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Archive for the ‘Mobile media’ Category

The Storm Collection from Storm Collection on Vimeo.

The above is a video telling, from the perspective of future historians, the evolution from pre-history to the early 21st century, not more than a few years from now, of how people receive their news. The co-creators, Matt Thompson and Robin Sloan, previously made a video that gained wide circulation, Epic 2014, which depicts from a future historian’s perspective the events that led to all news media except the New York Times being consumed in an all-everything incarnation of Google, but even the Times was driven by it to remove itself from the Web. (That’s an oversimplification; watch the video.) Where “Epic” dealt with the evolution of the production of news, the new one, “The Storm Collection,” focuses on the consumer.

I don’t know whether it’s a measure of how coccooned in my daily work I am lately that it took a week for me to come across this new one or it’s just that the above video doesn’t strike as many people as striking as close to the bone as “Epic 2014,” but I suspect it’s the latter. “Storm” is not as slick and seems rather slow-moving and padded, not so much of a story, as though they had an end point — the ultimate news-consumption device, depicted in the video as a pair of glasses by Apple with displays embedded in the lenses — and tried to find a way to build to it — which is essentially what they wind up saying in a Society of News Design presentation was the case. (In the video of their presentation, the “Storm” video starts 5:30 in, and the actual 19-minute presentation/discussion starts about 14:40 in.)

However, what’s really interesting is not the “Storm” video but how they explain in the SND presentation what they are thinking. It really IS hard to think how to make a video depicting it. They describe technology enabling a proliferation of small opportunities for people to seek out and receive information – instead of the 30 minutes with the morning paper or the 30 minutes with the evening news on TV, it’s many smaller bits throughout the day, and the challenge for people who produce the news is find ways to make their presentation compelling. One comparison they make is to NPR’s so-called “driveway moments,” when people hear a story on the radio as they drive, reach their destination but remain in the car to finish hearing it. “These moments are emerging all around us,” with advancing technology creating ever more seamless points of entry into people’s attention.

I’m not sure I like their depictions of some possible future technologies – one of the least intrusive, but still creepy: an electronic frame you have on your desk displaying a picture of your sweetheart along with a display of that person’s most recent status update. But I know I’m not that future news consumer. I’ll be the dinosaur who’s clinging to a tablet and reading at a table in the coffee shop instead of getting all my news through my glasses while riding in my self-driving car.

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They buried the lead. You have to read to nearly the end of a press release from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism to get to what seems to me to be the most important element of a new study by Pew’s Internet & American Life Project, produced in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, asking about where people get their local information:

“While there are a variety of demographic dimensions that are linked to the way people get local news and information, the most striking is the difference between younger and older information consumers. Simply put, one generation into the web, older consumers still rely more heavily on traditional platforms while younger consumers rely more on the internet. Among adults under age 40, the web ranks first or ties for first for 12 of the 16 local topics asked about.”

That’s not earth-shaking, but it’s “the most striking” demographic breakdown, underlining and confirming that younger news consumers’ habit of getting information online is not changing. (Note also a recent Knight Foundation survey of high schoolers and their news habits.)

Also notable to me was the finding on mobile use:

“Nearly half of adults (47%) use mobile devices to get local news and information. Not surprisingly, mobile is particularly popular for ‘out and about’ categories of information, such as restaurants.”

Perhaps the only thing in the study results that really surprised me, though, was the high percentage of people who reported doing things that Pew calls “participating” in the news — and note here, again, how this group focuses on the Internet:

“And 41% of all adults can be considered ‘local news participators’ because they contribute their own information via social media and other sources, add to online conversations, and directly contribute articles about the community. Both these groups are substantially more likely than others to use the internet to get local news and information on almost all topics.”

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You could summarize the results of the new Nielsen Social Media Report as “all the trends you’ve heard about are still happening,” except there are a couple of details that seemed a little surprising. Topping the list: Internet users over the age of 55 are driving the growth of social networking through the mobile Internet. I did not know that and would not have guessed it. Less surprising is social media’s growing ubiquity: Social networks and blogs account for nearly a quarter of total time spent on the Internet, and nearly 4 in 5 active Internet users visit social networks and blogs.

I can’t tell how good or bad some numbers in the report are, such as that Americans spend 22.5 percent of their Internet time on social networks and blogs, and just 2.6 percent on current events & global news. As Steve Myers points out at Poynter.org, blogs could include news blogs, and portals post news stories. And he doesn’t point it out, but many news organizations now make social networks, especially Facebook — where Nielsen says Americans spend more time on than on any other U.S. website — a key part of their efforts to engage the audience, so people could be on social networks and still be on a news-related site.

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At 1:22 p.m., my work was interrupted by an email-arrival notice; the Washington Post had sent out this breaking news alert: “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced Thursday that he will seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.” This raises the issue of just what it is journalists are trying to accomplish when sending out a breaking news alert. It is technically true that the Post’s announcement was “breaking news” — Romney officially launched his run for president. He pulled the trigger. The paperwork is filed, and now he is subject to all the election requirements of a declared, official candidate. … However, is there any sentient individual not only on Earth but within interstellar range of the Earth’s television signals who feels the slightest twinge of surprise at this news? Any? … No? Then to my mind it’s not worth an alert, and I would wager that a great many other recipients of the alert are thinking the same thing. (For example.) If the Post made a habit of broadcasting this level of “news” via email alerts, a good many people would wonder whether it was worth the subscription for emails that interrupt work or make their phones beep/vibrate to alert them to utterly obvious or expected developments.

