Posts Tagged ‘mobile’

Mark Potts’ description on his Recovering Journalist blog of the first glimpses he and Washington Post executives had 20 years ago of the coming media technology revolution reminds me of my own moment of realization on that topic.

It’s worth the time to read Mark’s post, but his tale revolves around this:

“Twenty years ago, Robert G. Kaiser, newly appointed managing editor of The Washington Post, took a trip to California to learn more about the then-developing world of Silicon Valley. While there, he was invited by John Sculley, then Apple’s CEO, to a conference in Japan about the future of digital media. Several dozen movers and shakers from the worlds of publishing and technology gathered in the resort town of Hakone, outside Tokyo, to discuss what it might mean to use computers to collect and distribute news and information, something described by the newfangled word ‘multimedia.’”

It was just 1992, but what was described in that meeting in Japan is pretty much the online media environment we have now. As Mark describes it, Kaiser and others recognized the need to prepare for the technological tidal wave, but for all the effort put into it, things just petered out:

“The history of the past 20 years of newspapers and digital media is, unfortunately, a legacy of timidity, missed opportunities and a general lack of imagination and guts to leap into the future.”

My moment of realization comes on a much smaller, more limited scale. In 1997, I told my reporters that we all needed to think of the newspaper’s website as a place to report breaking news because it put us on an even playing field with TV, but I remained skeptical of how much new effort needed to be directed online. But in June 2005, I attended a session at API in Reston, Va., with the unwieldy name “Cross-Platform Media Teams: Strategic Thinking for a Multi-Platform World,” and that changed everything for me. In particular, a presentation by Jeff Coles of USC’s Center for the Digital Future drove home the idea that the Internet was driving far-reaching changes in people’s behavior in the same way that the advent of television did. The trends indicated that even then, before the first iPhone launched the explosive growth in smartphones.

Which leads us in more recent years to the kind of scenes such as former Wall Street Journal reporter Paul Glader recently described from a trip on Amtrak:

“All of my neighbors were pecking away at Amazon Kindles or Apple iPads. In this container on rails, the microcosm of well-connected travelers showed what kind of ‘Star Trek’ world in which we are, or soon will be, living. … They flitted back and forth, like distracted youngsters, between email, news sites, books and video games like Angry Birds.”

Newsrooms already have been decimated by massive declines in advertising revenue. Often, the cuts in staffing make editors even more resistant to changing beats or organizational structures – we’ve lost so much, how can we do anything new when we can’t even do what we once thought was the bare minimum? But retrenchment is no way to keep up with a world that’s racing ahead of you.

(Thanks to Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman for pointing to both of these articles.)

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RJI Online
I hesitate to draw too many conclusion from the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s latest survey of mobile device use. What I think it shows is that newspaper’s audience in print is also newspaper’s audience online – they tend to be older and have more money. That’s a nice niche, to the extent you’re able to sell that audience to advertisers, but I always look at surveys like this with an eye toward the future. If the bulk of younger people use Androids and don’t subscribe or use news apps, is that the baseline they will maintain as they get older, or will they become more like the older people who more often have iPhones and subscriptions? I think you can assume that what has been true in print will remain true in mobile, which means they are forming habits that will persist.

The stat I think is most instructive is the answer to which content format smartphone owners preferred for consuming news content: Far and away, for all devices (but especially for the Android devices favored by younger groups), the answer is the website, not an app. Put your efforts on your website and you address the largest segment of all demographic groups – but you especially address those younger news consumers whose reading habits you are trying to build.

8/4/12 UPDATE: In early May, Matthew Ingram posted about problems faced by dedicated news apps, a further argument for focusing your efforts on your website.

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This is what it has come to: I can’t see an Oscar-winning movie without finding parallels in journalism’s changing landscape. In this case, while watching “The Artist” I was struck by the remark by the lead character, a star of silent film as talkies begin to sweep the movie industry, quoted in a newspaper that he would not do talkies because he was an artist. He dismissed the emerging technology of film as crass and lowbrow, less worthy of notice. The sentiment was very familiar; I’ve heard or read it a thousand times from traditional journalists about the idea of (pick any): blogging the news, aggregation, raw video, frequent (or sometimes any) web updates, Facebook, Twitter, engaging with reader comments, and probably a few that I can’t recall right now.

