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McCombs: mobile is local, personal, social

October 3, 2011
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By Marcus Smith
Eastern Illinois University

Studies show that 50 percent of people surveyed searched news and 70 percent searched weather on their phones.

Regina McCombs, a Poynter Institute faculty member, said a Nielsen study shows the most valued features on phones are GPS, social networking, downloading and playing music and web browsing, in that order.

McCombs spoke along with Roger Fidler, Reynolds Journalism Institute program director for digital publishing, at the Tablet/Mobile Strategies and Visions for News Organizations workshop in St. Louis, Mo. Sept. 30 in a segment titled, “Mobile and Tablet Research Roundup.”

She also said that the research shows we are using phones while doing a variety of other things such as watching TV, shopping, eating, driving and even during sex.

“There’s actually not included here some research that some 10 percent actually use it (phone)  while they are having sex,” McCombs said. “Really, nobody notices?”

McCombs said that people are using their phones in all aspects of life and expect the same things they get from a desktop, like search engines and email.

She said trying to figure out what people are  doing on their phones is a wasted effort because clear defined groups cannot be drawn.

“There is one really interesting study that said it is actually kind of stupid to try and figure out what people are doing on their phones,” McCombs said. “Because they are doing everything and different people are doing some things and you can’t even tell with any success.”

McCombs said on March 11, 2011, the day of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, CNN had 13.9 million mobile page views that day, along with over one million app downloads over the next 10 days.

Overall she said that mobile is driving a lot of the traffic on the internet and 60 percent of people are on the internet when they are watching TV.

She also said that iPads account for 69 percent of tablets sold and are predicted to dominate the market until 2015, but these numbers were out before the release of the Kindle Fire. Studies are showing that people are primarily using their tablets early in the morning and then during leisure hours at night.

Studies also show that an increasing number of people want long form professional videos, McCombs said. People are watching videos, looking at magazines and news on their tablets.

“We know that mobile is local, personal, social,” McCombs said. “Mobile phone is fast. The tablet is in depth, it is news, weather and video.”

Fidler said it is hard researching  information about mobile devices and their use because some information is old and some have conflicting information.

“It’s hard to really get a feel for what’s happening on out there,” Fidler said.

He said that when RJI is doing online polls they also do not know if their data may be skewed.

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