Articles about "Mobile apps"


ComScore: Users spend 60 percent of their digital media time with mobile platforms

— ComScore data indicates users spend 60 percent of their digital media time with mobile platforms, up from 50 percent last year. And “time spent on mobile apps is higher than any other digital medium, coming in at 51 percent,” CNET’s Dara Kerr writes.

— Version 2.0 of Jason Calacanis’ Inside app is here, Capital New York’s Johana Bhuiyan writes, with the realization that the real competition is Twitter, not other mobile news aggregators: “Out with the idea of a Pandora for news; in with readers ability to ‘follow’ topics they choose.”

— The Washington Post program to provide digital access to subscribers of other papers has an early success story, Michael Depp writes at NetNewsCheck: “The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that 7,000 of its subscribers signed on for free access to the Post’s digital content after only five days and one promotional email.”

— Rumor has it the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 – and maybe a 5.5-inch version, too — will launch Sept. 19, according to MacRumors.

— WaPo removed this requirement from a social media job posting this week: “ability to explain to those twice your age what Reddit or Snapchat or Whisper or Fark is.” The Post told American Journalism Review’s Lisa Rossi that the first ad was a “draft.”

— Digiday’s Lucia Moses explains GE’s news site, Pressing, which publishes stories from Vox and other news outlets as well as custom content from Atlantic Media Strategies. Nieman Lab’s Caroline O’Donovan notes the amazing extent to which GE is promoting its brand by jumping into sponsored content and custom publishing.

— GigaOM’s Lauren Hockenson highlights Buffer’s new app, Daily, which it bills as a “Tinder for news.”


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How mobile devices are creating hyperlocal opportunities

EveryBlock’s recent resurrection raises hopes that digital media efforts can help stoke interest in hyperlocal news. Focusing tightly on Chicago neighborhoods, EveryBlock connects users to information about crime, civic developments and calendar events – down to the block level – and brings neighbors together to talk with each other virtually.

By narrowing its audience, EveryBlock provides an example of  journalistic opportunities that employ the concept of “place.” More refined than circulation area or broadcast territory or even “neighborhood,” place – in this context – refers to the physical space in which news happens, where hubs of heightened engagement with local audiences can be created.

Now that powerful mobile devices are ubiquitous, journalists could – and arguably should – be taking advantage of technologies that tailor interactive content to particular audiences in local settings. Such experimentation by news outlets, though, remain rare.

When your community hosts a popular annual festival, your news organization probably wouldn’t hesitate to devote significant resources to produce news about it. At a minimum, that could be a schedule of events or photographs of participants or an accounting of how many people attended.

Locative journalism, or place-based news, encompasses traditional coverage features like event calendars and pictures, but uses mobile technologies to allow exciting new reporting options to emerge.

For example, if the GPS hardware of a mobile phone recognizes that a viewer is on the festival grounds, the calendar of events could appear on his or her screen through a customized app. With real-time mapping, the app can create navigational, organizational and socializing tools.

The snapshots and short videos produced by the festival crowd circulating through social media channels could augment the professional photographs and video taken by news staff.

Broad coverage of an event can supplement and provide context to the place-based content that allow each spot, each distinct place, to create its own identity and social history.

Information about the grandstand area, for example, might include the times and dates of performances, but an app also could give audiences access to video clips and reviews of the performers. Past stories about the performers could be a part of the content mix, along with any related news stories that might contribute to immediate conversations, such as concerns about the festival’s environmental impact, ticket prices and traffic.

Place-based journalism could integrate various innovative forms of embodied news, or information that both informs and responds to your movements within the environment. Yet relatively few organizations, beyond EveryBlock and creators of a few isolated projects, have been exploring the intriguing potential of locative news. Why?

As a starting point, place-based journalism had been mostly irrelevant before smartphones. Media companies had few efficient ways to deliver customized information to people in particular locations.

But with the decline of traditional ways of distributing news – such as the daily newspaper’s heavy thud against a front door – other opportunities for audience engagement are emerging.

One of those ripening ideas is the tailoring of content to community gathering places, where news often occurs and large audiences tend to congregate. These locations are like communal connective tissue, binding people in deep and meaningful ways that are not necessarily understood, articulated or appreciated.