The at the end of “The Artist” you get, in the only spoken lines of the whole movie, why he really dismissed talkies. In case you haven’t seen it, without giving the whole thing away I will just say it came down to an ability. But the way he coped with that and adapted to the new medium was a different skill that had not been utilized by the silent films. He could act, but in the new world acting was not enough. But he had something else to add, and the combination worked.

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If you work for a traditional newsroom, especially a newspaper, in all likelihood you are in a situation not that different than the Oakland A’s as depicted in “Moneyball.” You don’t have the money you feel you need to do the job the way you were brought up to believe it needs to be done, and that situation is never going to get better. The University of Southern California’s Center for the Digital Future even predicts the end of most printed newspapers in just a few years, owing not just to the economic factors hurting advertising but, more importantly, consumer habits shifting media use increasingly to digital platforms. I’m not so pessimistic myself, but I think it’s undeniable that technology is changing how people spend their time, and both reading and viewing are moving more and more to digital platforms.

News organizations face a stark choice. As expressed in “Moneyball” by Brad Pitt as the general manager of the A’s: “Adapt or die.”

That means going beyond seeing your website or social media channels as added tasks that take away from your real job. You have to think about news throughout the day in terms of people scanning for it on their phones, on their tablets, on their computers.

Steve Buttry of Digital First Media (aka Journal Register) has been posting a series on his blog this week detailing some of the practical changes of this approach, starting with how it would affect the ways a court reporter, photographer or sports reporter might do the job. (Dare I say this might be the first time anyone has written something suggesting a link in any way between Steve and Brad Pitt.)

Perhaps most important in Steve’s series is advice for editors leading a Digital First (or digital-first) newsroom. If the message doesn’t come from the top that digital-first is the new SOP, it won’t happen. If the message isn’t accompanied by evidence that those at the top are paying attention, it won’t happen.

Much of Steve’s advice echoes tips about coaching and leadership generally – there are sections on standards, listening, praise and collaboration.

One suggestion he makes that would be an important step for newroom leaders to drive the message because it would be a big change in newsroom habits:
“Focus your meetings on digital platforms. Ask what you’re covering live, who’s shooting video, what the social chatter is, what stories are getting good traffic. … Put tomorrow’s print Page One it its proper place: as an afterthought at the end of the meeting.”

Also good advice that newsroom leaders have to internalize:

“Don’t tell your staff they have to ‘do more with less’ unless you are providing tools for them to work more efficiently (in my career, a few things that have actually helped us do more with less are portable computers, spreadsheets, databases, cellphones and pagination). Usually, ‘do more with less’ is a management cliché that means we have failed to make tough decisions about priorities.

“As you focus more attention on digital platforms, you have to focus less on print. Consult with your staff and colleagues and make tough decisions about priorities. How are you going to change the newshole, design, editing process, content, staffing, etc. of the print product so you can focus more attention on digital.”

In other words, what are you really changing? You don’t have the staff you used to have, you never will again – “Newspaper companies have seen their advertising revenues drop by 58 percent from the third quarter of 2005 to the third quarter of this year (64 percent after adjusting for inflation). Any profits are achieved only by severe cuts in staff and other costs. That path is simply unsustainable.” – and you have a shifting audience.

What will adaptation look like in your newsroom?

Related: The Innovation Excellence website takes seven quotes from Moneyball and explains how they directly relate to driving innovation through an organization.

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Google Mobile Ads Blog image
Google has analyzed how people are using tablets and what they are using them for, and easily the least surprising but most trumpeted fact is that people use their tablets rather than booting up a computer (ditto here). Uhhhhh. Really? Do any of these people own a tablet? Once you own any tablet, any of them, using a laptop or desktop computer is like moving from fiber-optic Internet back to dial-up. Computers have to boot up. You wait and wait and wait, sometimes for a whole 60 seconds (!!!), while the tablet — like your phone — is on instantly, but unlike your phone the screen is large enough to let you actually SEE things.

Tablets are not more useful overall than laptops or computers, but for the simple stuff you want to do to fill your time, it is utterly unsurprising that people refuse to boot up rather than simply grab a tablet.

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image from everythingpr
Couldn’t have said it better myself — a portion of what Liz Heron, social media editor for the New York Times, told Poynter’s Steve Myers about whether reporters should use Twitter to break news before it appears on the Times’ own website:

“Encouraging individual journalists to use social media for reporting is a key part of our journalistic strategy and an important part of our future success as a news organization. … If our staff uses social media well, it only serves to enhance our journalism as a whole.”

