Slimming Down for Mobile: Don’t cut the content

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Mobile users are snackers when it comes to content: looking for headlines to skim through, articles to quickly scan and then pass over, and maybe a comic or image to linger on for a brief moment. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom, and the mobile strategy that most companies are banking on.

Except what if it’s not true? What if more than 80% of mobile users would watch long-form TV shows or movies on their phone if available? What if a majority of mobile users actually preferred long-form content to clips or snippets? And what if long-form content titan Buzzfeed was not only getting 50% of its traffic from mobile, but that phone users were spending twice as long reading articles than those on tablets?

As Buzzfeed’s CEO, Jonah Peretti says,

Reaching a large audience with mobile by streamlining your site is no doubt still important, but streamlining your content is no longer an option. The so-called second screen is becoming the primary screen for a large number of people, and this is true for both video and text-based content.

It seems counterintuitive, that people would choose to spend their time watching a movie designed for a theatrical experience on a 4-inch screen, or read a 6,000 word article on a device that’s an eighth the size of a single page. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening. As smartphones continue to penetrate the market, and a number of users switch to mobile devices as their primary computing devices, reaching a mobile audience with full-length articles, stories and videos is more important than ever.

In 2010, the average American adult spent just 24 minutes on their mobile devices a day, yet as of a few months ago, that figure had surged to 2 hours and 21 minutes a day. That increase hasn’t been because they’re spending more time skimming; they’re spending that time reading magazine-style articles or watching full-length videos. And if you’re not providing them with the same high-quality content on their mobile devices that they can get elsewhere, someone else will. You can cut down on any number of things for an improved mobile experience, but if you don’t want to disappoint your audience, don’t cut the content.

– Ethan

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