HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The newsonomics of MLB’s pioneering mobile experience
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Dec. 13, 2011, 1 p.m.

ProPublica.org goes responsive to better serve mobile readers

Despite the news org’s investments in mobile apps, ProPublica found usage of mobile web was “an order of magnitude” higher.

In what some like to think of an age of apps — smartphone, tablet, or otherwise — it might seem hard to get worked up over a mobile redesign. But last week ProPublica rolled out a new look for small screens that’s pliable and flexible enough to fit across device types and that runs off of the same code as the big-screen site. Yup, it’s our old friend responsive design, more recently seen over at the much lauded launch of BostonGlobe.com.

ProPublica says their design is more “adaptive” than responsive. BostonGlobe.com has a half-dozen or so versions based on screen size, but ProPublica’s site only has two: below 480 pixels wide (which shows the mobile version) and above (which shows the desktop version). That’s because the new look is really for one audience: mobile web users, who ProPublica says far outnumber users of ProPublica’s iPhone and Android apps.

How much bigger is mobile web than mobile apps for ProPublica? Scott Klein, editor of news applications, says it’s “an order of magnitude.”

“We noticed that the audience on our regular old website, for people on mobile devices, was much larger than people using the app every day,” Klein told me.

An interesting data point for any news organization trying to figure out how much to invest in building for multiple app platforms versus building a strong, fast, mobile experience. Admittedly, ProPublica’s not a standard news organization; its streams of stories are more organized by the specific investigative projects its reporters are working on rather than by what’s breaking at the moment. Those investigations would be hard to summarize in a push notification on your phone.

The readership knows that, Klein said, which is why they developed a habit of checking on the ProPublica web site regularly, essentially porting over their behavior from reading on a computer or laptop. Those readers, Klein argues, want familiarity across devices. They also want to know that they’re not missing out on an interactive graphic, map, or other features from the full site that didn’t translate onto an app, Klein said. “This is just a way of making sure people who come to our site from mobile devices can see it really well and can read comfortably,” he said.

They’re introducing simplicity for readers, but also, for the site itself, Klein said. To a degree, both the apps and mobile site were limiting some of ProPublica’s rich content because it either wouldn’t work within a mobile template or otherwise just wouldn’t look good, he said. Under the new site, things like maps for the Congressional redistricting series, Muck Reads or news apps like the database of physicians taking drug company money in Dollars for Doctors will be accessible. “Our hypothesis was, if we made it better for those people, they would come by more often, stick around, and find links to other material they find interesting,” Klein said.

Even as ProPublica embraces a multi-platform approach with its new mobile site, they aren’t abandoning native apps, Klein told me. Though the readership is smaller compared to mobile browsers, the downloads of the apps remains fairly high and have a dedicated audience. “I can’t help but think there is a real future to this approach, making it so a website is ready for as many platforms as people want to look at it,” he said.

POSTED     Dec. 13, 2011, 1 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The newsonomics of MLB’s pioneering mobile experience
Running a sports league and running a news operation aren’t the same thing. But there are lessons to be learned from baseball’s success in navigating mobile.
Why The New York Times built a tool for crowdsourced time travel
Madison, a new tool that asks readers to help identify ads in the Times archives, is part of a new open source platform for crowdsourcing built by the company’s R&D Lab.
Opening up the archives: JSTOR wants to tie a library to the news
Its new site JSTOR Daily highlights interesting research and offers background and context on current events.
What to read next
1020
tweets
The newsonomics of the millennial moment
The new wave of news startups is aiming at a younger audience. But do legacy media companies have a chance at earning their attention?
803A mixed bag on apps: What The New York Times learned with NYT Opinion and NYT Now
The two apps were part of the paper’s plan to increase digital subscribers through smaller, targeted offerings. Now, with staff cutbacks on the way, one app is being shuttered and the other is being adjusted.
413The new Vox daily email, explained
The company’s newsletter, Vox Sentences, enters an increasingly crowded inbox. Can concise writing and smart aggregation on the day’s news help expand their audience?
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
St. Louis Globe-Democrat
Media Consortium
Gannett
Placeblogger
Chicago News Cooperative
The Atlantic
Daily Kos
Sacramento Press
The Orange County Register
Baristanet
The Seattle Times
Current TV