Mobile Media: News about mobile & its applications & implications for media. Written by Jeff Sonderman with contributions from Regina McCombs. Suggest a story.

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What news organizations can learn from Facebook’s remarkable mobile turnaround

Just last year, Facebook was the punching bag of mobile. Users hated its mobile app, and investors fumed over the social network’s dismal IPO.

“Facebook is a bad investment,” read one Forbes headline, underlining the widespread doubts that Facebook and its pricey new acquisition Instagram would be able to monetize one of the fastest consumer shifts in recent history: the move from desktops to mobile devices.

Everything changed last week when Facebook revealed jaw-dropping mobile numbers: 41 percent of total ad revenue originated from mobile to the tune of $656 million in a single quarter. “Soon we’ll have more revenue on mobile than desktop,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, adding that the company has surpassed one million active advertisers. Facebook counted 819 million mobile monthly active users, and 219 million of them never visit on the desktop.

Facebook’s incredible mobile turnaround is packed full of valuable insights for news organizations. After all, mobile will disrupt journalism just like the Internet did more than a decade ago. But as Facebook illustrates, perhaps this second disruption can be avoided — if we move quickly and decisively.

It’s a recognition problem

Back in October 2011, Zuckerberg knew he had an emerging mobile crisis on his hands. Audiences were migrating to mobile in droves, but the Facebook app was slow and confusing. Instead of just fixing the app — they decided to rebuild it from scratch — he recognized the urgency to re-engineer his entire company to “get us to awesome” on mobile.

“Innovation isn’t an idea problem; it’s a recognition problem,” explains author David Burkus in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post. Zuckerberg recognized the app was a symptom of a larger predicament: Facebook was a desktop company in a mobile age. Mobile was just a product, not a mission. He didn’t know what Facebook should do to monetize mobile, but he recognized he had to create the conditions and the culture for the company to figure it out before it was too late.

The parallels are many in news organizations. Most suffer from a mobile recognition problem, engrossed with becoming “digital first” while the mobile tidal wave arrives. Just like Facebook investors a year ago, news executives have expressed an ongoing doubt that mobile will make money, taking a “wait and see” approach in making significant investments. Once the money arrives, then we’ll get serious.

As Facebook demonstrated, the money is already arriving, and the short-lived era of “mobile pennies” is over. Marketers say they’re increasing spending on mobile more than any other category — even more than social media and online video — according to a survey by the Association of National Advertisers.

However, Google, Facebook and Twitter already control 70 percent of mobile ad revenue, and none of their highly-targeted advertising resembles the traditional display ads that adorn news organization’s websites. The challenge is no longer the lack of mobile dollars but creating a “mobile first” culture to figure out how to compete for them.

“I’m sorry Mr. Zuckerberg. I was dead wrong to pan Facebook,” apologized one analyst after last week’s earnings call, mirroring the mea culpas across the financial world. We don’t need to make any apologies, but it’s time to say goodbye to all that mobile skepticism and recognize the future is already upon us.

Getting to awesome on mobile

In June of last year, Zuckerberg announced at an all-staff meeting that Facebook’s most pressing priority is becoming a mobile company. He embedded mobile engineers in every product team, holding product leads responsible for mobile performance. He overhauled the company’s recruiting to aggressively hire mobile talent, and he created mobile training programs for hundreds of his engineers.

Zuckerberg understood that mobile is not just a new design or distribution channel, but an organizational transformation. “You have to change the tasks at the very core” supported by resources to change an organization’s culture, explains David Skok, who co-authored a report with Harvard’s Clayton Christensen on media disruption.

Even at a thriving Silicon Valley startup full of employees in their twenties and thirties, Zuckerberg battled a desktop-centric culture. He backed up his “mobile first” declaration with his own behavior. He removed his desktop monitor from his desk. Whenever someone pitched him an idea, he would ask, “What does that look like on mobile?” At one point, he even blocked internal access to for a week, forcing employees to use mobile devices. He urged staff to ditch their iPhones for Android phones to more closely mirror the population of Facebook mobile users.

“A lot of this is symbolic, but the symbols matter,” Fiona Spruill, who recently left The New York Times after heading up its mobile efforts for several years, said via email. “You want the sports editor to kick off the Olympics planning meeting by saying mobile is more important than the desktop web or print. And you want to look at the mobile designs first — not after you’ve looked at the desktop versions. It’s all reminiscent of what happened with the transition from print to the Web.”