This focus on place is not a call for more chicken-dinner news, or information mechanically and mindlessly sliced and aggregated by GPS coordinate.

Place-based news instead integrates traditional journalism with the natural relationships audience members have to each other by sharing space and experiences. Together in one location, audiences have common ground – literally and figuratively – on which to generate, share and respond to ideas.

Technology is challenging traditional understanding of local news and information by giving us fresh ways to think about what “local” can mean. Filtered neighborhood news is one way; place-based news is another.

Multimedia artists, documentary filmmakers and scholars have been experimenting with nonfiction storytelling tied to specific spaces for more than a decade. Interactive narratives about local communities, such as HighRise, history as illustrated by Murder at Harvard, and musical backstory as presented by City Sonic are among the notable examples.

Though fewer in number, mainstream journalism’s efforts also have capitalized on place and mobile technologies. In 2009, for example, the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle created Picture the Impossible in collaboration with the Lab for Social Computing at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Through a mobile game, audience members in Rochester learned about local news and the issues of the community by participating in a variety of interactive activities, including citywide scavenger hunts prompted by clues in the printed newspaper. The project team monitored user engagement and were pleased with the responses: nearly 2,500 people actively participated in the mobile game, 6,500 comments were posted in the related online forums, and $17,000 in funds were raised for local charities.

But then the mobile game ended, and few news organizations have taken on such ambitious experiments since. Cost is a major factor.

Mobile apps generally take a lot of effort and resources to build. A novel prototype could easily cost $20,000, and there is no solid business model circulating right now that could cover such expenses.

Some experimenters have been exploring durable digital models, like those that could be used and reused, as a way to test the potential of journalistic mobile applications as locative news-delivery systems.

An early example of such paradigm-changing prototypes was LocaNews, an experiment intended to simulate the productive capacity of a typical Norwegian newspaper, only focused upon the creation of location-based digital content delivered through mobile devices.

Lars Nyre, Solveig Bjørnestad and Bjørnar Tessem of the University of Bergen and Kjetil Vaage Øie of Volda University College set up shop in Voss, Norway, during the annual Extreme Sports Festival in 2009. With a staff of 13, including five journalists working full time, they spent a week running a prototype news organization in the area using a responsive locative app tailoring information by both users’ locations and interests. The results were fascinating but not definitive enough to warrant the launch of a permanent locative operation.

Yet journalists cannot afford to wait around until someone else magically unlocks this location-based potential. Much of the mobile ecosystem remains open right now for low-barrier exploration. The technology exists and is readily available. Journalists, in short, have a window to claim this locative territory.

A variety of third-party platforms – such as Aurasma, Layar, and 7Scenes – are either free or have trial periods or cheap entry options. Whether by creating new programs, or using established systems, more place-related experimentation and examination needs to happen in the news business.

Media forms regularly keep emerging, particularly through mobile technologies. Entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes are exploring these nascent systems in all sorts of industries, and everyone, it seems, is becoming an information provider.

If journalists aren’t aggressively taking some of those same risks and chances, if journalists aren’t envisioning and making the new forms of journalism, then who will?

Brett Oppegaard is an assistant professor of communication at Washington State University-Vancouver and will be joining the University of Hawaii at Manoa faculty in the fall. His research into mobile place-oriented media has won him the George and Helen Hartzog Award and the John Wesley Powell Prize. He can be reached via Twitter: @brettoppegaard. Read more

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iPhone Apps

App use dominates mobile browser use, but what does that mean for news content?

The latest report from Flurry shows mobile users are spending the vast majority of their time with mobile apps, not with mobile Web browsers. So far in 2014, iOS and Android users have spent 86 percent of time with their devices using apps, up from 80 percent in 2013. Read more

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At Circa, it’s not about ‘chunkifying’ news but adding structure

You sometimes hear what we do at Circa described as “chunkifying” — taking the news and presenting it in mobile-friendly chunks. And while on the surface this observation is correct, it misses the bigger picture.

Yes, each “point” of Circa is a single unit of news — something designated as a fact, quote, statistic, event or image. We thread these points together to tell stories. The end result is succinct and allows us to track which points a reader has consumed, powering our unique “follow” feature.

