Clyde Bentley updates his timeline for newspapers going mobile
Back in February, Clyde Bentley (then-fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, and current journalism instructor at the Univ. of Missouri) caused a stir in the news business. He recommended a fast-moving, demanding regimen to help news organizations get up to speed with mobile media by 2013—the date by which Gartner Research predicted that mobile devices would overtake laptops as the most common web access device. Mobile technology moves even faster than the web, so I decided to check in with Bentley to see whether he thought his roadmap to 2013 needed any updates, and what kinds of progress he sees news orgs making on mobile…
Back in February, Clyde Bentley (then-fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, and current journalism instructor at the Univ. of Missouri) caused a stir in the news business. He recommended a fast-moving, demanding regimen to help news organizations get up to speed with mobile media by 2013—the date by which Gartner Research predicted that mobile devices would overtake laptops as the most common web access device.
Mobile technology moves even faster than the web, so I decided to check in with Bentley to see whether he thought his roadmap to 2013 needed any updates, and what kinds of progress he sees news orgs making on mobile…
By Amy Gahran
“On the app front, I had recommended that news orgs which create mobile apps should include apps for the Symbian platform. Well, Symbian pretty much got dropped off the map this year, at least for the US market,” said Bentley, referring to Nokia’s recently confused smartphone operating system strategy.
However, Bentley reiterated that native smartphone apps are not what most news organizations should be focusing on at this point, anyway.
“I’m relieved that during 2010 I’ve been seeing a slight tone-down in the passion of news organizations for doing everything mobile through apps. Back in Feb, everybody seemed to think that everything could be done with an iPhone app. That wasn’t true then, but it’s even more not-true now. I see news organizations re-examining the mobile web. It’s easier to design and build, and it works on far more devices.”
This echoes recommendations I made in September, in response to a Pew report on the rise of “apps culture.” I wrote that it’s probably best for news organizations to first cover the most important mobile bases (mobile web, e-mail, and texting) before developing native apps for various smartphone platforms.
“For newsrooms that are behind on mobile—and the vast majority of them are,” said Bentley, “the mobile web site is most important thing they need to catch up on. When you’re using a mobile device, you should get taken to mobile site. Technically, it’s not that hard to do.”
Another reason why Bentley discourages news orgs from focusing too much on mobile apps right now is that “the various app markets have become incredibly cluttered, almost unusable. It’s hard to find good apps. This runs counter to the basic app concept, which is to make it all easier.”
And don’t forget about e-mail and text messaging in your mobile strategy, warns, Bentley. “In the news business we generally think in terms of web pages, but the bulk of humanity thinks in terms of text messaging. That’s what mobile communication is by far, way overwhelms everything including voice. It’s easy for us to overlook that, but probably at our own peril.”
Look back at his timeline, Bentley now believes, “We may be looking at mobile dominance of digital media in the US much sooner than 2013. Android will bring fairly sophisticated mobile devices to the Wal-mart shopper. The drop-down in device prices will make a big difference,” he said.
Newroom staff should start using mobile more now
While you’re planning for how your news organization will publish and engage audiences via mobile channels, Bentley says it’s equally important to start getting newsroom staff more comfortable with using their cell phone as device for more than just making voice calls.
“Once your staff starts transmitting all kinds of information back and forth via mobile, they’ll appreciate mobile options more. For instance, you could simply require reporters to take a “mug shot” with their phone’s camera for every source they go out to interview. Even just for a month, as an experiment. Have them MMS or e-mail it back to the newsroom. That kind of exercise gives people a fast idea how well these things work.
“Once reporters start to wonder what they can do with mobile, they get creative. For instance, a journalist I know of decided to use his phone camera to save money on photocopying government documents. He just photographed every page he needed at high resolution.”
Educate audiences, and lead with fun
Once your news org has a mobile friendly site, Bentley recommends that you use your own advertising channels to educate your audience about how to access your mobile offerings. “Explain in an ad how they can bookmark your mobile site, or sign up for your text messages. Don’t just bury your instructions deep in your site where they have to hunt for it. Ad space is more obvious, it’ll reach more people and create greater awareness and interest.”
But most importantly, Bentley says his original roadmap overlooked the importance of fun.
“In the news business, we are too darn serious. We forget that no one buys a cell phone or computer to read news, or a TV to watch news. Across all media, news is a value-add. So make sure your first mobile offerings are fun. When people enjoy doing something new, they’ll get used to it faster and recommend it more. If I were going to do a QR code project, it wouldn’t be for news, it would be a joke of the day.”
And for the big picture: “I do not believe that the mobile phone or tablet is a replacement for newspaper or new site. It’s a huge complement to those channels—and there’s a lot of opportunity for synergy and support across channels. We always keep expanding the number of technologies that we use rather than replacing them.”
Mobile devices have been stamping and and storming violently across the communication world indeed.It can present itself,as a unique device, for rendering an assemble of works or performances as well as providing a platform,where different media operations can be converged, as to produce ‘all- in- one’to the crazy consumers.But, it does not mean- “the activities of Nespapers,websitestelevisions or radio, i.e. entire media operations will be stopped somedays. Mobile devices can satisfy the need of consumers-very little -sample test of all only.
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