USER ENGAGEMENT WITH THE MOBILE NEWS CONTENT OF THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER AND THE PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS
Incollingo, Jacqueline Soteropoulos
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Legacy newspaper organizations have attempted to adapt to the digital - and increasingly mobile - news environment as circulation and revenue have plummeted. In Internet traffic in general, and news use in particular, the use of mobile smartphones and tablets is eclipsing desktop and laptop use. Engaging mobile news users has become critical for the news media. In recent years, Interstate General Media (IGM) - the owner of the newspapers The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News - has introduced new mobile apps and optimized its websites for mobile use. This explanatory, mixed methods study examines how IGM's digital subscribers engage with mobile news. It is user-centered research which helps journalists and scholars understand the mobile news habits and practices of legacy newspapers' digital subscribers. Online survey results (n=632) demonstrate that participants who rely on mobile devices for news had statistically significant higher levels of engagement and enjoyment, in comparison to desktop/laptop users. Participants most at ease with technology tended to prefer mobile devices for news, and reported statistically significant higher levels of engagement and enjoyment. The information-seeking motivation for news use, which has been historically connected to newspapers, remains dominant for all digital subscribers. Digital users engage with news by sharing stories, but reported little interest in publicly commenting on articles or creating news content. Subsequent telephone interviews (n=30) revealed that convenience of mobile news was the most salient factor in device choice, and mobility led participants to consume more news. Themes of continuity indicate that motivations in print news use remain salient in digital and mobile news - specifically information-seeking, the pleasure of reading, and continued powerful daily routines and habits surrounding news use. Participants indicated they continue to value professional journalists' news selections and the traditional format of newspaper presentation, and their disinterest in creating their own news content, suggest that traditional notions of gatekeeping and professionalization are not undermined by new technology. Recommendations for IGM and other newspapers include regular use of "push-notices" to send breaking news; allowing degrees of news personalization; adapting the newspaper's "replica" edition to incorporate breaking news and content-sharing; and outreach to younger potential subscribers.