News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Mobile

January 25, 2012

Pew: Young adults especially interested in web blackout news

The past week saw several major news stories, from the Italian shipwreck to coverage of the Republican presidential primaries to Eastman Kodak’s bankruptcy. But Pew found that U.S. adults under 30 were especially likely to follow news of the Jan. 18 widespread blackouts of several popular websites to protest two bills aimed at stopping online piracy…

In its latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted Jan. 19-22, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found: “Nearly one quarter (23%) of those younger than 30 say they followed news about the online piracy fight most closely. That is about the same as the percentage [within that age group] following the 2012 elections most closely (21%). Among the public as a whole, just 7% say they followed news about the web protests ...more closely than any other story.”

This isn’t necessarily surprising, but it does underscore the fact that coverage of this high-profile example of digital activism achieved notable traction with younger news consumers. And this story isn’t over yet—the struggle in Congress over online piracy legislation continues to unfold.

Consequently, news publishers who seek to expand their reach among younger news consumers might do well to emphasize ongoing coverage of online piracy legislation and related activism in their mobile offerings—which includes the mobile web, smartphone and tablet apps, and social media.

Last summer, Pew found that over half of U.S. adults aged 29 and under own a smartphone. Nearly 95% of these Americans go online from their phones, and over 80% do so daily. Also, social media (where people often share or discuss news) is one of the most popular things people do with their cell phones.

Your mobile strategy is as much about content choices as technology and design choices. Understanding which stories appeal to younger news consumers—as well as other key avidly mobile demographics, such as U.S. Hispanics—can help you choose which stories to promote most through mobile channels. Your story lineup need not be identical from one media channel to the next.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

February 15, 2012

Mobile Monday: April 2 at ASNE 2012 convention

The 2012 convention of the American Society of News Editors (April 2-4, Washington D.C.) will start with a special afternoon workshop on using mobile technology for reporting, and publishing to mobile devices…

The two-hour Mobile Monday workshop on April 2 at ASNE 2012 will be led by Val Hoeppner, director of education at the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute. He will cover:

  • How reporters can use smartphone apps for multimedia, editing, notetaking, location and livestreaming.
  • The impact of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices on news reporting and publishing.

This session will open with a report on the latest research on the public’s use of online digital media presented by Roger Fidler, director, Digital Publishing Alliance at the University of Missouri.

Register before March 15 to receive a $50 registration discount.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

April 10, 2012

To grow your mobile audience, focus on mobile web, not apps, says NPR

“Here’s the truth: If your app is the only component of your mobile strategy, you’re missing the boat. Mobile-optimized web pages are rapidly becoming the most important way to grow your online audience,” NPR’s Steve Mulder and Keith Hopper recently wrote.

That’s why NPR is building a prototype mobile-optimized site for affiliate stations…

Mulder is director of user experience and analytics, and Hopper is director of product strategy and development, for NPR Digital Services. So they’re always watching the numbers. In their post on the NPR blog, they noted:

“When we look at the numbers for 50+ NPR stations across the country that are using Digital Services’ Core Publisher content management systems, the trend is clear. Last July, 9% of traffic to station web sites came from mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). As of March, it’s already up to 14%.

“We see the same thing for NPR.org traffic. Mobile now represents 17% of the unique visitors to NPR.org. (That’s mobile site traffic, not including all the NPR apps.) And it’s rising quickly.

Other recent research bears this out. This year’s State of the News Media report from Pew’s Project on Excellence in Journalism found that nearly one in four U.S. adults now get news on at least two digital media devices (computer, tablet, and/or smartphone).

Also, a recent survey conducted by Roger Fidler of the Digital Publishing Alliance at the Reynolds School of Journalism (Univ. Mo.-Columbia) found that more than twice as many mobile users prefer the mobile websites of new outlets compared to their apps.

News apps are still important, but “not a silver bullet” Mulder and Hopper observe.