NBC (which owns Breaking News, the startup I work for) is hard at work on a responsive redesign of “The very first thing we focused on was creating a great experience for mobile users,” Shezad Morani, creative director of, told me. “Focusing on the smallest screen real estate further forced us and our stakeholders to think about what is truly important in the experience and that has informed all other scenarios in a really healthy productive way.”

One of the best ways to evangelize the shift to mobile is sharing metrics with the newsroom. “Mobile is approaching 50% for some news sites, and it is critical that mobile numbers are shared as broadly as possible in the organization,” Damon Kiesow, senior product manager at the Boston Globe and, explained via email. “This can be a challenge as mobile is often fragmented across sites and apps, including tablet and phone traffic to your regular www site. We are working to consolidate our sites around one reporting tool, and in the meantime create a consolidated report that includes a mobile share number.”

At CNN, editors discuss the latest mobile numbers in daily editorial meetings, comparing and contrasting how stories fare across desktop and devices.

“One thing we’ve learned is that the later in the day that breaking news happens, the more likely it is that the story will get more traffic on mobile than on desktop,” CNN Mobile Editor Etan Horowitz said by email. “We also show our mobile products on a big TV screen. To make it easier, earlier this year we permanently installed an iPad and an AppleTV so we can project our iPhone app, iPad app and mobile website during the meeting. By having the mobile products on display, key editors are able to see if a headline or photo needs tweaking and generally make sure our journalism looks great on all platforms.”

‘Mobile first’ and beyond

Newsroom culture doesn’t change overnight, and the clock is ticking. At Breaking News, we decided to become a “mobile first” company last year as our mobile visits soared over the desktop.

We have the luxury of being a small, independent team in its formative years, and we quickly revamped our performance goals, product plan, design process, editorial strategy and revenue products (we launched native advertising) to focus primarily on mobile. The result has been skyrocketing growth, and 85 percent of Breaking News’ visits now originate from a mobile device.

While the rest of us work on being “mobile first,” Facebook has already invented a new definition. “We talk about ‘mobile first’ in 2012, but we want to be ‘mobile best’ in 2013,” said Facebook Vice President Dan Rose earlier this year. Zuckerberg explained that his goal is becoming the best “personalized newspaper” on the planet. With more mobile reach than all traditional media companies combined and more than one million advertisers, Facebook has a tremendous head start.

The hardest decision a news organization will make is shifting attention and resources away from the desktop — which still generates the majority of digital advertising revenue — to a rapidly-emerging platform that redefines the game. Sound familiar?

As Facebook’s investors once feared, the desktop decline is right around the corner: eMarketer predicts desktop ad spending will peak next year and begin a long, slow decline while mobile continues to grow. Facebook is more than just a mobile case study; it should be a wake-up call for media companies and news organizations to aggressively re-engineer themselves for a new reality.

(Cory, Fiona, Damon and Etan will be hosting the mobile panel, “20 Tips to Turbocharge Your Mobile Efforts” at ONA 2013 in Atlanta. Cory is GM of Breaking News, which is part of the NBC News Digital Group. He is also a former member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board.)

Related training: News University is hosting a 2 p.m. ET Webinar today with Damon Kiesow. Sign up here to learn how to measure your mobile audience — and why it matters. Read more

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Monday, July 22, 2013


How news organizations are experimenting with ‘digestible digital weeklies’ on mobile devices

In the world of magazines, monthly printing provides content in tidy but untimely bundles, while Web posting does so in immediate but disorderly bursts.

Hoping to seize on the advantages of both models while ditching the downsides, two venerable monthly magazine brands are experimenting with a third publishing option that’s somewhere in the middle: digestible digital weeklies.

Enter Esquire Weekly for iPad and The Atlantic Weekly for iPad and iPhone, launched in May and June, respectively.

The iPad turned three in April, and much of the conversation in the news business since its launch has been about how to make tablet Web browsing better (by designing responsive sites) and how to best adapt the print product to the tablet (by adding interactive bells and whistles to existing stories and layouts with an app).

That made sense: not only did infrastructure already exist in those two spaces, but it also wasn’t clear how, where and when tablets would be used — mainly because, until August 2011, fewer than 10 percent of Americans owned them.

In May the figure was up to 34 percent, according to Pew, a number more appealing to publishers who may have been hesitant to divert resources to what might have remained a niche device. Moreover, as more research is conducted into how media is consumed on tablets and when it is consumed, publishers should be more confident in their ability to make informed decisions when embarking on tablet projects.

With Esquire Weekly and The Atlantic Weekly, two monthly legacy print publications are trying different formulas for getting compact editions in front of readers with a frequency they can’t achieve in print and a level of curation they can’t achieve online. The two take different approaches to content selection, target audience and distribution, but what’s most important about these new initiatives is what they have in common: ease and frequency of delivery, tender editorial care, digestible length and, surely, low cost of production.

