5 Mobile Stats Worth Mentioning to Journalists


Shortly after recently announcing the theme of  this year’s third News Challenge installment  — “mobile” — the Knight Foundation tweeted an impressive stat backing up reasoning for its choice: there are 6 billion mobile devices worldwide.

Billion. With a “B.”

The number may be an eye-opener — like anything with the word “billion,” let alone six — but discussion on how to best use mobile to further the goals of journalism of course isn’t new. The goal of the challenge, however, is to fund some great ideas and get discussed and un-disccussed approaches actually going. Just like this year’s previous challenges on themes of networks and data, a crop of folks are going to get substantial financial backing.

(Your budget needs approval, of course, but in the words of the last installment’s FAQ, the foundation pays for “what it takes” to design, develop and implement the project, as well as marketing and travel.)

Consider entering. The contest opens Aug. 29, and the first stage of the application process closes at noon EDT Sept. 10.

In case @KnightFdn’s stat isn’t enough to get your startup-build-something-awesome juices going, here are a few others that may provide you or your group a jumping off point for your entry. And even if you don’t plan to submit a project, they may be worth noting in any conversation about how you engage with an increasingly mobile audience.

I’ve also included some talking aloud – err, typing aloud? – of possible opportunities those stats produce, and the bigger questions that lay behind them. Hope it’s helpful.

  1. 75 percent of the world has access to a mobile phone
  2. There aren’t just billions of mobile devices in the developed world—the developing countries may be more mobile. According to that same study Knight Foundation cites about the billions, 75 percent of the entire world has access to a mobile phone. The spread is wide. Most phones, it says, are in the hands of folks in low-income regions.

    Check the numbers from the World Bank yourself.

    Possible opportunity: Simple services for those developing countries, maybe text-based. Mobile doesn’t always mean fancy, and while app access is growing worldwide (check the rise in photo and video usage), the numbers may still be in your favor to explore something that doesn’t use a smartphone. Perhaps that’s more admirable or simpler, too, with many ways to distribute info or gather info from or about users for an admirable end, all without a shiny app. What’s the next Ushahidi?

    Bigger question: How does mobile mesh with geography?

  3. 61 percent of American ‘almost always’ use a phone while watching TV
  4. You’re far from the only one who’s checking Twitter during a sports game, Glee, or cable news. Discussion about the “second-screen” isn’t new journalism circles either, but it’s nice to take comfort in an idea you may have when 61 percent of Americas “almost always” use a phone while watching TV.

    That stat comes from Qualcomm, sure, but even if it was inflated, it’s still pretty high to not recognize some level of truth (or at least a trend).

    Possible opportunity: Social TV in your hand. Pairing a more immersive experience on a phone with something people are already watching. I could offer neat examples, but to get your thoughts going on this one, I suggest checking the brilliant coverage over at our new Mediabistro family member, Lost Remote.

    Bigger question: How does mobile mesh with other media consumption? Where does it currently clash?

  5. 13 years is the average age a kid gets a mobile phone
  6. You may have never had a cellphone ‘til college — or never at all then because they didn’t exist — but the fact is your kids probably will, or already do. Discussion about how teenagers are using mobile devices may not be as popular in journalism circles, but hey, that’s your future audience (or perhaps could be the current audience, too).

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