Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

Two Minute Tips

How to make your business articles mobile friendly

March 9, 2016

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"Friends with Mobile Phone" by Flickr user Garry Knight on Creative Commons (CC By 2.0) 

Record numbers of readers consume news on their mobile phones. Amy Mitchell at the Pew Research Center called the phenomenon a “mobile majority” when reporting on the center’s 2015 comScore data. The report found 39 of the top 50 digital news websites had more traffic to their sites from mobile devices than desktop computers. And while 10 news outlets found readers on mobile phones lingered longer than desktop readers, only one network had mobile readers remaining on a news story for more than three minutes. So how do you make your business writing more accessible, engaging (and skimmable) for your reader? Here are some tips for making your business news and features more mobile friendly.

Use subheads

For maximum engagement with our mobile readers, my editors recommend a subhead every three or so paragraphs. Subheads shouldn’t exceed three words. To improve clarity and to avoid redundancies, avoid repeating the same exact words in the first sentence after the subhead. Rhetorical questions also make helpful subheads, such as in this piece I wrote on the waste-to-toys movement for Guardian Sustainable Business.

Employ lists

More editors now ask for lists at the end of each article—the goal to provide the mobile reader skimmable core points your article covers, and any tips or takeaways from the experts. Some news organizations like the BBC even add a short, three-point list at the top of each news story offering the reader the core news up top. This way the reader can quickly gather the information they need and decide whether or not to read the full article. Make sure your bulleted lists maintain consistent grammar, and less is more. Cap each list item at two sentences max.

Craft engaging headlines

Business writers mindful of mobile readers must also come up with snappy headlines to draw their readers in. If you feel lousy at headlines and deks, then find a news organization whose leads/headlines you like and emulate their style.  I enjoy the succinct, snappy headlines used at the BBC, for instance. Today’s headlines include: “Twenty Years Inside a California Cult,” (a feature on Holy Hell, a new film documenting Buddhafield, a spiritual community formed in the 1980s), “The Surprising Benefits of Swearing,” a health feature on the hidden benefits of cussing and “Romney warns against a ‘phony’ Trump” followed by the second headliner, “How extreme is Trump?” All headlines have me hooked.

Prepare for Accelerated Mobile Pages

Google recently announced its AMP project, which will give preference in showing mobile users fast-loading content not bogged down by javascript, other scripts or CSS style sheets. Web developers often employ these techniques to make a news site interactive. While that sounds like a problem for the technical staff, writers should note that elements of their post “above the fold” will become more prominent and load faster than the rest of the post. As AMP becomes the norm, concise, clear, enticing headlines; a compelling hero image and the introductory text of your article all gain more importance.

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