They’re also, crucially, products that could only work on the tablet.

Esquire Weekly

Published during weeks that the monthly magazine lies dormant, Esquire Weekly is offered free to digital subscribers in the same Apple Newsstand iPad app as the monthly edition. A major goal of the weekly is to turn monthly readers on to what’s offered at, said Joe Keohane, senior editor of Esquire Digital, adding that Esquire is working on allowing readers to purchase single issues.

The overlap between Esquire’s Web readers and its print readers is less than 10 percent, editor-in-chief David Granger has told Mashable. Esquire Weekly bridges that gap by providing content with varying degrees of exclusivity. Brief culture pieces by Stephen Marche and politics pieces by Charles P. Pierce are published online soon after appearing in the weekly, with some tweaks.

“My Huddled Masses,” an advice column by A.J. Jacobs, and “The Field Report,” Nate Hopper’s recap of the latest issue of Cosmopolitan, are published online later, with an “Originally Published in Esquire Weekly” tag attached. Esquire Weekly consists mostly of visual front-of-book fare and quick-hit thought pieces, compiled by a small staff.

“It’s important that this thing not be as much of a bath as the monthly,” Keohane said, drawing a contrast between the experience of luxuriating in the monthly magazine and consuming the weekly magazine during one 30- or 45-minute train ride. His other analogy: the Web offers fast food, the monthly magazine offers fine dining, and the weekly’s a sit-down restaurant.

On the surface, Esquire Weekly seems like a supplementary, cheap-to-produce extra to toss at readers, keeping subscribers happy and maybe enticing a few non-subscribers to sign up for the $19.99 yearly subscription. (Granger called Esquire Weekly “a little gift” in his announcement of the product.)

But the weekly is surprisingly beefy and fun to consume, hardly the afterthought compilation of repurposed material I feared. It feels so much like the monthly magazine — designed by the same team and presented with that same Esquire panache — that I could see this being the primary way some readers get their Esquire fix. It’s easy to forget to return to the monthly magazine as many times as it takes to finish it, and it’s true that the website’s a lot to wade through, particularly on a tablet where browsing never feels quite right.

The weekly’s design is pleasing, and the stories are fresh and right around that Goldilocks length. As Keohane put it: “We want to marry the agility of the Web with the design and editorial standards of the monthly.”

The Atlantic Weekly

When digital ad revenue at The Atlantic exceeded print ad revenue for the first time, Jeremy Peters of The New York Times called the brand “a collection of successful Web sites that also happens to put out a magazine once a month.”

A consequence of that hyper-digital focus is that The Atlantic posts an overwhelming amount of content across its flagship site and its two main offshoots, and The Atlantic Weekly highlights the best pieces from the week that even the most zealous Atlantic connoisseur could have missed, said Geoffrey Gagnon, a senior editor and editor of the new magazine.

Simpler, even, than The New Yorker’s gorgeous, soft-spoken app, The Atlantic Weekly’s design gets out of the way of each issue’s content; six stories from the various sites and one piece from the archives are told almost exclusively with words (which makes it easier to publish on both iPad and iPhone). There’s also a photo gallery at the end of each issue. No pop-ups, no videos. “We purposely aren’t articulating a specific formula” for how stories are chosen, Gagnon said, but selections are intended to be the most ambitious pieces from the week — the longest, deepest, most thoughtful stories from the three sites.

The Atlantic Weekly is sold — for $1.99 per issue or $2.99 per month — in a Newsstand app separate from the monthly’s magazine’s non-Newsstand app. It’s purposefully a distinct product, Gagnon said, but he was vague about the audience goals — maybe there’s a new potential audience out there that finds the Web too fast-paced and print too static, or maybe it’ll mostly appeal to Atlantic super-fans.

Gagnon said The Atlantic Weekly is part of the company’s overall effort to bring innovative products, such as e-books, to readers looking for new ways to consume content. “Readers are increasingly busy, and the Internet is an increasingly clogged environment,” Gagnon said. “There’s value in curation.”

Neither “lean-back” nor “lean-in”

For as much as “lean-back” has become the buzz word of choice for tablet publishing — and indeed, Keohane and Gagnon both used the term to describe their products — tablets offer a wide range of experiences.

That tablet users pull out their devices for long stretches of time in the evening on the couch or in bed should be no small consideration in how we design our products, but users also use their iPads sitting straight up on the train ride home, or for 20 minutes at the doctor’s office, or for five minutes to check their Twitter feeds. In Chicago, an ‘L’ ride is hardly a lean-back-with-a-glass-of-scotch environment, but I see more and more tablet use on the train.

