What we thought we knew about mobile readers

Are desktop homepage readers engaging with content more than mobile readers? New data suggests they are not.

For the last several years, we’ve had the mindset that mobile readers are skimmers of content, or simply don’t read all that much compared to those on desktop. Well, a new look at Chartbeat data shows what we all thought we knew about mobile visitors is not entirely accurate.

First, we’re not completely wrong when it comes to homepages. Looking at a recent week’s worth of Chartbeat data from mobile homepages on the web, we found that it is true that the average mobile user stops scrolling 25% into the homepage as compared to 34% on desktop.

Chartbeat Mobile vs. Desktop Scroll Depth

Here’s where it gets interesting, though. When you look at the engagement overall you’ll see the average mobile homepage visitor spends 40% more time actively engaging than their desktop counterpart (22 engaged seconds vs. 16 on desktop). While this comparison isn’t entirely apples-to-apples (you could imagine that a reader is more likely to idle in a more information-dense desktop experience), this is a notable reversal of the reading behavior we see on article pages, where desktop readers engage slightly more (38 engaged seconds on desktop vs. 34 on mobile).

Mobile vs. Desktop Engagement with Homepages

In addition, they’re 20% more likely to click-through to articles than those on desktop. Looking at clickthrough data used by our heads-up display, we saw that mobile homepage visitors click through to articles 68% of the time, compared to 57% on desktop. Whereas desktop homepage readers scroll more of the page but appear to be skimmers of content, mobile readers are more engaged in reading the homepage articles by clicking from the mobile homepage into content.

This trend towards mobile isn’t slowing down any time soon.  Since January 2017, total traffic from desktop to news sites declined by 14%, while mobile traffic increased by 34%. At least for news sites, mobile has finally met desktop and this is a pivot point.

Mobile vs Desktop Total Traffic

These traffic and engagement numbers are compelling signals about the importance of a mobile editorial strategy; your mobile visitors may be willing to spend more time on your mobile homepage and are more likely to click through to your articles than your desktop visitors. Could this insight unlock new opportunities and stronger focus on mobile monetization and homepage optimization? What does this mean for mobile in your loyalty and subscriber strategies?

Overall, mobile engagement deserves more attention. Readers are engaging more deeply with content on mobile devices than we thought. The momentum we are seeing in the traffic data indicates that your owned and operated mobile properties – your mobile homepages and apps – may be even more central to readers this year than we realized.

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