Research updates – mobile delivery and religion news

Readers: If you take away anything from this blog post, it should be two things. People thirst for mobile news delivery and more coverage of religious matters. It is up to journalists to catch up to this demand. Maybe that was three things…

First, a quick story that may or may not relate to one or both of the topics of this post: I was reminded recently to take some time for restraint, reflection, and remembrance. These are spiritual ideas about finding rejuvenation, and it struck me that they are somewhat drowned out by their secular counterparts, also beginning with the letter ‘r’: rest and recreation.

Spring break is coming up and I know students are busy making plans for some R&R, because that’s what the commercials tell you to do when you need to be rejuvenated. There is a beautiful poem by one of my favorite musicians about this idea of taking time for ourselves when we also have the choice to be giving of ourselves:

This anecdote is a roundabout way of leading into an update on some of the research I’ve gathered on two pursuits this semester: religion & journalism and mobile news delivery. These topics are so rich that I can never wrap my head around even a sliver of their complexities to write anything, so forgive me here, but I had the urge to publish anyway.

Why is it relevant to note the divergent preferences for secular r&r and spiritual r&r&r? A common theme emerging in my sources on religion and journalism is that newsrooms feel out-of-touch with their ‘believing’ readership and many studies find that readers feel their news sources ignore religion or even harbor suspicions and skepticism toward their faiths.

It is in the best interest of the news outlets to bridge this divide because audiences want more coverage of religion, according to the recently released report titled Understanding the Participatory News Consumer published by the Pew Research Center Internet and American Life Project.

When asked what subjects should get more coverage, 41% of respondents said religion and spirituality. That was second on the list of desired news after scientific news and discoveries at 44%, and followed by 39% in favor of health and medicine, 39% state government, and 38% neighborhood or local community.

Obviously I obtained this report primarily as a source for mobile news delivery research, but I’ll take current religion and journalism data anywhere I can get them. I’m excited to be attending the Religion Communication Congress in Chicago in April to gather fresh insights for this project.

As for the status of understanding delivering news to mobile devices, the adoption of this technology (and the blogging and market researching, etc.) is happening at such a breakneck speed, it is hard to keep up.  Here is a Harvard Nieman Lab blog summary of key points in the Pew report to whet your appetite to read some or all of the full 51-page report.

There is a discrepancy in reports of the popularity of local news that I’m currently trying to clear up. For example:

Local tops the list of mobile news accessed by AP Mobile news app users, according to Verve Wireless’ 2010 press release. (The figures show that local news maintains users’ interests but breaking news creates traffic spikes.)

  • Local news was the most accessed content.
  • Within local, general news followed by sports, and then national was the most accessed content.
  • However, major breaking world or national news drove the biggest traffic spikes, for example the news of Michael Jackson’s death spurred a daily increase in traffic by 133%.
  • Video has grown in importance for local media. In the past 3 months, more than seventy local media companies started mobilizing their video content through Verve’s platform. Viewership has increased by 106%.

However, according to the Pew report:

Internet users use the web for a range of news, but local is not near the top of the list.

The most popular online news subjects are the weather (followed by 81% of internet news users), national events (73%), health and medicine (66%), business and the economy (64%), international events (62%), and science and technology (60%).

So local news is not heavily accessed online from a stationary or laptop but it is a favorite on-the-go? Remember, above we saw survey respondents didn’t forget news about the places they live and work when asked what subjects should get more coverage: 38% said their neighborhood or local community.” Would that number increase if respondents were asked specifically in the context of news accessed on their mobile devices?

Yes, I realize that Verve Wireless is motivated to sell its White Label app platform to local news outlets, but it is worth asking whether that platform actually succeeds in its purpose to deliver local news to users and whether Pew’s numbers account for the many news consumers who aren’t using AP’s mobile devices app.

That’s the update. Everyone enjoy their spring break. Try to squeeze in some time for r&r&r, while you r&r.

I’ll try to blog about the David Mathews Center for Civic Life student conference I attended this past weekend.


2 thoughts on “Research updates – mobile delivery and religion news

  1. That’s really interesting that local news is the most accessed content. Its probably the last that I look at- does that mean I don’t care about my community?

    BTW- I can’t figure out how to subscribe to your blog 😦

  2. To subscribe, go to the top tool bar (under the name of the blog) and click on “Subscribe: RSS Feed” … I know, it is deceptively easy! 🙂

    And I doubt you don’t care about your community. I know personally how involved in the life of your community you are, especially through community service. I bet if you examined your information gathering habits, you would find you are constantly seeking out the latest updates on United Way, Big Brothers Big Sister, local musicians, etc.

    But, hypothetically, if you weren’t reading up so much on community news, it could be because of the phenomenon described as follows in the well-known book, Bowling Alone, about a disintegrating U.S. society: “the bonds of our communities have withered.” That phrase doesn’t exactly encapsulate the entire message of the book, however, and I wasn’t thrilled that I saw it used alone like this in an editorial recently. The missing context is that the bonds are being redefined through cyber-space.

    Our communities aren’t defined by geography solamente anymore! Now we have virtual communities! This can be a good thing because if you are interested in growing your own vegetables, but no one in your neighborhood or city cares for that sort of thing, now you can go online and find information and a supportive network to give you advice and share in your toils and spoils!

    However, we’ve already seen enough of the drawbacks to letting the fabric of our neighborhoods break down, so we need to be able to accommodate flourishing ties to both our virtual and geographic communities. We’re a sophisticated society; we can do this! Much of it depends on media helping us communicate locally as well as across great distances.

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