Tagged: mobile

ONA was mobile-friendly but what does mobile-first look like for news organizations?

Only a handful of presentations at #ONA13 had ‘mobile’ in the title, but none of the many others I attended (or heard about) ignored the obvious: Mobile is now.

Sessions from tech trends, human design, breaking news, revenue models, sponsored content, product management, academic curriculums and the Latino boom talked about mobile in part or in whole. It’s fair to declare ONA13 officially mobile-friendly.

In my Thursday afternoon panel with @fionaspruill @corybe and @etanowitz – mobile was in the title  and ‘mobile first’ was the theme.

But a problem it turns out, is defining what mobile-first actually looks like. We talked a lot about the artifacts of a mobile-focused newsroom: titles, equipment, processes etc. But it is harder to describe the new mobile native reader experiences we have yet to invent.

As @jmm said in a Friday session, responsive web design is a publishing solution not a mobile strategy. It is still up to us to invent new ways to tell stories on these devices.

As more news sites move to responsive web design the need is an immediate one. A Thursday morning session highlighted the challenges for data visualization. For example,  a map-based timeline may be a great on desktop, but merely shrinking it to smartphone size does not make it a mobile experience. Aside from the interface problems (fat finger vs tiny cursor) the screen size removes context and reduces informational value.

The Boston Globe’s leading RWD and mobile-friendly interactive graphics efforts were noted, but even the best industry-wide examples are desktop-centric. What is needed are entirely new story forms, or at least some that are completely reimagined for mobile.

Two examples in the direction we need to be headed:

The Geo-list

The Boston Globe recently ran a feature rating local schools. In print the article ran with a list of the top schools geographically filtered for the Globe’s North, South and West regional editions. On Boston.com it ran as an interactive database of the results. On mobile, is the list or the database a better approach?

Given the screen size and the desire to create snackable information for mobile, a solution could be to offer a list but filter and sort it by GPS location. So readers in the South Shore would see the top ranked schools closest to them, much like in print. But the list would also simply be the default view for an interactive allowing in-depth browsing of the full data set.

The Direct Me Map

WNYC won an Online Journalism Award on Saturday night for their coverage of Hurricane Sandy. Among other things the digital team created a map of evacuation zones and evacuation centers which looked great and worked nicely on desktop and mobile. Media organizations create similar maps every day.

But citizens actually fleeing a natural disaster are unlikely to do so while browsing an interactive color-coded Google map. A better solution for smartphone users would be a turn-by-turn navigation tool. The phone knows where you are, would know your best evacuation route or shelter location, and could direct you to safety.

That is “news you can use.”

Neither of those ideas is particularly revolutionary or technically challenging – and each relies on the GPS chip alone. But, smartphones include a host of other sensors variously including those for motion, acceleration, orientation, sound, direction, light, proximity, humidity, temperature and barometric pressure. What new or mobile-enhanced story forms can we create using any or all of those? The potential is endless, but will require intense organizational focus to invent and implement. To be successful these story forms need to be integrated into our CMS’ not just regarded as one-off projects each time they are needed.

Being mobile first requires us to think about mobile as something different than just digital on a small screen. And it requires us to use all of the capabilities of smartphones to tell better stories and better serve readers. That is an organizational challenge as important as the original transition to the web.

Tools for mobile journalists

As a journalist, what are your favorite mobile tools?

Not just services like Qik or Twitter, or devices like the iPhone, but anything (I mean anything) you use for researching, reporting, publishing or interacting with the community when you are on-the-go.

Think of anything from power converters to WiFi locator maps. Everything from the MiFi to the EyeFi. What is in your camera bag or backpack or car trunk (or on your phone or laptop) that helps you do your job?

I am building a June webinar for Poynter’s News University (name and date TBD) and am looking for some great examples of people doing cool things with mobile tools. You can see an list of collected links for the project at delicious.com/dkiesow/newsu.

If you know what an OWLE is or have filed a 10 inch story from your Blackberry please let me know. I hope to use a selection of real-world examples for the webinar as well as expand on a few for the Mobile Media blog.

Please leave a comment below, email damon(at)kiesow.net, or ping me @dkiesow. Thanks!

Live from 39,000 feet

What is it about new toys?

My flight back from Las Vegas this afternoon (Southwest 1159) was on one of the airline’s few planes that have WiFi hotspots. Apparently they are still testing out the system and it was free.

So – having a new iPhone, 5.5 hours of flight time and free Wifi – of course I had to check it out. First up was Qik:


Not too thrilling – but my son did get to watch the live video for a while which was fun.

I also tested out Skype- which worked like a charm on my end – though Annette could not hear much over the engine noise. Need a noise-canceling mic apparently.

The VPN connection into my office network was no problem. More fun was the SimplifyMedia app for the iPhone – which let me stream my home iTunes library for awhile – till I decided to save my battery I can imagine the Slingbox app would be pretty cool as well.

In the end I spent a fair amount of time watching our flight progress on FlightExplorer.com mostly just to watch the weather we were routing around.

And of course, I had time to write a blog post…