This topic is very special to me and my mobile journalism RJI project. Mobile is almost a normal part of the news system in Europe. Asian technology is focused on a few big cities, but thousands of small towns and villages still dominate Europe (not unlike middle America). Mobile has proven to work extremely well in that setting. (Rough notes, not verbatim.)
The Web isn’t chained to the desk, so why should you be? As lightning-fast Internet makes its way to mobile devices, opportunities abound for gathering and distributing your content. This panel looks at the latest trends, coming developments and how to take advantage of both. Meanwhile, mobile platforms force the absolute integration of content and technology. Without the highest quality of both, the entire project suffers. How does this work? What are potential pitfalls? And, when designing for the small screen, what is the optimal UI for text, photos, videos, interactives? How can this be created? How does this vary on different platforms?
Gunnar Garfors, CEO, Norwegian Mobile TV Corporation
Staci Kramer, Co-Editor and Executive Vice President, ContentNext Media
Benjamin Mosse, Director of Mobile Products, The Associated Press
Moderator Roeland Stekelenburg, Head of New Media, NOS
Kramer:(copied from site) ContentNext is an independent media and information company based in Santa Monica, California, covering the business of digital media. The company operates three sites: paidContent.org, mocoNews.net and contentSutra.com. Co-Editor and Executive Vice President of ContentNext Media, Staci Kramer leads properties including paidContent.org, paidContent:UK, contentSutra.com and mocoNews.net.
Mosse: Not really competing with own system by starting AP Mobile Actually the members asked for it. The members get a revenue share. It is not profitable yet. We don’t compete with mobile news sites, complement them.
Garfors: In 2005, we were the first in world to launch a live mobile televising.
Q to Garfors – is Europe ahead in mobile? In some way Asia is ahead – in Japan some people have no room for a laptop. Europe is an area of small towns and villages. We have always been enamored with mobile connectivity.
Kramer: (holding up a Kindle) – Asked who had e-readers. Only handful. Asked who will buy one in next year – no one. A lot of this content is available on 3G instead of just WiFi. But the ability to reach free Wi-Fi is much greater now.
It is difficult to create content for handhelds. But there is a reach issue – you can get to people in places you could never get before.
Garfors: Called ours Mini-TV, works on PC, phones, any device with a screen.
Mosse: We also have to think about mobile devices are elsewhere, on the phone, GPS, etc.
is there a Mobile Generation?
Mosse: Some say yes, they are young. But there is no such thing as a Mobile Generation because everyone is mobile.
Mossee: 17% Mobile Web and rising.
Kramer: We are really creating new waves of users here. 40s-50s. We run the risk if think mobile users are only younger of missing a lot of users..
Mossee: We recognize that what you want for news on a mobile device is very different than what you want on other platforms. We make it punchier, making sure key information is part of headline, crop photos to give bigger subjects. Purely mobile: working with push applications that drive info back to the users. Doing.
Where do things go wrong?
The biggest problem I have seen they expect one platform to be the same as another. It is not like that. Push in particular is different.
Kramer: Another reason across platforms is the users are different. WSJ Mobile has different version for Blackberry as iPhone. Blackberry is more bulletins and breaking. iPhones more text.
CNN app costs $2 and is made to give the best of CNN. They are getting people say “Why can’t you make the Website like the app?"
Should the mobile site be like the Website?
Kramer: I don’t want to feel when I go to NPR app that I am going to a half-baked Website.
People get content everywhere. If they pay for something, it is functionality.
Garfors: Mobile phone lasts only year and a half? Should we continue to make different versions for each model? We don’t do that for TV
Stekelenburg: We do. Make different for Phillips net and Sony, etc.
Garfors: European Broadcasting Union (EBU is looking at standardizing.)
Stekelenburg: Big problem on mobile is that there are 4-5 video codex.
Kramer: Any news organization should optimize their Website for mobile. (almost everyone in the audience has optimized). Many had iPhone apps.
I like the CNN app, but keep hitting wrong buttons. Have to make it user friendly.
Where is the traffic?
Mossee: Home page gets 65% of traffic, but well over 20% of traffic goes to local.
How much of traffic goes to mobile
Stekelenburg: In Netherlands, 10-12%
Kramer: A lot of people get from other sites via RSS or email, but are reading it on their mobile. Had to reformat for email, which is a very important format.
What are the strategies to target African Americans (are over-indexed)?
Mossee: We have a Spanish version
Kramer: I’m not surprised with over indexing, but don’t know of any strategies.
Garfors on usability: That is one reason we are going to broadcast-style format. Push a button and you are on the next channel. Did a client app for Sony-Ericksson. 3 TV, 3 Radio channels with ads at the bottom. Had to register with demographics so targeted ads. Had a clickthrough rate of 13% throughout. Asked people why. “Rather get ads for something we like.”
