content, especially for that of videos, is far less on the mobile version than the desktop version.
  • Surveys show that 81.28% of users prefer to view video content on a desktop because of the quantity of what they can get compared to 80% that prefer videos on a mobile version.

  • Reduced content variety: There is less content to choose from on a mobile version.

A Company with Successful Incorporation of Mobile Versions

  • The New York Times has achieved significant success with their mobile version. This is because the user rate of their mobile version appears to be higher when compared to that of CNN's.

Research Strategy

Throughout our research, we discovered that there was limited information on this subject since most sources discussed use cases for mobile websites versus mobile apps. In layman's terms, there is an abundance of pros and cons of mobile websites versus mobile apps. We found several reports that compared the websites and apps of the New York Times and CNN.

Unfortunately, we were unable to find any information on a successful news company that is utilizing a website-only platform/desktop. Industry surveys such as the Pew Research Center report on journalism and media clearly states that a large percentage of this news media outlets are making their presence known on mobile devices.
Part
02
of four
Part
02

News Sites: User Engagement and Ads

Good advertising formulas and insights on how to balance ads to avoid hurting user engagement include using the EMPV metric to measure how adverts affect engagement, using multivariate ad testing to make ads more appealing to visitors, offering fewer targeted ads, using native or sponsored advertising, and ensuring that ads do not exceed the content on a web page.

1. Use EPMV to Measure the Balance Between Site Revenue and User Engagement

  • The initial focus for a site that wants to balance user engagement and revenue from ads is to use the correct metric for measuring the relationship between ads and user engagement.
  • Most news sites that use the Cost Per Mile (CPM) metric also known as Cost Per Thousand Impressions, cannot successfully measure how their ads affect user experience. CPM is the measure of the cost that an advertiser incurs to buy a thousand impressions, not considering user experience or the effect of that ad on other ads. An ad can dilute other page ads, causing site revenue to go down even as CPM increases.
  • Earnings Per Thousand Visitors/Sessions (EPMV) also known as session earnings is the best metric to measure earnings over a user session's lifetime. EPMV measures page views per visit, bounce rate, and also determines how one ad might dilute others on the page.
  • To calculate EPMV, divide total earnings by 1000 user sessions (total earnings/1000 user sessions). This metric determines how much money a site generates from visits even when site traffic is declining and helps site owners to balance between content and ads.
  • An increasing EPMV is a sign that users are spending more time on a site which equals a higher user engagement and increased revenue. If the EMPV is decreasing, it means that users are spending less time on a site because of the negative experience that the ads on the page are creating.

2. Using Multivariate Ad Testing

  • Multivariate ad testing involves continuous testing of various variables within an ad to determine their effect on user engagement as well as ROI. Such variables include ad display, message, and page positioning. The practice enables news sites to test which ad features when combined, perform better with specific target users.
  • "You can take your landing page data and compare the EMPV's of different landing pages relative to different ad combinations. Optimizing your ad combinations with your landing page EPMV's helps to balance user experience and digital revenue."
  • Multivariate ad testing, when combined with EPMV, will help to keep visitors on a page because ads become impressive and memorable. News sites should, therefore, work with advertisers to structure ads in ways that draw the attention of readers.

3. Offer Personalized News Recommendations and Targeted Ads

  • When Reach (formerly Trinity Mirror), a UK-based news outlet that also covers US news, wanted to increase engagement, it turned to the Rummble Labs technology.
  • According to Malcolm, who was the E-consultancy guest blogger and Product Director at The Mirror, the move to upgrade provided readers with more personalized news and in the process delivered relevant ads to users. Malcolm wanted the site to "have fewer ad slots, but make them more appealing and therefore more valuable to the users."
  • Malcolm also added that "the old site was cluttered, and though we promoted a lot of stories on the homepage, I think it gave people a less idea of where to look and go on the site...people tend to snack on news sites, maybe browsing during breaks, lunch hours, and so on, and personalization helps them to find something that will interest them."
  • "The technology will learn from the articles that people choose to read as they browse the site, and will recommend a further reading list at the right-hand side of the articles."
  • According to research on digital advertising and news, ad targeting and customization is vital for both customer engagement and to increase digital revenue.

4. Native advertising

  • Native advertising is one effective way to reduce ads by incorporating them into sponsored articles.
  • A news site can determine the information that its readers are interested in and accept sponsored blog posts or articles which promote a certain product or service and are similar in style with other content in the news site. The sponsored articles should be more informational than promotional.
  • News blogs and big media sites such as Forbes, Fox, and ESPN are successfully using native advertising to boost user engagement and at the same time generate revenue. Native advertising works because users will associate such a site with useful information than with pop-up adverts which most readers hate.

