September 26, 2013

For mobile platforms, news articles adapt to shorter, and longer, attention spans

Posted by: in North America

“News Bites” was one of our 100 Things to Watch for 2013, the idea that as more people catch up with the news on smartphones, we’ll see an array of apps that help users stay current with a quick scan. The examples we pointed to—Summly and Wavii—have since been acquired, with Yahoo now incorporating Summly summaries into its own app (Google bought Wavii). The use of mobile news apps, meanwhile, is steadily rising, according to Adweek. More than ever, as Digiday recently noted, “readers want to consume content fast and often. The question every publisher is grappling with is how to do it.”

USA Today’s new sports news app, The Q, posts bites that are just 20 to 50 or so words in length. An exec told Digiday that the aim is to reach sports fans at bars, in line or watching TV. Wibbitz, a new text-to-video app, condenses news stories into mobile-friendly video clips. The company is pitching publishers on the idea of integrating its clips within longer features, per Springwise.

On the other side of the spectrum, publishers are experimenting with more immersive online stories that harness vivid imagery and videos. The New York Times garnered buzz (and a Pulitzer) for “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” published last December, which incorporates multimedia elements that appear as the reader scrolls down. The latest such effort from the Times is “The Jockey.” Rolling Stone has also ventured into this immersive territory, with HTML5-powered features like “The Geeks on the Frontlines” and “Greenland Melting.” But lean-back efforts like these, well-suited to tablets, may have too many bells and whistles for most readers, in the view of some critics.

Marketers will need to imagine new forms of ad placement that fit within this wide spectrum of news platforms and find ways to integrate seamlessly so as to complement rather than interfere with the experience.

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