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Media (R)evolutions: The world of messaging apps

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

The number of people using messaging apps continues to rise. In fact, traditional global telecoms are scrambling to compete and maintain relevance. In some parts of the world messaging apps have become the most used apps overall.

According to data (using Android App Data: April 2016) from Similar Web out of 187 countries examined, WhatsApp was the most popular messaging app, becoming the global leader by claiming the top spot in 109 countries. Findings from Global Web Index (GWI) suggest that 3 in 4 WhatsApp users use the service daily, helping this messaging app claim the title for the highest usage frequency of all the messaging apps tracked by GWI. Although Facebook Messenger came in second place, claiming 49 countries, it remains to be one of the most powerful platforms for companies to reach their customers. Third in line was Viber, with 10 countries. LINE messaging app took fourth place.

Source: SimilarWeb

The story behind LINE app is particularly interesting. LINE began in response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan, which damaged much of Japan’s telecommunications infrastructure, forcing people to rely on internet-based resources to reach their friends and families. But it has since grown into a powerful messaging tool. Earlier this year, LINE Corporation reported a 7% increase in the monthly active user count over the same quarter in the previous year. That is a total of 218.4 million monthly active users as of March 31, 2016, out of which 151.6 million came from Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.

What explains the rise in the number messaging app users? Cost, speed, and reach!  Messaging apps are often cheaper than traditional sms-based services and provide a much faster way of communication one-on-one, or one-to-few. They also offer a more private experience, compared to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts that are visible to a larger audience.

The growing number of messaging app users provides an opportunity for media outlets to reach and engage with their global audiences on the platforms that are familiar to readers.  Earlier this year, the Economist announced that it was expanding its social presence to LINE, its first venture onto English-language chat apps. Financial Times has recently added LINE to the number of platforms that it distributes to, in addition to WhatsApp. The Guardian in the U.K. uses WhatsApp for eyewitness accounts and user-generated content. Other publishers using messaging apps include TIME, the Wall Street Journal, BBC, CNN, and Mashable.   

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