Karen Peterson

Readers crave news on phone, tablet, paper

It’s not enough to push out the same stories to all the formats readers demand these days — in print, online, on their phones or tablets.

To be a successful news organization, we must know our readers well enough to deliver precisely the kind of news they’re looking for in the right format at any given time of day or night.

That was a recurring theme of the American Society of News Editors conference held a week ago in Washington, D.C. I represented The News Tribune at the event.

A session led by Tom Rosenstiel, executive director for the American Press Institute and a longtime industry thinker, shared the most recent national research on “What the Audience is Telling us About the Future of News.”

Here are some highlights:

• Audiences are consuming more news, not less. Among those who read the news on a phone or tablet, the growth rate is even higher than the average.

• Technology has made our readership younger. The average age of a newspaper reader is 54; the average age of a person who gets news only on a mobile device is 33. Fifty-nine percent of people age 18-25 read newspaper content regularly on some device.

• Readers move across platforms throughout the day and have different questions. People read newspapers in the morning, computers through the day and tablets in the evening. Smartphone readership remains fairly steady throughout the day.

• Readers may discover a story on TV, but 83 percent say they go to a second trusted source for more information. We should strive to be that source.

• Thirty percent of our digital audience is reading from a phone or tablet rather than a computer, a percentage that is steadily climbing (and already higher at the TNT). We should deliver news first to those mobile devices, then to the Web. Mobile is very local. Our goal used to be to push news out on computers to those who were “bored at work.” Now the goal is to push news out on phones to those who are “stuck in line.”

• Readers are spending more time on social media — mainly Facebook and Twitter — than on websites. We need to identify audiences passionate about a given news topic and create social media conversations around them.

• It even matters in news video. Research shows the video people watch in the office — short, hard news clips — is different from the video they watch at home — longer, more fully formed stories.

• Traditionalists will be happy to know that long-form journalism is back. After years of being told no one would read an in-depth story online, research shows that new mobile devices are making it enjoyable again in much the same way readers enjoy reading those stories in print.

While many of the sessions were about digitized news, I spoke on a panel about “The Future of Print.” My description of last year’s redesign of the TNT pointed out that our goal was to cater unapologetically to people who still love the printed paper.

As we contemplate what works best in which format, we must remember that the newspaper remains a very important one.


The new bylines you’ve seen in recent weeks belong to this year’s crop of TNT newsroom interns.

Sam Horn, our sports intern, is studying at Pacific Lutheran University (where he also plays football). He will be covering the Rainiers, plus local golf and tennis. Horn is a 2011 graduate of Enumclaw High School and wrote for PLU’s Mooring Mast and the Enumclaw Courier-Herald.

Nicole Gaddie will be a senior in journalism this fall at Seattle University. Gaddie is on our online news team. Her first assignment was to gather comments on the city’s proposal to sell naming rights to the Tacoma Dome. She also wrote last week about local residents installing pocket libraries in their neighborhoods. Gaddie is from Salt Lake City.

Leah Traxel worked on deadline in our sports department during the last school year, gathering scores and other post-game data from high school teams. She is working for our local news teams this summer. You may have seen her story last week about a city program that gives course credit and work experience to Tacoma high school students. Traxel will be a senior this fall at PLU and hails from Port Orchard.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434