App Use Grew in 2013, Except for News and Media Apps

Gina Deveney
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The growth in app usage has been one of the more dramatic changes in consumers' Internet habits over the last few years. In 2013, the use of apps for everything from shopping and banking to games and medical diagnoses rose for nearly every segment of society. While the use of apps is generally up, news and media apps seem to have plateaued in consumer demand. The reasons behind these trends—and what they mean for communications professionals—are worth knowing.

Figures illustrating the rising use of apps are staggering. In 2013, global spending on mobile apps increased by 30 percent, from $44 billion to $57 billion—an almost unprecedented inflation in a customer-driven market. This is just the measurement of revenue from paid downloads. Considering the general reluctance of the app-using public to pay for apps and the fact that over 90 percent of downloadable apps are available in a free version, the overall use of apps can be said to have skyrocketed in just a single year.

So, who's buying all the apps? Everybody, it seems. The use of apps among teens and young adults has risen, but the young have traditionally been early adopters and started the trend toward increased use of apps—especially games and communication apps—years ahead of older consumers. Much of the growth in the market, surprisingly, comes from adults between twenty-five and sixty-four who have learned to take advantage of professional apps that strive to streamline work processes. Contractors and sales reps can find apps for income tracking, administrative specialists can use apps to manage human resources data, and communications experts can maintain and update their professional networks quickly thanks to apps.

A notable exception to the otherwise across-the-board increase in the use of apps can be found among news and media apps. Here, depending on the app, demand has either lagged behind other sectors or frozen in place through the boom. Several factors are probably responsible for this sluggish performance, not least of which are the general decline in demand for traditional newspapers and the encroachment of social media such as Facebook into the news aggregators' turf with features such as News Feed, which is largely automated and can rapidly deliver traditional news content to users who might otherwise be tempted to download the app of a print publication.

The use of apps has exploded, and connecting with mobile users is now a major factor in any communications strategy. The growth in app usage is affecting both paid and free apps alike, suggesting a powerful demand is driving the market surge. Finally, while the use of apps is up, traditional media outlets have been left behind, and with stiff competition from alternate news sources such as Facebook, there's no sign of the trend away from app versions of print ending anytime soon.


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