One size doesn’t fit all

Pick your favorite newspaper. Take a look at it online. Then, take a look at it on your mobile phone. In many cases, they look just about the same, right?

That also means that, in many cases, we’re going about distributing information the wrong way.

Online is clearly different from mobile. Online users want to surf for information, and our best users stay with us looking at lots of different things. On mobile, users generally seek specific bits of information, such as the current weather conditions, the price of a specific stock, or a sports score. Mobile users get what they want and get out.

So, if the two users act differently, why to we insist on giving them information the same way?

Newspapers need a multi-platform digital strategy that takes into account the differences in our distribution channels — printed product, online and mobile. There are already substantial (but not substantial enough) differences between the printed product and online, and I don’t need to go over them here. So if we’ve made differences between print and online, why not do the same with mobile?

Newspapers should provide information that mobile users want, not information that’s easy for us to provide. It’s really easy to send a feed of your online offerings to mobile. It’s harder and more time consuming to figure out exactly what mobile users want.

What should we do? Start by redesigning mobile sites. Give users a very few of the latest breaking news headlines, and concentrate on those snippets of valuable information they want. A mobile front page dominated by the current weather forecast, the latest local sports scores, a few tips on things to do and a money-saving coupon or two (especially in these times) now might hold more value than a constant scroll of headlines on a way-to-long mobile page.

You might say that’s not a news site. You’re right. We’re in the business of providing valuable information, and that goes beyond the important content newsrooms provide. The important differences between content and information is the subject for another blog.

I’m a digital media professional and the views expressed in this blog are mine alone. Please visit my website for more digital information at


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