Fairfax Media studies behaviour of its mobile readers, learning key content lessons


For the many people who crawl into bed at night with book in hand and a partner by their side, the last thing they gaze upon and hold close before slipping into the land of Nod is their beloved mobile phone. And, because so many of those same people are awakened by their mobile’s alarm, they no doubt chance a look at the mobile screen as soon as they wake.

So, habitually, their first and last moments of each day are on their mobile phones.

Those same people will reach for their mobiles many times per hour for brief moments as they graze for content. They never turn off their mobiles; they’re never more than a few steps away; and are spending more and more time on their mobiles.

When was the last time you were away from your mobile for more than 10 minutes?

Understanding the mobile user context is hugely important because mobile use is so ubiquitous and because you don’t just use your mobile in a vacuum. You use your mobile while you are eating or commuting or on the treadmill or lying in bed or not listening to your partner.

Studying the audience demographic alone is likely to tell only half the story. And whoever said no to an offer of a faster horse?

Late last year, Fairfax Media spent three months studying the behaviour of a controlled group of readers of the Sydney Morning Herald mobile site. We wanted to know as much about them as possible, because if we knew they were in the office or at home or in the gym, we could better tailor our product and make it more relevant to them.

And the more relevant we become, the more mobile moments we can legitimately insert ourselves into.

It turns out reader behaviour is really quite predictable. We have a high A/B audience, and the vast majority of those follow the same daily pattern. They get up in the morning, they commute to work, they have lunch at midday, they get distracted from work in the afternoon, and then they commute home in the evening.

For readers of the Sydney Morning Herald, the msite is part of their daily rhythm, and so we must present content that mirrors how readers are experiencing their daily lives.

For example, there is an obvious increase of interest for traffic information when readers are about to set off on a commute. Our readers commute twice a day, but their interest in traffic information is much greater in the morning than it is in the evening.

In the morning, readers are concerned about getting to work on time, but it turns out they don’t have the same concerns about getting home.

Our product reflects this; we don’t put as much emphasis when we present the evening traffic information.

When you look at the weekend context, relaxing at home and in bed are by far the biggest locations where people access our content. We used to think mobile content mainly was delivered to people on the go, but increasingly people are using their mobiles at home and as a replacement for their desktop.

Our msite must shift to reflect this relaxed state with better presentation of lifestyle and entertainment topics over the weekend.

Our “Mobile Moments” framework helps segment mobile usage and also points to potential opportunities for us. For example, we know 35% of our total mobile audience reads a lot of content while eating dinner. So if they are hungry for food and mobile content at the same time, what opportunities does this notion of digital dining present?

Right now, we are at the beginning of the context journey and really just doing the basics of targeting through time of day, behaviour, and location. But, in time, we will be building our understanding of mobile moments and building our sophistication of what we can offer.

In time, geo data and services will become much more mainstream and will offer a layer of intelligence about where the reader is. In time, reader behaviour will be better understood and will lead to instant and better content recommendations.

At Fairfax Media, we have mobile products that are content-based in nature, such as news, business, and lifestyle. We also have mobile products that are more utilitarian in nature that help people find things, like a house or car.

Mobile growth has been strong across both categories, but exceptionally strong on our utility products. So it’s not inconceivable to suggest wireless delivery will one day become the only delivery platform for utility-type apps, because it has the potential to become much more relevant to the context of the user and the job at hand.

By continuing to browse or by clicking ‘I ACCEPT,’ you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.