Updated mobile timeline for newspapers makes the news

By Clyde Bentley on December 16, 2010 0 Comments Ideas

Clyde Bentley, 2009-2010 Fellow

Last February, I raised more than a few media eyebrows with a post on this blog outlining a timeline of actions newspapers should take if they want to be mobile players by 2013. That date, you may recall, was prompted by the Gartner Research prediction that more Web access would come through mobile devices than PCs by 2013.

This week Amy Gahran asked me to update my timeline for the Knight Digital Media Center News Leadership 3.0 blog.  And I'm all over the Web again this week. We didn't go through the timeline date-by-date, but I did express my disappointment that so many newspapers missed the key June deadline to launch a mobile Web site.

Publishers, editors and most everyone else have fallen into the marketing frenzy over apps.  I'm also in love with the  apps on my phone -- they give me access to an incredible array of flashy services.  But the point of that timeline was to illustrate how little time we have to shoehorn the digital journalism we developed over a decade or more onto a 3-inch-or-less mobile screen.

When any market is on fire, the winning strategy is to develop top-of-mind awareness rather the just technical superiority.  Remember the VHS-Betamax battle for home video players?  Ad folks know that you can only be the first product that people think of if you are broadly available and well-marketed.

If we hope that by 2013 Americans with a free moment or two will click to a newspaper app on their phone, they need to already identify us as a convenient news content provider.  Unless you have the money to quickly produce an app for every operating system out there, that means powering up a Mobile Web site.  The Mobile Web is available via any phone with a browser, which vastly increases the available audience over producing just an iPhone app.

We've had good online newspapers for years, but a complicated site with tiered links and tiny type won't play at all in the miniature version.  So phone users must automatically be taken to a mobile version that they can read with one hand tied behind their back.  Literally.

I also fear that too many papers have jumped over the mobile technology most used in the U.S. -- text messaging.  Nielsen recently verified that less than 30% of U.S. mobile users have smartphones capable of accessing the Web and running apps.  But text is king no matter type of phone you use.  Ignoring a communication channel used by more than 70% of adults seems a bit absurd -- especially when there are models for SMS journalism all over the world.

Please read Amy's article -- she may have summarized my thoughts better than I could myself.

By the way, Google Alerts sent me a long list of blogs and sites that linked to Amy's article.  My favorite, however, was in Just Car/All About Cars.  There I was in the "Lastest" (?) Bentley News -- right along with a which-is-better discussion about the Beamer, Benz or Bentley.

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