What do people want from a news experience?

One thing that I am working on at the moment is breaking up each of the verticals that define an app (News, Retail, Games, Travel, Media etc) and working out what use-cases they need and how web technology can solve them.

An area that I am really interested in is News apps, many organisations report that the only place that they are seeing growth in engagment and revenue is on Mobile, specifically Mobile Apps.

In Developer Relations we often think of what cool demo can we build with a new API. This time I have decided that rather than start with what I think a developer wants (i.e, shiney demo), I would instead start by asking users what they want from a "News experience" and then tailor our developer message accordingly.

I posit that users want (in order of priority):

My own intuition of an industry I am not too heavily involved in probably can't be trusted as much as I think it can, so I sent out a terrbily worded Tweet.

This got a number of interesting replies:

In the entire thread it boiled down to:

It's not that I didn't believe this (it is broadly what I have in our 2015 plans) but I wanted to try and validate the results. I decided to try Google Consumer Surveys (other good survey tools might exist but I think it is rather awesome), it seemed like an awesome tool to do the analysis and had a decent sized user base.

My goal was to find out: of the people who prefer to read their news in an App, what do they prefer about it? The sample was constrained to US users of an Android Smartphone, the prime audience of App using News consumers if reports are accurate.

The first question: How do you prefer to consume the news? Is a filter and offers "In an app", on the "web" or "Other" (Other is a mandatory escape hatch). If the user selected "in an app" they were taken to a 2nd set of questions to learn more about what they value in a News App experience.

The second question was: What features do you want from a news experience? This was a multi-choice question so you had the option of select as many features as you wanted from the list:

The results were interesting. Of the people surveyed, most preferred to consume the news on the web.

Web vs Native

It might be worth following up this survey in a couple of months or a year to see what the trajectory is. Maybe that 30% of people who prefer an app for reading the news is up from 5% last year. Who knows?

Whilst this was an interesting aside the most important thing is to understand what in the App world people really like.

The results of the features that people want from a News reading experience did suprise me.

App features

The vast majority of App users preferred speed and smoothness in their reading experience and they want the news available in the morning.

Why is this a suprise?

Performance is a given. My suprise was that if you make it fast and make the content available in the morning you would make 90% of users happy.

If you look at the what the Chrome team and standards bodies are building - the Push API in particular - having a News Web experience integrate the API will only increment the user satisfaction a small amount.

This is not what my intuition suggested. Are we working on the wrong priorities?

So what now? It is clear that we need to do more research when understanding how we tell developers to integrate our platform features. With regards to News I do want to tailor our developer messaging to a number of important areas with News being one of them, I just need to work out how to do it. Some thoughts:

TL;DR We need to show developers how to build great apps on the web in the contexts they expect.

All the results are available for everyone to read.

I would love your feedback.

I lead the Chrome Developer Relations team at Google.

We want people to have the best experience possible on the web without having to install a native app or produce content in a walled garden.

Our team tries to make it easier for developers to build on the web by supporting every Chrome release, creating great content to support developers on web.dev, contributing to MDN, helping to improve browser compatibility, and some of the best developer tools like Lighthouse, Workbox, Squoosh to name just a few.

I love to learn about what you are building, and how I can help with Chrome or Web development in general, so if you want to chat with me directly, please feel free to book a consultation.

I'm trialing a newsletter, you can subscribe below (thank you!)