But I often respond to talk of chunkifying by pointing out that what we’re really doing at Circa is adding structure to information — and it could be the most powerful thing we do. Indeed, there’s an increasing amount of discussion around “atoms” of news. But the interesting thing about those atoms of news isn’t that they’re short — that’s another surface observation. The interesting thing is how those atoms combine.

The assumed output of a reporter is the “article.” That’s what reporters are supposed to produce during their work day, and it’s the default unit by which journalists organize their data. There’s plenty of information in the text that’s produced, but how much of that information is structured? In a typical content management system (CMS) you’ll find a headline field, a main text field, information about the article’s creator, a date of its creation and maybe a field for some meta-tags — usually basic nouns — included as an afterthought, often for SEO purposes.

If I just described 90 percent of the CMSes you’ve used, read on.

The value of journalism comes from filtering things out of the flow of information and serving them up to readers. But those basic fields in the CMS fail to capture a lot of the value of information invested in the reporting process. If you asked a reporter about the information in an article you’d get specifics: It contains a quote from the mayor, some statistics about government spending, the announcement of a new zoning permit, a description of a local event, and so on. But that information is adrift inside the main unit of the article — without structure it’s lost, except for the ability to search for a string of words in Google.

At Circa we do things differently. The process of creating a story requires the writer to tag information in a structured way. If we insert a quote, we have two extra fields for the name of the person quoted and an alias — their working title. As a result, I can ask our chief technology officer to search our database for all the quotes we have from, say, Eric Holder. I can also ask to have that search refined by date(s) or topics: “Give me all the Eric Holder quotes from the last six months that are associated with the IRS. Also, I’d like all the aliases we’ve used for him.”

In a newsroom where data is unstructured this task would be incredibly time-consuming if not impossible. But because our content is structured, at Circa it’s simply a matter of asking.

The CMS or platform that a news organization uses to create content isn’t neutral. Decisions made in building or configuring that CMS define the way news is displayed later. If an input field for the “location” of an event doesn’t exist, then the only way to surface all events that took place at a specific location is to conduct a painstaking search through the blobs of words that exist in the main content field of articles.

Modern journalists are actually more familiar with the idea of structured data than they may realize. Part of the beauty and charm of the Pulitzer-winning PolitiFact is their Truth-O-Meter. The Truth-O-Meter is a way that PolitiFact structures data: Every “article” is tagged at some level, and if I want to find all the “Pants on Fire” stories, here they are. That’s not an accident: PolitiFact decided to build that into their CMS, into the very DNA of what they do. (You can also query by speakers and subjects.)

The job of a reporter is to collect, filter, organize and then deliver information. Shouldn’t a CMS capture the level of detail that we invest in that process from the start? Why do we always invoke the idea of narrative structure over structured data?

Here’s something Ezra Klein wrote in discussing his move to his new venture at Vox: “The software newsrooms have adopted in the digital age has too often reinforced a workflow built around the old medium. We’ve made the news faster, more beautiful, and more accessible. But in doing we’ve carried the constraints of an old technology over to a new one.” As Steve Buttry leads “Project Unbolt,” I suspect one of the barriers Digital First Media will need to confront is that their CMS is designed to produce articles, an increasingly arcane manner of structuring information.

Data-driven journalism is, of course, a growing movement. The best-understood example of data-driven journalism is the crime map: we collect the location/type of crimes and then overlay that information on a map. Because there’s structure to the information, we can surface greater meaning from it.

The question, however, is if we can expand this concept beyond the low-hanging data sets. At Circa we’re trying to answer that question, starting with the realization that we’re dealing with data all the time — we only need to organize it.

David Cohn is director of news at Circa and a member of Poynter’s adjunct faculty. Previously he worked on some of the first endeavors exploring crowdsourcing and crowdfunding in journalism. You can find him on Twitter at @digidave. Read more

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Chicago startup Rivet News Radio echoes Zite and Pandora for audio news

Text-based journalism has Flipboard and Zite. Music has Pandora. Video has YouTube. Tapping into elements of all these services for a different form of media is Rivet News Radio, the first product from Chicago-based startup HearHere Radio LLC, which launched earlier this month.

