While desktop audiences for digital news are falling, mobile is on the rise.

Credit: By Drnantu on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Desktop and laptop use for news consumption is falling while mobile audiences are rising for the leading news brands in the UK, according to Ofcom's Communications Market 2014 report published today.

Each of the ten surveyed organisations showed an increase in mobile traffic in the last two years, while only three of the organisations surveyed showed an increase in desktop or laptop traffic.

The BBC was by far the most popular brand for mobile news and gained 1.3 million new users in the year up to April 2014 the largest numerical increase among the organisations involved.

Metro saw the largest percentage increase in its mobile audience – by 89 per cent according to the report – as it grew from just over 841,000 to almost 1.59 million unique visitors.

Metro launched a mobile-first strategy at the end of 2012, paired with a more responsive and swipe-friendly website. A spokesperson from Metro told Journalism.co.uk: "In addition to optimising the site, we’re focused on providing succinct, topical content that our mobile readers want.
"Many of Metro’s readers are also highly engaged users of social media. We’ve therefore increased our focus on social engagement which has resulted in a 300 per cent year-on-year increase in likes of our Facebook page, which are above 900k today – enabling us to reach our mobile audience more effectively. Our social media team also works closely with our journalists to make sure the social content we are creating is engaging, enjoyable and shareable."
ofcom report mobile
Screengrab from Ofcom.org.uk

The leading brand for tablet use was The Daily Mail, with 4.2 million unique visitors using a tablet browser to access the website in March this year. No data for mobile applications was made available.

The Daily Mail (10.6 million unique users), The Guardian (10.6 million), and BBC News (10.3 million), remain the most visited news sites by people using desktop computers or laptops, yet each registered a decline in numbers from the previous year.

The Telegraph, The Daily Mirror and Metro were the only three newspapers featured in the report to see a growth in audience from laptops or desktop computers last year.

ofcom report desktop
Screengrab from Ofcom.org.uk

The Mirror saw a UK traffic increase on desktop and laptop from 3.4 million unique users to 5.3 million, while Metro saw an increase from 1.9 million last year to 3.3 million.

The Telegraph's desktop audience grew by 9 per cent in the year to March 2014, and the media outlet had the biggest growth featured in the report, gaining over 3m unique users in the two years up to March 2014.

The biggest decline was registered at The Sun, where the number of users went down 63 per cent to 1.4 million. Ofcom said the decline is likely to be caused by the introduction of a paywall which came into effect in August 2013.

A fifth of mobile internet users in the UK claimed they read the news on their mobile devices every day during March 2014. Just over half (53.5 per cent) said they have done so at least a few times a month in the previous year.

Digital news audience numbers in general have grown by a third since 2013, to the point where 41 per cent of UK adults read news online compared, slightly more than the 40 per cent who say they read newspapers, according to Ofcom's News Consumption in the UK report, released in June.

Ofcom said this increase was linked to the soaring popularity of smartphones and tablets with younger people.

Almost two thirds of households, 61 per cent, now have a smartphone, and just under a half, 44 per cent, have a tablet.

Update: The article has been updated to include a quote from Metro.

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