Smaller app experiences like those offered by Esquire Weekly and The Atlantic Weekly fit nicely into our lives, and they introduce some order to the chaos of the Web. The weeklies respect not only that readers are busy but also that they’re capable of paying attention to something for longer than five minutes.

The two aren’t the first to use the tablet form to either speed up publishing or slow it down. Since it launched in 2010, The Wall Street Journal app has included a “Now Edition” that offers an up-to-the-minute print-like experience. New York Magazine includes a “Latest News” page to keep its app fresh between weekly issues. The Awl’s Weekend Companion for iOS, a collection of five pieces from the Web, is based on the premise that “None of us have the time — or the inclination! — to keep up with everything that happens on the Internet during the rigors of the week.”

In arguing against tablet-native journalism, Reuters’ Felix Salmon argued that the value of the Awl’s paid Weekly Companion “is actually in the way that the editors have subtracted a huge amount of the content available on the website.”

I’d argue that’s just one advantage of publishing specifically for the tablet. The other is design — either the get-out-of-the-way approach of The Atlantic or the souped-up, magazine-like approach of Esquire. The former provides mostly freedom from distraction; the latter provides immersive, engaging design. Either way, it takes a tablet.

Finally, there’s reason to be excited about what tablet-native publishing (if not tablet-native journalism) can achieve, and with relatively little extra money and time required, publishers have no excuse not to try.

Correction: This article originally misstated where Jeremy Peters works; he writes for The New York Times, not The Wall Street Journal. Read more


Monday, Apr. 01, 2013

Google Android Gadget

As Android tablets grow, publishers struggle to match the iPad experience

When the IDC forecast this month that Google’s Android operating system would soon surpass Apple’s iOS in tablet market share, publishers of digital magazines could be excused for some handwringing.

Since 2010, Apple’s dominance of the market allowed publishers to reach the majority of the tablet audience by targeting just one device: the iPad. But times have changed.

Thirty-one percent of American adults now own tablets, according to Pew. Much of the growth in the market is being driven by device proliferation, and many of these devices run Android.

The Nexus 10 Android tablet
A Google employee browses magazine issues on The Nexus 10 tablet at a Google announcement in San Francisco last fall. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The relative affordability and portability of new down-sized tablets like the Nexus 7 offer more entry points for tablet consumers, but they present headaches for digital magazine publishers: How do they best reach readers on dozens of different devices with wildly varying screen sizes and processing power? Read more


Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013


5 reasons mobile will disrupt journalism like the Internet did a decade ago

Imagine being able to rewind to the 1990s and help your news organization make key decisions — and create new habits — to help prevent a landslide of layoffs and enable the business to thrive on the Internet. That’s the opportunity we have today with mobile, the second tidal wave of change about to collide with the news industry.

To compete in this new world, news organizations must adopt a “mobile first” mindset and create sustainable mobile businesses. But many newsrooms believe that a “mobile, too” approach will be enough, as advocated by Business Insider’s Henry Blodget.

“The reality is that we live in a multi-screen world, not a ‘mobile world’ that operates parallel to a ‘desktop world,’” he writes in a blog post. “For some services, such as news and information, the laptop/desktop screen is still by far the most dominant screen. So abandoning that screen, or designing for another screen first, just doesn’t make sense.”

Blodget’s view is matched by many in journalism, but it misses the big picture. Here’s why.

1. A responsive design isn’t a mobile strategy

The mobile revolution isn’t about design and distribution as much as it is about revenue disruption.

Rewind to 1996 when newspapers enjoyed fat profit margins, and two startups made their debut on the early Internet. One company all but destroyed newspapers’ biggest revenue driver, and the other ended up generating more advertising revenue — most of it local — than the entire newspaper business combined.

Both Craigslist and Google created new business models enabled by the technology and scale of the Internet. In the same way, mobile is enabling new business models and use cases. Just like the mid- to late 1990s, we’re at the leading edge of the ensuing disruption.

Two big drivers of mobile disruption are geolocation and digital payments. Taken together, they have the capability to disrupt local advertising all over again. The right technology with the right execution will be able to drive nearby consumers into local businesses and anonymously track their actual purchases at scale, closing the loop like never before. No more guessing about ad effectiveness. For local media organizations, that has the potential to destroy your business.

There’s a narrow window of opportunity to invent — or invest and acquire — disruptive mobile technologies and business models that could eventually sustain, grow or even multiply your revenue. A responsive design is a must for today’s news sites, but it’s not a mobile strategy.