The Rivet app — iOS only for now — taps into two of the day’s biggest buzzwords in echoing other new media successes: mobile-friendliness and customizability. It occupies an aural space somewhere between podcasts that you deliberately seek out and radio news that you listen to just because it’s on and you’re trapped in traffic during your commute. Read more

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Sporting News app takes aim at ESPN, but will compete with Flipboard, too

Digiday | Adweek

The latest incarnation of the Sporting News app enters the aggregation arena in a bid to distinguish itself from ESPN’s less open mobile products, Digiday reports. But does its play to be the “Flipboard of sports” stand a chance? Read more

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PoynterVision: Mobile web is baseline for news

Every news organization should have a mobile web presence, Allen Klosowski, vice president of mobile and connected devices at video advertising firm SpotXchange, told Poynter during his visit for a NewsU webinar. He explains why mobile web should be the first consideration before apps and e-books.

View a free replay of Klosowski’s NewsU webinar about how to monetize mobile revenue using the promo code: 13POYNTER100MOBILE.


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Dalton Caldwell is CEO of app.net, which introduces a new app today allowing publishers to send alerts to readers' mobile phones.

With ‘newsletter for mobile,’ Dalton Caldwell wants to make your native app obsolete

Dalton Caldwell is CEO of app.net, which introduces a new app today allowing publishers to send alerts, called “Broadcasts,” to readers’ mobile phones.

“Imagine if you had to download a different email client for every email newsletter you subscribe to.” That’s the analogy offered by Dalton Caldwell, CEO of app.net, for the state of push notifications on mobile devices today.

News organizations want to reach readers on their mobile phones to alert them to breaking news or big features, but that requires push notifications, which in turn require apps. The result: If I want alerts from the New York Times, USA Today and the Chicago Sun-Times, I need to download three separate apps.

In Caldwell’s estimation, the ability to reach readers with push notifications accounts for 85 percent of the reason publishers enter the mobile-app space to begin with over settling for mobile-friendly websites. That’s why a new platform from app.net, launching today on iOS and Android, aims to make it easier for publishers to push stories to readers — and for readers to find out about them.

Here’s how it works: Publishers use app.net to create customized Broadcast Channels for readers to subscribe to. Then, publishers — news organizations themselves or individual journalists — compose alerts to be pushed to readers’ mobile devices. The alerts include a headline and link and can also include a brief message or photo.

If this sounds like a spammy marketing tool, keep in mind that readers will only receive alerts — app.net calls them Broadcasts — from channels to which they subscribe. Before subscribing, readers can see how often the channel pushes alerts, and app.net encourages publishers to limit themselves to fewer than one to two per day.

That’s a big departure from the status quo on sharing platforms like Twitter and Facebook, where Caldwell says “you’re incentivized to create a user experience of infobesity — the more push notifications you can send them, the better.” That amounts to a race to zero as those readers face information overload, Caldwell told Poynter via phone. “I understand why people are burnt out on push.”

Broadcast gives readers control over their push notifications, echoing the move by Breaking News this month to allow users to customize alert topics.

But whereas Breaking News is a publisher itself, Broadcast is a platform for publishers, from big media properties to individuals. Already signed up at launch are journalism.co.uk, a few New Yorker blogs, “The Big Picture” by the Boston Globe, and Kara Swisher of AllThingsD. (Broadcast is also geared to users like musicians who want to announce tour dates and creators of web comics who publish sporadically and want to let readers know when new content is available. It also offers utility-based channels like weather updates for every county in the U.S.)

“If you have something that’s inherently low-volume, say it’s long-form journalism, say you’re a podcaster, say you’re someone elite who blogs once per month — holy cow, people are going to miss my news, they’re going to miss what I have to say,” Caldwell explained. That’s where Broadcast steps in — what if you could only see the best tweet or two per day from only your favorite writers or news sources? And what if they could be pushed directly to your device in real time?

It’s a free service, Caldwell said, with potential for monetization down the line when power users want access to advanced analytics. The Broadcast API will allow a newsroom developer to add the alerts system to its CMS, and it’ll also be integrated into Hootsuite in an effort to keep news organizations’ social workflows streamlined.

Could Broadcast be app.net’s breakout app? It depends on how quickly it can corral a large base of users on the publishing side — and it could also depend on whether Twitter and Facebook make moves toward selective push notifications, too. The company’s relationship with media properties from earlier apps has facilitated some significant early gets, like Swisher of AllThingsD, whose scoops Caldwell says are appealing to readers who want to know about her stories fast but don’t want to risk a tweet dropping off their timelines before they can see it.

