Last month I made the case that
mobile will disrupt journalism like the Internet did a decade ago. Many of you have asked, “Now what?” Here are a few suggestions to start shifting your mindset to mobile. 1. Force yourself to live mobile at home If your readers are shifting to phones and tablets, so should you. As a journalist, I’d always start my day with a computer on my lap. My default state was content creation, not consumption. But a few months ago, I forced myself to shift to a mobile consumption mindset in the morning, reaching for my phone instead. At night, I gravitate toward a tablet.
I read and answer email, catch up on industry news, fire off a few tweets and occasionally buy something, too. It’s deeply educational. A few experiences are great, most are not. I often find myself waiting, pinching, swiping my way around, instead of getting what I want and getting things done. The only way to really understand the frustration — and by extension the opportunity — is to experience it yourself.
“Pay particular attention to things that chafe you,” explains startup guru Paul Graham
on his blog. “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.”
2. Become a student of the mobile space While you’re discovering really bad mobile experiences — and hopefully beginning to think how to make them better — you should also explore the leading-edge of new mobile products and the trends that drive them.
Here are some recommendations for publications and social resources to keep abreast of the mobile product world, especially in context of news and information:
Techmeme is always a great overview with a growing mobile presence. Ignore all the techy device news (even I’m confused by all the different devices and operating systems) and look for mobile trends, new products and big partnerships.
Appnewser is a good source, and Poynter, NiemanLab and Journalism.co.uk’s are beefing up their mobile coverage. On the sales and marketing front, I like Mobile Marketer and Digiday. For second screen coverage, there’s Lost Remote.
@mashablemobile, @atdmobile, @readwritemobile, @tnwmobile, @gigaommobile should get you started with tech blogs. For research, watch
Flurry’s blog, Comscore and Pew Internet. The
Mobile Journalism group on Facebook, started by Will Sullivan. (Apply to join only if you work in the news business).
If you see anything else I should add, just ping me on Twitter (
3. Play with promising new mobile products As you read about the mobile space — and occasionally check the top charts on Apple and Google’s app stores — you’ll discover new mobile experiences to try. Don’t just limit yourself to news, but keep an eye out for promising utilities, social networks and even information gaming, too. Give these new products an honest try. See if they naturally become part of your routine. Do they solve any of your frustrations? Do they make something easier, more efficient, more fun? Why or why not? Over time, you’ll begin to see if your own predictions match up with the rest of the market (i.e. chart positions and ratings). You’ll start to build some product intuition that will help you identify and pursue your own mobile ideas. 4. Start looking at the data
Once you become more astute as a mobile-first consumer, you should begin to wonder how people are using (or not using) your newsroom’s mobile experiences.
Ask your analytics guru for insight (or better yet, access). How do people interact inside your mobile experiences? Phone vs. tablet? Web vs. app? What types of stories are most popular? Does that vary with time of day? By device? What do users share the most? Do they read articles or bail out after a quick scroll? Etc.
Unlike the desktop, mobile is driven by context. People look for different kinds of information — and consume it differently — depending on what they’re doing and where they are. Often times, we lack this data, but we shouldn’t take our eyes off the user.
As outgoing Groupon CEO Andrew Mason explained, “My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers.” When you start learning these habits — and build up your intuition — you can better tailor your own coverage to fulfill user needs. Share your findings with the newsroom, and encourage others to provide their feedback and insights. When I wondered openly about how to get journalists excited about mobile media, AP’s Ted Anthony tweeted to me, “Make it about people, not platforms.” I couldn’t agree more.
We have a long ways to go, but this is a good starting point.
(Full disclosure: I’m GM of
Breaking News, a mobile-first startup owned by NBC News. Keep an eye on our @breaking Twitter account for upcoming news on how we’re approaching mobile.)