2. Mobile will not only surpass the desktop, but begin to erode it

“In the next 12–18 months, many news organizations will cross the 50 percent threshold where more users are visiting on phones and tablets than on desktop computers and laptops,” explains Fiona Spruill, editor of emerging platforms at The New York Times. “The numbers speak for themselves.”

It’s already happening at the Guardian during certain times of the day. Facebook announced in its last earnings call that it crossed the threshold. At Breaking News, where I work, mobile skyrocketed over desktop early last year.

Mobile will become the dominant screen as early as next year. If you’re planning and building a news experience right now, it’s highly likely that it will be visited primarily by mobile users over its life cycle. By extension, mobile first is already here.

But here’s where it gets really interesting. An increasing number of users are visiting brands solely via mobile devices. Over the last year, Facebook said nearly 100 million more people started using the social network only on mobile, never touching the desktop.  Google has reported four straight months of declines in desktop search as mobile explodes.

As news organizations cross the mobile threshold and beyond, this growing “mobile only” crowd will erode desktop audiences. Many news organizations will see desktop traffic flatten, and in some cases, begin a long decline.

3. The desktop decline will pressure news revenues

There’s a huge gap in advertising yield between desktop and mobile experiences: $3.50 versus $0.75 in average CPMs, according to Kleiner Perkins’ Mary Meeker. Mobile is growing so quickly, the explosion in available inventory is depressing advertising rates.  Ad agencies typically lag demand, which means this gap won’t be bridged anytime soon.

As audiences shift, the industry will be faced with more revenue pressure unless news organizations can create new mobile revenue streams to compensate. In many ways, this is similar to the shift from print to the Web. Just porting one business model to the other isn’t the solution. Traditional display advertising on mobile devices makes up a very small, declining fraction of total revenue.

And then there’s Google and Facebook. Taken together, they already control nearly 70 percent of all mobile advertising dollars, according to eMarketer. Empowered by geolocation, local search is a huge business. Google recently rolled out a new product that enables advertisers to bid on mobile searches that happen physically near their businesses (i.e. target your restaurant ad to anyone within a mile radius who searches for “restaurant” during evening hours.)  It’s hard to compete with such targeted products with traditional banner ads, and both Google and Facebook are working hard at closing that local advertising loop for the first time in history.

Some newspapers are beginning to see some traction from pay meters, which could hold promise for mobile subscriptions. But most news organizations are still in experimental phases on the mobile front, and there’s a very big dependency on Apple, Google and Amazon as apps continue to grow in popularity. Rapid experimentation and investment is a must.

4. News needs to solve problems

A study by Flurry in November found that the news category only accounts for 2 percent of total time spent on mobile apps. Social apps gobble up 26 percent. Facebook alone accounts for 23 percent of all time spent with mobile apps, according to Comscore in December. That beats every news organization’s app combined by a long shot.

As Facebook (and Twitter) grow in time spent – and since both are populated with plenty of news – they’re increasingly competitive with news organizations’ mobile experiences by sheer volume.

As a result, simply extending a news organizations’ current coverage into mobile isn’t enough. We need to solve information problems for our users and drive measurable revenue for our advertisers. Mobile is not merely another form factor, but an entirely new ecosystem that rewards utility.  Flipboard is a classic example of solving a problem (tablet-based content discovery) while The Daily is an example of a product that did not.

“The key insight from thinking about your business this way is that it is the job, and not the customer or the product, that should be the fundamental unit of analysis,” said Clayton Christensen, David Skok and James Allworth in a Nieman report. “This applies to news as much as it does to any other service.”

“The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself,” explains Y Combinator’s Paul Graham. “By far the most common mistake startups make is to solve problems no one has.”

5. Technology companies are mobile first and spending like it

Last year, Google proclaimed it was mobile first. Then Facebook. Then Yahoo. Twitter is already mobile first. These companies are investing at an unprecedented scale, acquiring mobile companies and beefing up development teams.

Meanwhile, there’s a new onslaught of “mobile first” and “mobile only” startups spanning communication, news, advertising and services. They’re attracting hundreds of millions of investment and some of the brightest minds in the business.

I don’t know about you, but a “mobile, too” approach worries me when the technology world is investing so deeply in mobile first innovation. Didn’t we learn this before?

This is why news organizations should shift to a mobile-first approach immediately. This doesn’t mean we ignore the desktop, but prioritize mobile over it — make mobile the default everything. When brainstorming a new product, start with a phone or tablet design and work backwards to the desktop. Set performance goals based on mobile performance over desktop. Conduct research that emphasizes mobile over desktop behavior. Put mobile numbers at the top of analytics reports. Compare competitive performance on mobile numbers first, desktop second. We need to immerse ourselves in devices and become a student of the industry.

