The rise of the mobile Internet browser


The other day, I was using Google Analytics to paw through website stats for  Spokesmanreview.com. I love looking for usage trends such as: How many people have converted to Flash 9 player? (89%) How many use Macs to access our site? (7.98%)

There was one statistic that caught my eye. In the last month, over 2300 people have accessed the S-R site using an iPhone with the Safari web browser. Three months ago it was about 1000. Granted, this was only 0.20% of our overall visitors, but as other manufacturers, besides Apple, release wireless browsing devices, I believe these hits will really start to track up. For years, technology wonks having been telling us pocket-sized wireless devices will change the paradigm of how we receive and send information. With last year’s iPhone and iPod Touch releases, I think the hardware has finally caught up with the hype.

In the next few years, newspaper websites will have an opportunity to connect with mobile users in ways infinitely better than how they do now.

I have a Palm Treo mobile phone running Microsoft software. A day doesn’t go by that I’d rather throw the device under a moving bus than continue using it. Clunky, unintuitive, fussy and damn right annoying are words to describe my company issued cell phone. Connecting to the web is a joke. Because it uses a touch screen and a real web browser, the iPhone fixes most these usability issues. It also brings game to a constipated wireless phone industry (at least in the U.S. market) in need of real innovation.

Touch screens, are finally starting to trickle down to other cell phone consumers. These larger screen devices, meshed with wireless high-speed data networks, will only move us further away from our reliance on desktop and laptops computers.

This will be a huge opportunity for newspapers to connect their online products to a whole new generation of Internet savvy users. We can begin by creating content that takes advantage of the strength of these browser-enabled devices. Websites will need simplified designs. The 300-link homepage just won’t do anymore. Shorter stories and more multimedia like video will rule the day. The iPhone was just the opening bell in a long 15 round bout. Competition is going to drive innovation rapidly. One day soon, everyone with a cell phone will have full access to our newspapers and the web. When that happens, I wonder what effect it will have on the traditional print product?

8 thoughts on “The rise of the mobile Internet browser

  1. I noticed the iPhone stats a couple of months ago and figured it used the same browser as the iPod Touch, but our stats actually break them out separately. Interestingly, we have about five times as many visitors coming to our site using the iPhone over the iPod Touch. I thought it would be much broader.

  2. Hi Andy,

    The Ipod Touch isn’t even showing up in Google Analytics tracked for my newspaper. I think users having access to the iPhone’s built in wireless network is really the driving force here.

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  4. “Shorter stories and more multimedia like video will rule the day.”

    I’m a bit of an edge case, but I definitely contradict this conventional wisdom: I actually read longer stories on my iPhone than I do in print or online.

    Why? Consider this: If I’ve clicked through to a full-length story on your site, after seeing a headline or a link somewhere, it means that I’m interested. I’m your target audience for that story.

    And guess what? I’m a captive audience. I’m in line somewhere, or on a bus, or in some otherwise static situation that makes it a great moment to pull my phone out of my pocket and stare at a one-column wide screen wherein I can turn the pages with a flick of my thumb.

    And I can’t see the ads or the nav if things work out right, so there’s nothing but me and your story interacting.

    On the second point, with regards to multimedia, I’m far more likely to subscribe to an audio or video podcast than I am to watch a news video on my phone. Give me something on a topic I’m into (or even a ‘photos of the week’ bit with voiceover by the photogs) and I’ll subscribe to it and watch or listen when I can.

  5. You made me look. Dispatch.com has had about 5,000 visits from iPhone users in the last month. While it’s less than 1 percent of our traffic, I hope it makes the powers that be think about adding a site to cater to the what will likely be a growing crowd.

  6. Unfortunately, the lack of Flash support on the iPhone makes viewing a video embedded on the site impossible. I’m constantly frustrated by this issue. The only videos I’ve been able to watch are either downloaded through iTunes or embeded YouTube content.

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