“For all their success, the benefits of having an app (especially as an engine for capturing new audience) are starting to plateau. ...Research is showing that apps attract the particularly loyal segment of your audience who is already consuming a lot more news. ...But of course, stations want to reach a wider audience of casual users as well. And for this larger segment of casual users, mobile-optimized web pages are the preferred way to access your content.”

They offer three reasons why NPR stations (and probably any news outlet) should focus on enhancing their mobile web offerings and experience even if their apps appear successful:

  1. The mobile web is where the audience is. (They offer ample data to back this up.)
  2. The mobile web user experience has greatly improved in the last couple of years.
  3. Mobile web offerings are easier and less expensive to build.


The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

May 15, 2012

Mobile for community media workshop in NYC this weekend

On May 18-19, the Knight Digital Media Center-USC and the City University of New York are offering a special workshop on mobile opportunities for publishers of community and ethnic media outlets in the New York metro area.

This event is invitation-only, but the workshop resources are available to anyone online…

See the Community Mobile Tumblr blog.

Topics covered include:

  • Tools and services to jumpstart your new outlet’s mobile strategy
  • Engaging your community via mobile and social media
  • Mobile revenue opportunities
  • Recent research and statistics on mobile trends and user demographics
  • Examples of mobile projects relevant to ethnic and community media


Many resources on these and other topics are already listed there, and we’ll add more before, during, and after the workshop.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

August 09, 2012

Review: RCFP “first aid” app for journalists

Recently the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press launched a free “first aid” mobile app to give reporters in the field immediate access to legal resources, especially when encountering obstacles to newsgathering or access. Here are some reasons why anyone who commits acts of journalism should have it on their smartphone—and what news publishers can learn from this type of publishing project…

This app is basically an e-book which you download as an app and customize with information specific to your state—and which RCFP periodically updates with fresh information. For resource guides where information changes often, this is probably a better approach than publishing a traditional e-book, and certainly much more mobile-friendly (and user-friendly) than publishing in pdf or print format.

The app covers these six legal topic areas:

  • Newsgathering
  • Court access
  • Public meetings
  • Public records
  • Confidential sources
  • Libel


When you first download this app, select all the states where you do reporting. For instance, if you report even occasionally from one or more neighboring states—and especially if you cover courts, where venue changes can carry local cases into another state’s courts—it’s a good idea to select all the states you may be reporting from. You can add or remove states from your list at any time.

With state customization, when you access relevant sections of this guide to get answers you’ll see a short overview of the topic at hand followed by state subheadings with additional info, including citations for relevant state laws. This can be helpful if you need to, say, press for access to a closed meeting that should be public. Knowing which law to cite can help persuade an official barring the door who may not be as familiar with legal requirements.

You can also search the text of the app’s content.

The RCFP app also has also a “hotline” feature, where you can place a call or send an e-mail to RCFP for immediate legal answers and assistance. And soon this app will connect journalists to RCFP’s new hotlines for both the Republican National Convention (Aug. 27-30, Tampa, FL) and Democratic National Convention (Sept. 4-6, Charlotte, NC). Presumably the app will also add convention-specific content as well.

This guide is a great example of how to deploy a useful mobile resource that communicates a body of knowledge and actionable tips. There are some opportunities for improvement, of course.

First of all, it would be helpful if users could create text, voice, photo, or video annotations to relevant pages in their copy of their apps, and then have the option of saving them offline, sending them to others, or sharing them back to RCFP. This could enrich the body of knowledge RCFP has amassed, and also provide useful feedback and case studies to further improve and promote this app.

Also this app could (and probably should) also be implemented as a mobile web app—a mobile-friendly interactive web site that can be viewed through a browser on a mobile device. This would offer the significant benefits of search visibility and direct linkability.

For instance, imagine that a reporter who never heard of this app is unexpectedly forbidden access to a courtroom. She would probably call her editor, or reach out to colleagues or social media, or quickly search Google for fast answers and options. If all this content was available on the web, the Google search would deliver relevant pages—perhaps even state-specific info from RCFP, since Google mobile search results are inherently weighted by location.

