Optimizing for Mobile Web Leads to Increased Listening and Reading

Oct 11, 2012

WAMC using the new mobile web interface

When Digital Services embarked on our quest to create a mobile web experience for stations, we had a simple theory: If we optimize the user experience for small screens by focusing on what our mobile audience needs most, we should see mobile engagement increase. (Read about why we focused on mobile web.)

With a few dozen stations now using our new mobile web product, the initial results are in: Engagement with stories is up and the amount of listening is skyrocketing.

Streaming via the mobile site has more than tripled. That's the biggest headline when we look at data from 20 of the stations that have been using the new mobile web experience.

Before this change, people visiting the station site from a mobile device saw the full desktop web site, which made the stream hard to find and often not even playable. Thus, during a representative week in mid-July, only 2.1% of visits to these stations' sites using a mobile device included streaming.

But with the new interface, streaming increased to 8.6%, because we give the stream more prominence and provide an easy-to-use, persistent player that works on iPhone and Android. We expect this number to rise rapidly as more consumers turn to their mobile devices for listening on the go.

Mobile listening to audio segments increased 81%. If you have on-demand audio segments associated with stories on your site, mobile users are more likely to listen to them. Before the new mobile web experience, 3.7% of mobile pageviews included listening to audio segments. That has risen to 6.7%. (For comparison, on full desktop sites, only 4.2% of pageviews include listening to audio segments.)

It's becoming clear that our mobile audience wants to listen. When we make the listening experience better on mobile devices, our users respond.

Mobile users are reading more stories. Optimizing the reading experience for small screens also has real impact. Before we launched, mobile users were reading 0.64 stories per visit across these 20 station sites. After, it's up to 0.80, and again higher than what we see on the same stations' full desktop web sites. This makes sense. If it's easier to scan and read content on the small screen, users are more likely to share that content and read more themselves.

The results are clear: If your web experience isn't optimized for your growing mobile audience, you're missing a key opportunity for audience growth and engagement. System-wide, 18% of visits to station sites are coming via mobile devices, and that number rises every month.

At Digital Services, we're rolling out this new mobile web interface to stations quickly. We're also in the middle of building support for non-Core Publisher stations, so that any station can use what we've created. (If you're interested in helping us pilot this, contact us.) Stay tuned for updates on when this will be available to everyone.