Chuck's Q Blog


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Really new media

Ben and Mike with Dad

Ben and Mike with Dad

Our boys arrived Thursday morning, July 1, and I couldn’t be happier. Everyone came home from the hospital yesterday and we’re all doing fine, getting to know each other and establishing new routines.

As I was trying to get Benjamin to burp after a feeding yesterday, I was looking at his eyes and thinking about all the things he and his brother Michael will see. The world has changed pretty quickly in the last 10-20 years and it’s only likely to pick up speed.

They’ll grow up around books — in one form or another. We have lots of books in the house and there are already two or three Dr. Seuss books waiting for them on my iPad. Will that be the standard when they learn to read? When they start high school or college?

What will computers look like when they’re old enough to use one? Some experts already are showing that the growth of tablets is edging out demand for netbooks. PC’s — though still selling well — are a shrinking part of computer sales, especially when compared to laptops. Mobile is obviously the wave of the future.

Their entertainment options will likely be mostly digital as well. We have an iPod speaker base in their room and I’ll be setting up a lullaby playlist soon. Later, I’m sure our DVR will store lots of their favorite shows.

Like older kids today who don’t know what 45′s were and learned to tell time on a digital clock, will these guys have any use for a DVD or CD in a few years?

The answers will be determined at the crossroads of advancing technology and consumer interest.

But we may have to read The Cat in the Hat tonight on the iPad, just to start down the digital road.

Do I need an app for that?

If your news organization hasn’t issued an iPhone app yet, you’re late to the party. You should be working on something for  Google’s mobile operating system (Android) as well.

But before you gear up for your own iPad app, you need to ask a few questions:The Huffington Post iPad app

What can we do with an iPad app that we aren’t already doing on the website?

The answer to this question is critical. If you can’t come up with a good answer, you can stop thinking about investing any effort in an iPad app right now.

Many news organizations built apps for mobile phones because the functionality of their website was severely limited on the smaller screens.

But calling that same website up on the iPad with its 9.7-inch diagonal screen is different. In many cases, this will be enough for many news operations to take a pass on developing a new app. Plus, if their iPhone app was done well, it looks fine on the iPad, especially with the option to use it in its original size or a 2X version.

If you can’t come up with a way to use an iPad app to enhance the user experience you’re already offering on the website, you might want to rethink the project. Creating templates and sending updates via RSS probably isn’t going to provide a better user experience.

It’s also very possible that you’ll be providing less functionality in an iPad app if you’re not prepared to find substitutes for Flash video players or other widgets offered on the website. I was surprised to see this was the case with the Huffington Post’s iPad app. It was really a watered down version of the website. Read the rest of this entry »

Face it: News on print is doomed

We’re witnessing the end of days for newspapers.

Most of us don’t want to admit it, but the day when printed newspapers will cease to exist is approaching. It’s not a rumble in the distance anymore, either. It’s bearing down on us like a summer storm.

There will be a tipping point where it no longer makes economic sense to produce printed papers. Newspaper owners eventually will turn to digital delivery models, even if they don’t wan to. This will be the only alternative for most of them.

In the early days of publishing, it only took a few people to write and produce a newspaper. In time, technological advances made it possible for publications to be produced more quickly and in greater numbers. But instead of a few people cranking out dozens of pages by hand, it took a small army to produce and distribute the product.

When computers began to make operations more efficient, newspapers didn’t need as many people anymore. More tasks began to return to the newsroom, which meant fewer and fewer production positions.

Those job reductions aren’t over.

Circumstances eventually will force publications to take the next step. It may be as simple as higher printing costs,  continued declines in circulation or the defections of the last advertisers. Or it could be the rise of a dominant device, like a tablet or e-reader, that sparks a shift in reader habits.

Taking that step will allow newspapers to eliminate printing and distribution of the product, as well as the cost of newsprint, ink and fuel for delivery vehicles. Think of the savings if all those expenses were wiped off the books.

All that would be needed to maintain operations are the people who collect and edit the news and a small technical support staff.

No one is pulling for people to lose their jobs, but the economic facts are tough to deny and this kind of change has been anticipated for a long time.

When the economy tanked over the last two years, lots of publications scrambled to find ways to stay in business. Many were already in trouble after years of declining circulation and lost advertising revenue.

Some papers didn’t make it. Some managed to hang on by cutting budgets and staff. Most were forced to start looking at online options and alternative methods of delivery, like the Kindle or another mobile device. They all hoped the economy would rebound and bring back the good old days.

If they’re honest, most newspaper executives already know that’s not going to happen. The golden age of newspapers is over. People’s tastes and habits are changing. The last generations to really embrace newspapers are fading away and younger readers are attracted to other options, if they’re interested at all.

Newspapers have to realize that their real product is the collection of news; the method of distribution isn’t important anymore. Clinging to the printed page spells doom for the industry; making the jump to digital offers a chance at renewal.

It’s not a question of “if” anymore, it’s a question of “when.”

Do I pick a topic or does it pick me?

A quick look at links I’ve been posting to Facebook lately tells me that — surprise — I seem to have a deep interest in digital media, its delivery on various devices (especially the iPad) and the transformation of the news industry.

That’s probably due in large part because I’m part of the news industry, I work in digital media and I own an iPad and other mobile devices. Go figure. and the Nieman Journalism Lab are two of my favorite sites and provide a lot of interesting source material. Through those sites and others, I’ve tried to keep track of how various news organizations are dealing with paywalls, developing mobile apps and other aspects of our changing industry.

I’ve already formed a few opinions about what will and won’t work and under what circumstances some of these ideas will succeed or fail. Some of those ideas have been shared with colleagues in and out of the newsroom. I’ve even written about a few for other classes using this blog.

That will probably be the thrust of my writing in #506DE as well.

Going mobile

The information age is taking its show on the road. Mobile is clearly the next computing revolution finally moving across the U.S.

While Japan and some European nations have been at the forefront of this movement for some time, better devices in the last few years are luring more U.S. users into the ranks of mobile computers.

More and more, cellphones — especially the latest generation of the Apple iPhone — are being used in journalism. Blogs can be updated via the WordPress app. Videos for news sites have been shot and edited using just the tools on the phone. Even live reports have been produced with it.

Read the rest of this entry »