A new paper by Johanna Dunaway, Joan Shorenstein Fellow (spring 2016) and associate professor of communication at Texas A&M University, examines how mobile technology – despite expanding internet access – is also contributing to a digital divide in news consumption.
By 2020, two-thirds of all online activity is expected to take place on mobile devices. Currently, mobile-only internet access has risen more sharply among Latino, black, and low-income Americans. Dunaway’s research finds, however, that mobile devices are less conducive to the consumption of news than desktop computers for a variety of reasons, including connection speed, smaller screens and variable costs for access. Although news outlets are reaching a wider audience through mobile devices, and there are some dedicated news consumers who spend a significant amount of time using news apps, most mobile users’ encounters with news are incidental and brief. Dunaway argues that this presents a challenge both for the news industry, and for an informed citizenry.