We also need to talk less about social media and more about mobile. In many ways, social media has become the great distraction, diverting journalists’ attention away from radical change in our business. I’m guilty of this, too. Don’t get me wrong: social media is important, but let’s not forget that social platforms increasingly compete for audience attention and ad dollars. Growing our own mobile experiences should be the top priority.

Above all, we need to invest and experiment like never before. Whatever you’re spending now, triple it.

“When the Web was new, many of us went online with creativity and energy,” says Regina McCombs, who teaches mobile at Poynter. “Now, faced with even bigger potential and pitfalls for developing — or losing — our audience, most of us are getting by with as little investment as we can. That’s scary.”

If you’d like to learn practical ways to become a mobile first newsroom, sign up for Poynter’s upcoming seminar, “Mobile-first newsgathering and publishing.”  McCombs, Sara Quinn, Damon Kiesow and I will teach the course. There’s not much time to apply: registration ends this weekend.

Cory Bergman is the General Manager of Breaking News, a mobile-first startup owned by NBC News Digital.

Replay our chat about this topic here:

Read more


Monday, Dec. 03, 2012

the daily

2 major lessons from the demise of The Daily

The publisher of News Corp.’s The Daily said earlier this year that the iPad-only publication might need a few more years to be profitable. Today the company announced it won’t get that chance.

Although it has been one of the most-popular and highest-grossing iPad news apps, The Daily was unable to gather enough paying subscribers at 99 cents a week or $39.99 a year to sustain itself.

In a note to staff, The Daily’s publisher and editor-in-chief said, “Although we have over 100,000 passionate paying subscribers, unfortunately we have not been able to build a big enough audience fast enough to make our business model work.”

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch set a high bar. He said early on that The Daily would be a success “when we are selling millions.” With expenses running at about a half million dollars a week, the publication would have needed near 500,000 subscribers at $3.99 a month or $39.99 a year just to break even. So one big failing was the business model.

News Corp. will shut it down on Dec. 15 and as of this morning the apps are no longer available for download. Some of the approximately 120 employees will be folded into the New York Post staff.

Being the first-of-a-kind is as dangerous as it is exciting in the technology world. With few or no prior examples to learn from, you’re left to try stuff and learn the hard way. With the benefit of hindsight, there seem to be at least two other major lessons from The Daily’s failure:

1. Audience clarity. It was difficult to grasp who exactly was the intended audience of The Daily. It excelled at interactive elements and visual appeal, but the contents were so sprawling and varied that it was tough to know who this publication was speaking for and to.

2. One platform isn’t enough. The Daily was first imagined as the daily news magazine for the iPad era. Going with a tablet-first strategy was a great, ambitious idea.

But going with a tablet-only strategy? In hindsight, questionable.

Research has since shown that tablet owners are “digital omnivores” who consume media seamlessly across tablets, smartphones, PCs and print publications. To serve them news on only one platform is not satisfying.

Contrast that with the new direction in which we see publishers like Quartz and USA Today heading — optimizing their websites for a tablet-style swipe-and-scroll experience, but still serving readers seamlessly across all platforms.

Murdoch said, via a press release:

From its launch, The Daily was a bold experiment in digital publishing and an amazing vehicle for innovation. Unfortunately, our experience was that we could not find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long-term. Therefore we will take the very best of what we have learned at The Daily and apply it to all our properties.

Journalists outside of News Corp. will be applying those lessons too. Here are some other reactions from media figures:

[View the story "Reaction to the demise of The Daily" on Storify]

Related: Murdoch’s decision wasn’t about the money (Capital New York) | News orgs should focus on reader relationships, not readers’ devices, Jeff Jarvis says (The Guardian) | “Someone needed to see whether there was such a thing as tablet-native journalism…The answer, it turns out, is no.” (Felix Salmon/Reuters) | 3 Theses About The Daily’s Demise (Alexis Madrigal/The Atlantic) | The Daily didn’t fail, Murdoch gave up (Jack Shafer/Reuters) | Tablet readers don’t want Interactivity, says Hearst president (Mashable). Read more


Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012


What journalists should know about the new iPad mini

Of all the mobile devices launched in recent years, the iPad has been the most promising for the journalism business.

iPad owners are more likely than others to use the devices to keep up with news, and compared to other types of tablet owners they are more likely to download news apps and over five times more likely to subscribe to digital news products.

The iPad hasn’t been a savior for legacy media companies, but it has offered the brightest light at the end of the tunnel.