How about mobile in Africa, where there are more mobile phones than computers?
Stekelenburg: Problem is that few countries there have data networks, just SMS. What you see in Africa that it is interesting is that they use SMS for all sorts of services, including paying each other. News is setting up services where you can SMS questions on livestock, consumer goods, etc and get a text answer.
Mossee: Nokia is moving away from non-data version and put data ability on all phones. You will see a huge movement to data.
Kramer: I think the micropayment systems in Africa is a huge lesson for us and I am very interested to see what happened.
My subscribers (lobbyists) are Blackberry addicts. Our people are pushing us to keep it simply formatted, email use. Are there any other trends for paid content?
Kramer: The number of people willing to pay is already a niche. The question is what content will they pay for? But one of the trends is the number of iterations of stories news organizations are willing to put up.
Is there tension between desktop version and multi-platform version.
Garfors: Nokia is looking at all the platforms. Rather than saying that you have to come to NOK, say we will go to where you are. We prefer APIs so don’t dumb down the platforms, but we develop for many platforms.
Kramer: Make it so the user can choose whatever platform they want and don’t shove it down them.
Mossee: AP has a great Flash development department, but iPhone doesn’t support Flash. So have to make MOV versions.
Garfors: If we don’t follow what people want, we will be dead in a few years.
What about the benefits of mobile, specifically it is location based?
Garfors: Tried a few years ago where we asked questions on TV and located the SMS responses. Helped us enhance polls.
Stekelenburg: We use geolocation on maps and other. It is a revolution in mobile.
Mossee: We have Apps on Maps. Not to market yet. Struggling with problem that not all the platforms support the resolution you need. One of the problems is the maps show most of the news on the one central city where the story is filed.
Stekelenburg: If we can get the reporter’s locations automatically mapped, will help (but for competition don’t always want to give away the site).
Kramer: Sometimes I don’t like having to put in my location information so go to another app. There is a growing number of apps that can use user information automatically.
Mossee: We have a system where the user can send us something and it is geo-located. Don’t put it up automatically, but add color and use it.
How do you promote innovative ad uses?
Kramer: If you thing innovation is putting the advertiser on a map, don’t. Find real innovation. We are seeing logo placement ads in stories.
Mossee: Most interesting thing to me is personalization.
This thing has everything about you, all your information and interests.
How do we be a part of that.
Kramer: Your phone is a very personal instrument, so you are very wary of what ads you get. Might use for something really want or to pay for the app you want. I was very resistent to iPhone. Battery life for one, but I was very much against the walled garden. On other platforms, I could watch what I added.
Stekelenburg: Windows Mobile is dead?
Kramer: It still has wider reach than iPhone.
Kramer: Many people like the iPhone because it is thin. People with iPhones also use Web more, and
Garfors: HTC Android Hero is growing in popularity in many countries, while the Apple hype is going away. http://tinyurl.com/ycldfzw
Kramer: Android is really taking off and will be big this year. Palm Pre is more usable than an iPhone and may see big growth.
Content on Mini-tv. What is the user experience?
Garfors: Doing 16 channels and developing looped channels. Currently it is only like TV because the handsets are not there. When we have the handsets, it will be on-demand TV.
Stekelenburg: We offered 13 live channels on sports during the Olympic. Now also news channels. When something is happening, Dutch check their mobile for headlines. But does not compare to on-demand mobile, which is really, really big in the Netherlands.
Can you take independent Websites mobile?
Stekelenburg: everything is XML so can be ported over.
Mossee: We are working with template applications and shared revenue solutions.
Stekelenburg: Is there one trend journalists should be aware of?
Garfors: Mini TV. 120 million people can get it.
Kramer: Micro transactions
Mossee: If you haven’t downloaded Bionic Life on iPhone, do it. It is the first try at augmented reality.
Stekelenburg: There is an augmented reality browsers available for only Android phones.
This was a very intriquing session, but the opportunity to talk to the panelists afterwards was priceless to me.
The big takeaway for me was that Europe is a better model of what the U.S. will be in mobile than is Asia. The Koreans are way out there in technology, but their communications culture is radically different from ours.
They have a very different concept of privacy that flavors their whole system.
Stekelenburg and Gafors both said the “advanced” technology issue is a chimera, as the modern communications/transportation system means any technology can be installed anywhere in the world in just a few days.
Finland has the micropayment system like Korea, Norway uses video in a major way and both Nokia and Sony-Ericsson are intense in meeting the consumer needs in Scandinavia. France, Germany and UK are using mobile news and mobile commerce heavily.
Mossee, who is Irish, said we should pay special attention to the mobile communities developing. In some areas they are outstripping online communities. Peperoniti (http://peperonity.com/) is more popular than Facebook in some countries. But small mobile communities are developing to meet local needs.
I arranged to get research materials and more contacts from all of them.