The question to my mind is what constitutes using social media well, and I would say it’s making your newsroom known as the go-to place for news that’s relevant to your community (whether that community is oriented to a place or a topic) and helping drive traffic to where your full stories appear, whether that’s in print, online or on the air. Certainly breaking news via Twitter can build the reputation of delivering news fast; whether it also drives traffic depends on how you follow up after those initial tweets — send a link, refer to details that will appear in the paper or on the air.

Having said that, know what your boss wants and expects. I don’t sign your paycheck.

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For better or worse, this is how new technology is framing the terms of the media-development debate

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After my junior year of college, I had a summer internship at what was, unbeknownst to me at the time, one of the last PM daily papers in the United States, the Phoenix Gazette. The Gazette was down to about 1/10 of the circulation of its morning rival, The Arizona Republic – both were owned by the same company but maintained separate staff – but was hanging on. Given the trends underscored by the latest report from comScore, Digital Omnivores, we may be in a window where people one day will say they were at one of the last newspaper organizations NOT to have an online PM strategy.

For those of you too young to remember, a brief summary of the relevant history: A little more than a generation ago, more newspapers were sold in the afternoon than the morning, and many cities had both a morning-delivered paper and an afternoon-delivered paper, the latter of which originally was dominant. As lifestyles changed, the afternoon paper faded and the morning paper became dominant, and by the ‘80s few PM papers were left. Whatever news had happened in the wee hours overnight, people heard on the radio or TV in the morning, and whatever happened during the day, people heard on the radio on the drive home or on TV shortly after arriving home. In recent years (as many have observed) the Internet is accelerating the adaptation of news-consumption habits to peoples’ lifestyles and schedules – so much so, it seems, that there now is renewed and growing demand for a late update on the news, but later than the old PM paper and later than the evening TV news.

One of the highlighted elements of the comScore report is the rapid growth in mobile and especially tablet use. This is important because, as the chart shown above illustrates, when people use their computers to check online news, the pattern rises and falls according to the day’s work schedule – peaking in the mid- to late morning and declining late in the day. But mobile use hangs on later – especially tablets, which actually peak later in the night.

A danger of drawing too many conclusions about where the trend goes from here is that the current batch of tablet users are mostly young, male and affluent – not the typical computer user, let alone mobile user, let alone the average person. But they are typical of early adopters, and to that extent, you can look at their usage with an eye to what past early adoptive behaviors indicated was the shape of things to come.

For news producers, the news is hopeful:

News is relatively high on the list of what people do on mobile devices. True, it’s below e-mail … Facebook … games … Google and Yelp and other search … maps … . But still, it’s a solid third or more of the market.

Not only that, but it’s among the higher percentage of uses in a month, especially among tablet owners (and the report emphasizes the growth and potential of the tablet audience):

“Nearly 3 out of 5 tablet owners consume news on their tablets. 58 percent of tablet owners consumed world, national or local news on their devices, with 1 in 4 consuming this content on a near-daily basis on their tablets.”

(Note: Among tablet owners, “TV remained the most prominent source for news content, with 52 percent of respondents typically consuming news in this fashion. Computer use followed closely with 48 percent of tablet owners consuming news content via desktop or laptop computers, while 28 percent reported receiving their news from print publications. Mobile and tablet consumption of news were nearly equal in audience penetration, with 22 and 21 percent of respondents accessing news via their mobile or tablet devices.”)

And finally, a word of hope for the news organizations formally known as newspapers (yeah, I’m a few years ahead of myself, but that’s where we’re going): Newspapers, blogs and technology sites stand out as examples of categories in the U.S. exhibiting high relative mobile (phone and tablet) traffic.

“In August 2011, 7.7 percent of total traffic going to Newspaper sites came from mobile devices – 3.3-percentage points higher than the amount of mobile traffic going to the total Internet. As consumers continue to seek out breaking news and updated information on the go, it is likely that this share of traffic could grow further.”

In summary: It’s early, but this is another data point backing up indications that the trend is that at least a significant portion of the people using mobile devices (notably including the portion most likely to appeal to advertisers, or with the income to pay for access) have an appetite for news that extends late into the evening, and they go online to find it. When do you do your final online updates for the day?

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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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