If you have any responsibility for such alerts to consider your own emails, before sending one you have to ask yourself: Will your audience consider them to be news that is worthy of the interruption? You send alerts to reinforce your identity as a source of fresh information important to your area (or topic). When you send out things no one really considers to be news, you convey the opposite message.

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Joplin before and after
Jot this idea down in case a disaster ever levels your city: Use Google Streetview to get a “before” scene of anyplace in town. The above from Joplin, Mo. (pros take note: the “after” photo by a citizen-journalist).

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Ben LaMothe poses a question on the 10,000 Words blog about engaging your audience on social-media channels, and I can’t help but notice it’s basically the same question that applies to any medium:

“Why people should follow you, read your updates, add you as a Fan or Friend, or care at all about your existence online? What’s in it for them?”

The key part: What’s in it for them?

What I always tell writers they need to answer up high in a story: Why should the reader care? It’s the same thing. If you don’t give people a reason to pay attention to you, they won’t pay attention. What do you have to offer that’s relevant to the people in your target audience? “News” is a category of answers to the question, not a sufficient answer in itself.

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visualization of the bin Laden death tweets

Brian Solis reflects on the spread of news about Osama bin Laden’s death and, from there, launches into a brief history of media on the Web. (I’m not exaggerating much; the title is “The End of the Destination Web and the Revival of the Information Economy.”) Not only is it chock full of information, it’s chock full of visuals, such as the above, which has nothing to do with the fertilization of a human egg.

You may wonder about some of his statements or observations — probably about where he switches from what has gone before to what is going on now (or needs to be, for media organizations that hope to survive). But it’s a useful read for journalists as a reminder of the wider information world and its continued movement.

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You will know that Skynet has arrived and the ultimate war against the humans is imminent when someone invents a hyperlocalization news tool like that described by Jeff Sonderman in his commentary for Poynter.org about Google News’ new “news near you” service. In summary: Google takes aim at the mobile market by using your mobile device’s geolocation info to feed you more or less hyperlocal news results; Jeff says it’s great as far as it goes, but he wants more — more headlines, more curation, more socialization. His area, metro Washington, D.C., used to have something close to what he wants — it was called TBD.com, and it was killed in its crib a few months ago. Actually, Jeff is looking for the robot version, a “killer app,” and a certain level of personalization — a step beyond hyperlocalization:

“To create a market-dominating filter of local news, someone will need to curate the pool of aggregated news to match each reader’s interests, browsing history and social network activity, in addition to his or her location.

“The killer app would be one that filters a breadth of local aggregation like Outside.in through a hyperpersonalized social filter sought by mobile services such as News.me and Trove combined with the personal browsing and search history of Google.”

And he’s right. If someone can invent a computer program that can do all that, it will be a killer, all right — it might kill the need to have humans involved in the news-delivery process (that would be the group usually called editors or producers) at all.

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(Originally posted on Oct. 8, 2010)

While helping the boss to gather material for a presentation that included examples of how Media General newsrooms increasingly are using new tools, one example drove home why reporters/photographers/videographers should have smartphones with not just photo but video capability. It was not at all an obvious case. The obvious ones are things like hurricanes, major fires, really big stuff that calls for having as many electronic eyes and ears in the field as possible. This one, though, was an everyday traffic accident. The above video from WNCT of a motorcycle-truck wreck seems, on the surface, to have not much going for it. But what made the hair on my neck stand up was how it differs from the traditional print or even TV coverage of such an event. The reporter moves around the scene. The camera pans slowly. If I were from there and drove that street, I could place it exactly in my mind. Still images can’t do that. A bigger, more expensive camera could do that too, but somehow the phone camera provides a sense of immediacy that is much stronger. Or maybe it’s seeing it on the computer screen, potentially minutes after the wreck, that makes it feel more immediate.

News staff without mobile news reporting ability is a waste of resources.

Coincidentally, while I was working on this post, Ryan Sholin — a frequent blogger on the subjects of new media and the future of news — had a post of his own making the same case but probably better. Certainly with more explanation. Summary: “Because we have inexpensive ways to gather and distribute video in larger numbers to our readers and viewers and users in a fragmented audience, equipping a larger number of reporters with easy-to-learn, easy-to-edit point-and-shoot cameras is a logical choice that makes sense for our readers.”

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Thinking mobile

(Originally posted on Oct. 5, 2010)

The number of smartphones (iPhone, Droid, etc.) is exploding, so it would seem that mobile devices are the emerging frontier for both reaching news audiences and engaging with them. Steve Buttry has advice for getting started feeling comfortable with mobile devices, and it starts with simply using your own cell phone for a lot of things other than phone calls. If it’s not already something you do, that probably means forcing yourself to take a minute here and there and use it.

Among the other advice is an idea for getting the newsroom to think mobile:

“Buttry also recommends experimenting with a one-off mobile project focused on a special event of high interest in your community.

”Whenever something is happening that lots of people in your community will be traveling to—like a bowl game, state fair, or papal visit,—support them on the road. They won’t be seeing your print edition, and their laptop is back in their hotel room. So mobile has a much greater reach. One-off projects can connect strongly with audiences and advertisers. But even if this experiment is a complete bust, don’t sweat it. It’s time limited. You’ll still learn important things that will help your ongoing mobile operations.'”

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