So many journalists should be watching closely and thinking critically today as Apple makes its biggest tablet-related announcement since the original iPad launch in 2010. At 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. in San Jose, Calif.), Apple will reveal a new smaller version of the iPad — nicknamed the “iPad mini,” but we don’t yet know what the company will call it.

The video of the event will be live-streamed on Apple’s website (you have to use Apple’s Safari browser to watch it).

Price will matter greatly

Since Apple debuted the first iPad, it has owned the full-size tablet market.

Competitors have failed to make a dent against Apple’s 9.7-inch tablet, but recently several — including Amazon, Google and Samsung — have carved out a niche market for devices that are smaller (7- to 8-inch screen sizes) and cheaper.

Apple's iPad has dominated the large tablet market, while Amazon's Kindle Fire leads the small tablet market, according to research by the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Price has been the main differentiator. Apple product owners cite the brand, the operating system and the apps as their top reasons for buying. Android tablet owners cite price. iPad owners report greater overall satisfaction with their devices.

And so until now we’ve really had two classes of tablet owners: Those willing and able to pay $499 to $829 for Apple’s product and those willing to pay $199 to $299 for smaller Android-powered alternatives.

Today the two shall meet. And if Apple can price the smaller iPad competitively, it may win on every other measure.

Analysts are predicting a starting price as low as $299. It would seem odd, though, to give the new iPad the same price point ($299) as the smaller iPod Touch. So don’t be surprised if it’s a little higher than that.

Is it a small iPad or a big iPhone?

Or a third class altogether?

We won’t know this for sure until we get our hands on the device and see how people use it in the wild. But the question matters to designers of news products and other apps or mobile sites.

User interface designers will need to adjust to the smaller screen dimensions. Is that button that was just right on the iPad now too small to tap comfortably? Is that two-pane layout now too cramped?

User experience designers will need to determine how and where people will use a smaller iPad. The full-size iPad is mostly left at home, used in the evenings while relaxing. The iPhone is carried everywhere and used in short sessions throughout the day. The user needs and environments are different, so you have to design differently for each. If the new smaller iPad turns out to be significantly more portable, that will change what users want it to do.

In the long run, the additional complexity may be yet another nudge for news organizations toward using responsively designed websites that adapt fluidly to any screen size.

Related: Other observations, including that one-handed reading is quite different than the larger iPad (SFN Blog) || Earlier: Steve Jobs hated the idea of a 7-inch tablet. Read more

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Monday, Oct. 01, 2012


Pew: After email, getting news is the most popular activity on smartphones, tablets

The growing number of tablet owners are developing an increased appetite for news, according to a new study from Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Tablet owners spend more time with news from more sources.

The survey measures how many smartphone and tablet owners use the devices to keep up with news, and how they consume news. One key finding is that after email, getting news is the second most popular activity on mobile devices.

Another key finding: Almost one-third of people who acquire tablets find themselves reading more news from more sources than before.

What they’re reading is also interesting. Almost three-fourths of tablet news readers consumed in-depth news articles at least sometimes, with 19 percent saying they do so daily.

A strong majority of tablet readers also said they read at least two-to-three articles in a sitting, many of which they just came across while browsing headlines.

Tablet owners read in-depth articles, and explore articles they weren’t initially seeking.

Most of the people (60 percent) who read in-depth articles on tablets said they get them from just a few specific publications they read regularly, and almost all of those people (90 percent) look at those favorite publications at least once a week.

Overall, the study paints a bright picture of the news consumer’s behavior in the emerging tablet market:

News is a large part of what people do with their mobile devices. Fully 64% of tablet owners get news on their devices at least weekly, including 37% who do so daily. The numbers are similar for smartphone owners – 62% consume news weekly or more and 36% do so daily. For both tablets and smartphones, news is among the top activities people engage in on the devices.

The amount of time spent on these devices getting news is also substantial. Mobile news consumers spend an average of 50 minutes or more getting news on their tablet or smartphone on a typical day.

The introduction of smaller, cheaper 7-inch tablets has expanded and diversified the market in the past year, the study says. A similar study in 2011 found the iPad accounted for 81 percent of the market, while this year’s study has it down to 52 percent. Android-powered tablets, led by the Kindle Fire, have increased to 48 percent in the survey. And this data was collected before the release of Google’s Nexus 7 tablet or Amazon’s newer Kindle Fire HD.

The Android tablet owners, however, are less likely than iPad owners to use the devices each day. The study found 29 percent of Android tablet owners got news daily, compared to 43 percent of iPad owners.

