Smartphones proving "double-edged sword" for newspapers

The Guardian has reported how smartphones are proving to be a “double-edged sword” for newspaper publishers.

Using data from a report (PDF) by Orange, the newspaper highlighted today how the UK is reading more content online – but that a similar number of us are buying fewer print products.

The Orange study found that 14 percent of respondents who accessed the web on their mobile phones said they read fewer newspapers as a result. But 13 percent said that owning smartphones like the iPhone meant they read more newspaper content online.

According to Orange press officers, the report was presented to The Guardian yesterday at an exclusive briefing – it was the only national newspaper represented.

Not mentioned in The Guardian report was how the newspaper itself has seen print sales suffering – while it motors ahead with offering free journalism online.

Earlier this year, The Independent reported on The Guardian’s strategy of putting its journalism on its website for free, and how The Guardian’s average daily circulation had fallen to under 300,000 copies for the first time for more than 30 years. 

According to The Indie, “while its online journalism has brought The Guardian an expanded audience, it has not brought revenue to pay for the journalism they consume”.

Namely, the revenue from online advertising had failed to increase at the same rate that print advertising had declined.

The Indie also included reference to other goings on at the Guardian Media Group, including citing worries by Guardian staff that the loss of chief exec Carolyn McCall to budget airline Easyjet implied “a lack of confidence in its strategic direction”.

The newspaper’s strategy, it continued, was led by editor Alan Rusbridger. And inside GNM’s glossy new offices in Kings Place, north London, there is concern that Mr Rusbridger’s strategy, which relies on funding excellent journalism without erecting online paywalls, is unrealistic”, it continued.

Although, of course, it pointed out that The Guardian could afford to lose money as long as the other products in the portfolio, such as AutoTrader and Emap, still made a profit and help subsidise it.

According to Guardian Media Group’s CEO’s Review of Operations, GNM’s revenue fell by £32.6 million for the year ended 28 March 2010. But there had been a “comprehensive strategic review” and “major restructuring” – resulting in 203 redundancies during the year. The CEO’s review stated: “We anticipate that the ongoing cost reduction programme will reduce GNM’s operating loss in the current financial year (2010/11), provided that revenues are stabilised.”

But back to a few more stats from that Orange research.

The report found that there were differences between the way men and women shopped online. Men were almost 50 percent more likely to access the mobile web using some form of app than women. About 46 percent of men who accessed mobile media used an app to do so, compared to just 35 percent of women. 

Overall, most UK mobile users preferred traditional browsers to apps – with 70 percent of consumers going for this option.