5. Number of Adverts Must Not Exceed Content Provided on a Page

  • Google Adsense's revised rules on advertising could offer some insights on some best practices when it comes to the ideal number of digital ads. A while ago, Google Adsense allowed no more than 3 ads on a page. While sites can now place more ads, a site's useful content must exceed the number of ads on a web page.
  • Sites can use the EPMV metric to measure the effect of the number of ads on their web page on user engagement to avoid clutter and optimize ads.

6. Other user insights

Part
03
of four
Part
03

Local News Sites: Design

After an extensive research, we were unable to find hard data that specify how local-centric news sites design the desktop and mobile versions of their websites. However, we found that there are basic design rules for good user experience among local news websites, according to an industry expert. Specifically, local news website designs should be fast-loading, with a clear navigation, and mobile-friendly (responsive).

Fast-Loading

  • According to Rich Gordon, digital innovation director at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, one of the basic design rules for good user experience among local news websites is to have fast-loading pages.
  • Statistics that support this rule are 39% of website visitors stop engaging when pages load slowly, and 47% of website visitors expect a page to load in less than 2 seconds average, as reported by Sweor, a web designing (UI/UX) service provider.
  • Developers, in general, are improving websites' loading speed by using "fast web hosting, content delivery networks (CDNs), clean coding practices, caching, minification, image optimization, and more."

Clear Navigation

  • Another basic design rule for local news website good user experience (specified by industry expert Rich Gordon) is clear navigation.
  • As reported by web design services provider Sweor, 38% of website visitors stop engaging when websites have unattractive contents or layouts.
  • In a case study by user experience service provider Sandy for a local news website Neighborhood, one of their actions based from the competitive analysis they conducted was to "make sure that users can easily navigate and customize the contents based on their preferences or favorite articles."
  • One specific principle that can be applied to improve website navigation is the Gutenberg Principle, championed by ‘the father of newspaper design’ Edmund C. Arnold.
  • Finalists of the Society for News Design's (SND) Best of News Design are reported to be "masterclass" of this principle and have exhibited good content flow.

Mobile-Friendly / Responsive Website

  • Rich Gordon, an industry expert, only included "mobile-friendly" as one of the basic design rules for good user experience among local news website. However, web design service provider Sweor argues that "nowadays, all websites should feature responsive web design."
  • While mobile-friendly and responsive seem to be adjectives with the same meaning, the two terms are technically different.
    • Mobile-friendly websites "make the entire site fit on the screen" of a device, appearing the same way as it would on a desktop computer. With desktop computer screens having different shape, size and aspect ratio than that of handheld devices, users will have to zoom in and out to view contents of the website.
    • On the other hand, responsive websites "adjust to the pixel-width of the screen upon which they are being viewed, providing the same level of user experience on every device and preserving all content necessary to maintaining such user experience."
  • According to a survey, almost 9 of 10 adults think that a website "when viewed on a mobile device should be as good or better than its desktop website." This and 2018's data (that smartphones held a 63% share of all retail website visits) explain why responsive web design is gaining traction nowadays.
  • Additionally, Google started mobile-first indexing since July 1, 2019, which means "Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking."

Research Strategy

To determine how local-centric news sites are designing their desktop and mobile versions of their websites, we initially looked for precompiled data about local news website design trends. We were hoping that the trends would be segmented according to device used. Unfortunately, we only found trending website designs in general and not specific to local news. We found some news website templates that are reportedly trending. We made a deep dive in the sources, hoping to identify the design principles implemented in the templates, but there were none specified.
Re-evaluating the chat transcript, we refocused our search on user experience among local news websites. From this, we were able to find an article that explicitly identified design rules for good user experience in local news websites. The rules provided in the article were basic and general, so we dug deeper for each rule, consulting other sources such as web design service providers.


Part
04
of four
Part
04

News Site Engagement Metrics

Metrics that news sites focus on when measuring engagement include, but are not limited to, analyzing the number of page views and the type of visitors viewing the pages, pages per session and the average amount of time each session takes, the actions users perform while on a website. Other metrics include the amount of time a user spends watching videos and how often they participate in a video's action, the level of a user's social media engagement, and the way the user found the website.

Page Views & Visitors

  • Each time a person visits a website, they create a page view; these metrics reveal whether a visitor is new to a site or if they are a returning visitor, where they went on the website, and what they interacted with.
  • This provides news sites with information regarding which articles are the most popular, which writers and/or sections are performing the best, the number of people who are interacting with a website within a given period, and which articles are intriguing the viewer to click on subsequent content.
  • Unique visits disclose the number of people that have discovered a website for the first time, and the frequency of visits analyzes how often a user returns to a website.
  • Visitor recency metrics establish how long it’s been since a user last visited a website, with a shorter time between two sessions increasing the likely hood of engagement.
  • Most websites use the visitor's device cookies or IP address to track these metrics in evaluating visitor loyalty.

