News Leadership 3.0

April 17, 2008

Mobilizing for mobile: Consumers go mobile, will the news follow?

News industry looks to mobile delivery for advertising revenue
For journalists, it will require new ways of thinking about content

Much buzz this week about delivery of news and advertising to mobile devices. Poynter’s Rick Edmunds says it was the hot topic among people with dollar signs in their eyes at the NAA-ASNE Captial Conference. The Associated Press announced it is developing Mobile News Network that will deliver news to Apple’s iPhone—and allow AP member news organizations to sell advertising to mobile users.

What does this mean for the newsroom? The opportunity to reach more people (and perhaps more of those younger folks) is exciting. The challenges go well beyond learning to apply new technology.

Here’s a caution from Paul Lamb:

“Unfortunately, most media still view mobile as only a way to shrink down their existing print, broadcast, and online offerings and re-format them for a smaller screen. And that’s one important reason why they are not having much success to date. It’s time to start thinking outside newsprint-wrapped boxes and to imagine what can be done altogether differently via emerging platforms.”

Medill’s Rich Gordon is thinking along the same lines. Gordon points to a Guardian article, “Why mobile Japan leads the world.”

“...  journalists and media companies would be wise to start thinking about the threats and opportunities presented by a world where cellular phones and other portable devices have pervasive, high-speed Internet connections. The Guardian article illustrates clearly why this world is likely to arrive: the business and revenue possibilities are enormous,” Gordon says.

Like Lamb, Gordon says the challenge will be to quickly create new forms of content that take advantage of mobile technology and its users.

“There also seem to be some interesting parallels between the evolution of the “desktop Web” and the “mobile Web.” The early years of the Web featured “repurposed” content originally created for other media and the growth of new e-commerce businesses such as Amazon and eBay. It took some time before content creators and media companies started figuring out what kinds of content were most appropriate for the Web, and the most valuable for consumers. The same pattern seems to be playing out in Japan: repurposed content and “m-commerce” first, with original content created for mobile devices lagging behind.

“What kinds of content will be most successful for mobile devices? As with the Web, there will be some value to using these devices to deliver the same content (say, video or news headlines) created for another medium. But it also seems reasonable to assume that winning mobile content must take advantage of either or both of these two important attributes of mobile devices: first, that they are portable (and therefore, always in easy reach); and second, that their geographic location can be known (so content can be customized based on the user’s location).”

Gordon has a team of Medill master’s students looking at the issue. In June, they will deliver “a report about the state of U.S. mobile technology and content (intended as a resource for journalists and media companies), and at least one example of a journalistic story or service that takes advantage of the unique capabilities of mobile media.” Meanwhile, Gordon’s students are blogging their project here.

Is your newsroom working on mobile? Please share insights and links.

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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