Station web audience now mostly mobile

Aug 28, 2017

July 2017 Member Station sessions by device type, smartphone and tablet combined are larger than desktop/laptop for the first time.

Member Station website audience crossed an important threshold in July 2017. For the first time since NPR has been tracking aggregate station web traffic, there were more sessions on mobile devices that on desktop/laptop devices.  

Here's why it matters:

Mobile sessions engage with different features and content. On smartphones users are generally far more interested in text content than in audio when it comes to web sites. In the 3 months ending July 30, 15% desktop/laptop sessions played a stream compared to only 3% of smartphone sessions. Since we know that audio is successful on mobile devices (podcasts), one explanation is that this is related to how users get to a site. Social media and search are effective at promoting text content, but haven't do a great job of showcasing audio. Or perhaps, apps are able to provide a better listening experience so more regular mobile listeners take advantage of those.   

Mobile users get to sites in different ways.  The prompt to visit can greatly alter a user's actions on the site. A click on a Facebook post is likely to take a user to a story, but unlikely to produce a listen. Similar with search, because audio isn't indexed by search engines, users are more likely to click on a link to a page with interesting text content than they are to come in looking for audio. Search is the primary driver of traffic on desktop/laptop devices, but social media is the largest driver on mobile devices. 

Mobile users consume less content and are less likely to return. Smartphone sessions have the highest bounce rates and seen the least content per user. In the three months ending on July 30th, smartphone users bounced in 77% of sessions, where only 53% of desktop sessions bounced. Since data shows that non-bounce sessions are more likely to return, there's a reason to work to optimize design and content to decrease bounce rates on smartphones.

Mobile experience matters. Stations need to carefully balance station promotion with user experience in order to provide a site users will come back to. Ads, banners, sign-ups and desktop centered designs can drive users away. The clearest sign that there is room for improvement: Despite more sessions coming from mobile devices, the majority of pageviews still come from desktop/laptop devices because of the difference in engagement.

Multiple devices make it difficult to measure audience growth and engagement over time. With more users using more devices it can be complicated to get a sense of our true audience reach or to understand how users move across platforms. User login will be a critical element of answering these questions, but it can only be successful if sites offer personalized experiences that encourage login.

Please take some time to look at how your site is performing and ask yourself how you are planning to address these issues. You future audience growth may depend on it.