The media struggles with movement of readers to smartphones and tablets

Top print news and media sites lag behind on mobile performance according to a recent report by The Search Agency. Evidence suggests that traditional print news and media is not adequately responding to the massive movement of readers to smartphones and tablets.

If you had to choose between your desktop and your smartphone, which would you choose?

As of last Black Friday the answer to that question globally was the smartphone. On that date traffic on mobile officially overtook traffic on desktop.

Are the major media and publishing sites out there ready? The Search Agency did a study to find out.

The winners and the losers


Figure 1. Total score out of 5! There were no winners…

mobile media performance

The report scored 50 top print news and media sites on load time, website format, social markup, social media buttons, search bar functionality, app advertisement, and sign in capability.

The Guardian scored the highest on these measures of user experience at a mere 2.5 out of 5. Sports Illustrated scored the lowest at 0.6 out of 5.

The study found that some sites were designed with mobile in mind using responsive or mobile-first design. However, execution was lacking.

“Those that are reformatting still struggle with proper implementation – resulting in long page load times and, therefore, a poor mobile experience” –The Search Agency

The need for speed

None of the media studied by The Search Agency met the standards set by Google for an adequate loading speed of their mobile site.

Few are going to wait more than a few seconds for a media site even if they are a major publication. Speed is also essential to prevent a high bounce rate and a spiraling search ranking.

Figure 2. How the The New York Times performs on mobile speed according to Google. That’s a failing score and a lot of things they need to fix!

speed report

We want to share you

Only 56 percent of the sites had sharing functions on their home page.

According to the Search Agency closing yourself to social sharing interferes with the user experience and limits the reach of PR in the competitive market that exists for news and media today.

SEO Warning

Four SEO ranking warnings were also considered.

Problems included missing meta descriptions (89 percent of sites!) and large page handicaps (51% of sites!) that were responsible for long load times and a high bounce rate from the sites.

The Search Agency recommended fixing these issues as a place to start for publishers.

The conclusion

Brandon Schakola of The Search Agency says, “The media industry is struggling as evidenced by cutbacks to newsrooms across the nation but, to keep up with the demands of today’s mobile and tablet consumer and news reader, websites need to step up their mobile game.”

Key takeaways for major publishers and bloggers

  • We have arrived at a “Mobile First” world that needs and demands mobile-friendly sites!
  • Designing a user experience for mobile is key!
  • Commitment to implement the design is crucial!
  • You better load it or they’ll leave it!
  • Help others help you. Make it easy to share!
  • Keep an eye on SEO!

Is mobile design really that valuable?

Here’s the final word from the study, “Mobile devices can be a viable source of revenue, but only if brands optimize their websites to streamline the conversion process for mobile users. Now is the time to reconsider your customer’s mobile experience, and implement improved strategies to garner untapped mobile ROI.”

Download the report here.