Similarly, if this apps content was simultaneously deployed via a mobile-friendly website (and if both versions were served from the same content management system to keep them synchronized), the reporter’s editor, colleagues, or social media contacts could send her a direct link to the relevant information. She then could view this in the web browser of her phone, tablet, netbook, or laptop without having to download or install anything. These pages also could advertise and facilitate the download of the mobile app.

A joint downloadable/web app deployment would enable another possibly popular and useful feature: the ability to share links to relevant pages of app content via e-mail, text message, social media, and more.

Still, making all this information available first as a freestanding downloadable app is useful, since you might easily end up reporting from a location that lacks good (or any) wifi or cell signal.

Community publishers might consider this app not just as a useful resource for their own reporters and community members, but also as an example of how to deploy a mobile-friendly resource for your community.

For instance, if your news venue often covers topics such as the school system or harassment by local law enforcement, a mobile guide that offers current context, law/regulations, resources (including phone numbers and e-mail addresses), tips and advice, and your recent or important coverage could prove quite popular with community members. This approach might help promote your news brand—and perhaps also provide new direct or indirect revenue options.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

August 23, 2012

What “mobile first” means to BreakingNews.com

Reaching mobile audiences takes thoughtful strategy and execution. Community and niche outlets, or any news startup, might take a page from how one national news curation site delivers mobile news.

BreakingNews.com focuses on curating in real time the top breaking news stories from around the world. The bare-bones website and mobile apps are intended for quick glances—but they have a strong presence in all of the most popular social media (especially @breakingnews on Twitter).

This week, in a blog post, general manager Cory Bergman observed: “While social media gets lots of the attention, the explosion in smartphones and tablets is reinventing the way we consume and interact with content.  We’ve seen it firsthand here at Breaking News: traffic from devices surpassed desktop traffic back in January, doubled it in June and the gap continues to grow.”

He shared these insights and lessons:

  1. “Mobile first” is a mindset. “The key is to start envisioning a product optimized for devices, and work backwards to the desktop web.”
  2. Aim to solve problems. “Leverage the unique form and features of devices to solve problems for people. For us, the stream is the story—which is a mobile-friendly form—with push alerts as a feature.”
  3. Your users can make or break your product. “Imagine a world where users had to click past comments from others about your website before they ever saw your home page. That’s how people discover and download mobile apps.”
  4. Live in the devices world. “How do you start thinking in devices?  Like anything, it helps to immerse yourself.”
  5. Dig into the metrics. “Breaking News’ mobile traffic jumps 15-20% on the weekends. By digging into your mobile metrics, you can learn about consumption patterns and the true momentum of your products.”
  6. Recalibrate goals around mobile. “Most newsrooms measure their digital performance in desktop and social metrics, but for a truly ‘mobile first’ approach, goals should reflect performance on devices.”
  7. Take advantage of mobile tools. “There’s a new crop of mobile companies offering useful tools for user tracking, search engine optimization, A/B testing, advertising optimization and more.”
  8. Experiment and fail (quickly). “Mobile-first companies often iterate on a mobile web version first, grafting the best features into subsequent app releases.”
  9. Recognize that mobile is hard and costly. “Your users have choices.  If your mobile products are slow, clunky and more focused on being ‘scalable’ than ‘delightful,’ you have an uphill battle.”

August 30, 2012

Knight News Challenge on Mobile: applications now open

Applications are now open for the third phase of this year’s Knight News Challenge, which focuses on mobile technology…

As with previous phases, the Knight News Challenge on Mobile is a fairly open-ended proposition. Participants must answer eight questions to explain their “idea on using mobile to improve news, information, democracy and communities, and your ability to execute on it.”

This could conceivably span projects that use text messaging, websites or web apps optimized for mobile users, mobile-friendly crowdsourcing, “native” apps tailored for specific mobile operating systems or devices, geolocation, mesh networking, and more.

Learn more and enter now.

DEADLINE: Sept. 10, noon EDT

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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