Pages Per Session and Session Duration

  • Pages per session are the average number of pages a user viewed throughout their visit to a website, with more pages indicating that the user is engaged and interested in the content.
  • The average session duration is the average amount of time each user spends on a website, which can show either a level of involvement and interest or disengagement.
  • Tracking pages per session, the average session duration, and the bounce rate metrics together can fully assess the user engagement of a website.

Core User Actions and Content Engagement

  • Examples of actions a user can take on a news website are: commenting on an article or video, signing up for a newsletter, clicking on the contents of a newsletter, and subscribing to a higher level of access to content.
  • A click-through rate, or CTR, is the percentage of viewers that click on whatever action is involved in a website's video content, which indicates how successful a video, or other content, is at encouraging users to take action.
  • The percentage of video content that each viewer watched can be calculated as a metric, as well as the average engagement, which provides insight on how much of a video was watched by all viewers, on average.

Traffic

  • Tracking metrics regarding website traffic can help ascertain where marketing focus should be regarding content on social media, SEO strategies, etc.
  • Direct traffic includes visitors who type in a website's exact URL as well as other sources such as IM shares, mobile apps, and email links of a website.
  • Visitors can also find a website by looking it up on various search engines, which is called direct traffic.
  • Social media ties directly into marketing goals when tracking metrics such as referrals, which is how a user lands on a website and which platform led them to it, and conversions, which is what platform led them to purchase a site's content, such as a news subscription.

Social Media

  • User engagement on social media such as likes, comments, retweets, mentions, and shares accounts for how much of a website's audience is interacting with their content and how often.
  • High engagement rates of likes and comments indicate a responsive audience and account mentions indicate awareness.
  • Alongside engagement on social media, metrics such as impressions, which measure how many times a given post shows on someone’s feed, and reach, the amount of potential unique viewers of the content a post could have, are important metrics to track.

Use of Metrics in the Newsroom

  • The Economist and The Financial Times focus on metrics based on time spent, according to Rick Edmonds.
  • Social media drove more web referrals to big stories of 2015 than search engines did, according to data analyzing traffic for sites such as The Atlantic and Business Insider.
  • Organizations such as Dallas Morning News focus on conversion metrics and speeding up the time it takes for a viewer to subscribe, whereas others such as New Tropic concentrate on building a loyal fan base.
Sources
Sources

From Part 02
Quotes
  • "You can take your landing page data and compare the EMPV's of different landing pages relative to different ad combinations. Optimizing your ad combinations with your landing page EPMV's helps to balance user experience and digital revenue."
Quotes
  • "The old site was cluttered, and though we promoted a lot of stories on the homepage, I think it gave people a less idea of where to look and go on the site...people tend to snack on news sites, maybe browsing during breaks, lunch hours, and so on, and personalization helps them to find something that will interest them."
  • "have fewer ad slots, but make them more appealing and therefore more valuable to the users."
  • "The technology will learn from the articles that people choose to read as they browse the site, and will recommend a further reading list at the right hand side of the articles."
From Part 03
Quotes
  • "There are some rules for good user experience that are pretty well established: fast-loading pages, a clear navigation, mobile-friendly design. These are basics."
  • "Derocher saw the Register Star transition from Gannett to GateHouse Media, and she helped staff weather waves of changes in companywide content management systems. She said she pushed for GateHouse to adopt a more adaptive content management system and GateHouse indeed made the switch, but it also saddled the relatively large Register Star newsroom with the same template as smaller weeklies."
Quotes
  • "39% of people will stop engaging with a website if images won’t load or take too long to load."
  • "85% of adults think that a company’s website when viewed on a mobile device should be as good or better than its desktop website."
  • "As of Q2 2018, smartphones held a 63% share of all retail website visits"
  • "38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout are unattractive"
Quotes
  • "Developers are already optimizing front end performance with fast web hosting, CDNs, clean coding practices, caching, minification, image optimization, and more."
Quotes
  • "Make sure that users can easily navigate and customize the contents based on their preferences or favorite articles."
Quotes
  • "The New York Times’s cooking vertical deploys a product-development approach that rethinks the way we deliver evergreen information to readers"
Quotes
  • "Championed by ‘the father of newspaper design’ Edmund C. Arnold (more on him later), the Gutenberg Principle is a good rule of thumb to follow when thinking about how people engage with a page of content, be it paper or pixels."
Quotes
  • "Mobile friendly sites make the entire site fit on the screen—so you get to waste your time pinching and zooming. Responsive sites create a high quality user experience on all devices."