More immediate than email and more selective than Twitter — that’s where app.net is placing its bets.

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Allen Klosowski

PoynterVision: Size of news outlets impacts mobile story approach

Large media organizations face different mobile challenges from smaller ones. Structure also matters; a large organization like NPR will approach a project differently from a large but more disbursed one like Digital First Media. Allen Klosowski, vice president of mobile and connected devices at video advertising firm SpotXchange, offers insights on tackling mobile-packaged stories based on his experience as former senior director of mobile and social media at Digital First Media.

Watch a free replay of Klosowski’s NewsU webinar on how to monetize mobile revenue  using this discount code: 13POYNTER100MOBILE.

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Breaking News app’s alerts can shout all day or stay out of your way

Behind the buzz-buzz of a smartphone alert could come anything: News of the death of Osama bin Laden, or a “we have to talk” text, or an email with that job offer, finally.

Or it could be news of a Miley Cyrus twerk, or a “remember to buy milk” text, or an email with an offer to come to Best Buy to purchase a Surface tablet.

Push notifications — full of promise but too often a drag — make for the most intriguing feature of the new Breaking News app for iOS. Although it emphasizes customization, the free app still seems aimed to add to the overwhelming number of chimes emitted from my phone each day.

But there could be a way to make it work for those like me who feel overwhelmed by our phones. And the hope, according to Breaking News general manager Cory Bergman, is that users will adapt the app for any number of use cases.

Here’s how the new feature works: choose from among thousands of topics to fill a total of five alert slots. When breaking news relating to those topics happens — and deemed worthy of inclusion in Breaking News’ stream of 200 to 300 updates in the app per day — you’ll get a notification on your device.

The Breaking News app isn’t out to trick you into assenting to dozens of push notifications per day. This friendly warning appears if you’re about to alert a topic with a high volume of daily updates.

My first few days with the app were rough. I quickly learned that although I have some interest in health care reform, I wasn’t prepared for the deluge of daily alerts on that topic. The app kindly notifies you when you’re about to sign up for a topic with a high volume of updates, and Obamacare averages 40 per day. That might be overkill even for the president, if he had an iPhone (the Android version will be out soon, Bergman said.

By contrast, Breaking News posts an update on the Chicago Bears just once every 58 days. That hardly seems like enough to be useful, especially since most hardcore fans will have other trusted sources alerting them to injuries or scores. Short of the Bears winning the Super Bowl — ha! — I’m unlikely to get any game results from the Breaking News app.

I asked Bergman via phone what makes the perfect alert topic. His response: It’s up to you, but some of the topics that have performed well in the two weeks since the new app was released include specific cities and countries. That makes sense not only for the city and country you live in, but for the city and country you’re from, too.

My hometown is small enough that I certainly would appreciate being alerted right away if anything important enough happens there that’s worthy of Breaking News’ attention. So Columbus, Ind., gets added to my list. By that same logic, so does my alma mater, Northwestern University.

For my particular use case, I’m watching Twitter too often throughout the day to need any breaking news pushed to my phone. And for those too busy on the job to check their phones with regularity, it seems unnecessary to sign up for too many alerts — although, Bergman noted, it can be handy to see a quick rundown of news you missed right on your lock screen when you do finally get a chance to look.

In the app’s previous iteration, Bergman said, his team saw how useful push notifications were in getting users to engage. There’s clearly a demand for editor-selected alerts, which average between three and eight per day and can be turned off, but Bergman said Breaking News is aware of an upper threshold at which alerts become annoying and spammy.

“We’re not that concerned about driving people into the app,” he said, adding that alerts are designed to be consumed on their own. “Clearly that helps us from a revenue perspective over time, but we really want this to be as valuable a tool from the user’s perspective as we can make it.”

Three of the alert topics Bergman said in a blog post that he uses — Seattle, media and football — account for an average of 14 alerts per day. That’s more noise and interruption than I’d want to add to my day, but that’s the beauty of the Breaking News app’s customization.

“We’ve got you covered on the big stories out there,” Bergman said. “And the rest is up to you.”

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