One other lesson to keep in mind from the survey is that “mobile” news consumers are actually not that mobile.

Eighty-five percent of tablet users and 58 percent of smartphone users said they tend to get news on the device while at home.

“In short, while mobile technology allows people to get news on the go, relatively few people do so,” the study says. “The lure of home as a place for news consumption is also linked to the findings about when people get their news. Even though mobile devices make it easier to get news whenever you want, mobile device owners still seem to have habitual times of day when they consume news. And for about half of mobile news users on each device, it is just a single time each day.”

The study also analyzes the revenue conditions of the mobile news market, and my Poynter colleague Rick Edmonds writes about that in a separate post.

One notable piece of data sheds light on the questions of apps vs. websites. The findings reinforce last year’s analysis that while more users prefer websites than apps, the app users consume more news and are more likely to pay for it.

The smaller number of users who prefer news apps to websites spend more time with news, read more news and are more likely to pay for news.

Some caveats

As with any questionnaire-based survey, we should have some skepticism about the respondents’ ability to precisely describe their true behavioral patterns. Asking people to recollect when, where or how they get news is less precise than directly recording their behavior through observation, diaries or analytics.

The survey questioned a random sample of 9,513 adults. The full about mobile news consumption was completed by 1,928 mobile device users, including 810 tablet news users and 1,075 smartphone news users. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for tablet owners and 5.4 percentage points for tablet news users. The margin of error is 2.4 percentage points for smartphone owners and 4.1 for smartphone news users.

Related: Mobile devices offer new business opportunity for news orgs, with old challenges
Earlier: 17 percent of Americans got news on a mobile device yesterday (Poynter) Read more

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Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2012

Twitter updates profiles, iPad app to unify experience, compete with Facebook

Twitter Blog | Today
Twitter rolled out a redesigned template for user profiles today that includes new space for a header image on each user’s profile. Similar to Facebook’s cover photos, the header image spreads the full width of the timeline and the username and traditional profile image sit on top of it.

Here’s what it looks like on the profile page of The Today Show, where Twitter CEO Dick Costolo announced the change this morning. Twitter has been partnering with NBC, including most recently on Olympics coverage.

To add an image to your profile, use the design settings page on or the profile settings section of any of the official Twitter mobile apps.

How to upload a new header image in the Twitter iPad app.

Twitter released a completely rebuilt iPad app today as well, which includes the new user profile design. It also adds support for expanding rich media in tweets, so photos, images or websites that a tweet links to may be previewed within the app. The iPad app now also has the Connect and Discover sections that were added to the website and smartphone apps months ago.

In the new iPad app, selected tweets expand to preview the media attached to them.

What’s it all about? Twitter is pushing to unify the user experience across its website and all its apps — and the new iPad app now matches up with the other products. The header image is aimed at competing with Facebook to make Twitter the platform where you “express yourself” and “get to know people.”

Related: Twitter will remove third-party photo services from its mobile apps (BuzzFeed) Read more

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Thursday, Sep. 06, 2012

Amazon to shake up mobile tech world with new Kindle devices, content deals

Bloomberg | The Verge | CNN Money
Amazon will make waves in the world of tablets, e-readers and possibly even smartphones today when it announces new devices at a 1:30 ET event. Here is what you can expect.

The Amazon devices

The star of today’s show is expected to be the Kindle Fire 2 — a refresh of the original Fire that debuted in November and lit up holiday sales. Amazon claims the Kindle Fire holds 22 percent of the U.S. tablet market, but sales have slipped recently and Amazon is looking for a fresh spark to consumer interest. Read more


Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012


5 new apps track, fact-check political news as election season intensifies

CNN | ReadWriteWeb

Time to hit the app stores, politics junkies. As the party conventions and fall election season arrive, a bunch of new mobile applications are launching that help users get the latest news, engage in conversation, fact-check claims and inspect the source of advertising.

The Washington Post today released an update to its WP Politics for iPad app, adding a new section called “The Forum” with easily browsable Twitter lists that organize more than 300 relevant accounts into six groups: news outlets, campaigns, partisans, prominent office holders, fact checkers, and jesters (like @ColbertReport and @LOLGOP).

There’s also a “trending” section at the top that highlights the most-retweeted items from each category. The goal, Washington Post director of mobile products Ken Dodelin told me, is to make tweets accessible and relevant to the many people who don’t use Twitter themselves.

“This is a way to get the content of value out of Twitter and in front of them, without having to do all the work,” Dodelin said. “And for the folks who use Twitter a lot, but haven’t really spent the hours and hours to get a robust organization set up in politics, this enables them to do that.” Read more