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The Story So Far – The New New Media: Mobile, Video and Other Emerging Platforms

January 7, 2011

Not long ago, “convergence” was the keyword in news production, as television, newspaper, magazine and pure online sites all started to look the same. Now comes a new “divergence,” in which online journalism organisations must distribute news into distinctly different modes of presentation. This is largely being driven by the advent of tablets, most notably the iPad.

The introduction of the iPad has generated a significant shift in the market, and there will be 25 more brands available in 2011 with screen sizes ranging from 5-11 inches. Some publishers are offering free subscriptions to the mobile version with the printed version. Others are charging an additional cost to receive the mobile version.

Adjusting to this new space is not being helped by Apple who wants a 30% cut of any subscriptions paid through the iTunes store and the user’s name and address don’t have to be shared with the publisher, unless the customer agrees.

Google is pushing an alternative tool for subscriptions called One Pass, in which the company will charge publishers 10% of revenue and share subscribers’ names and information. As a result, some publishers have built their own payment and collection systems for selling their own apps from their own websites so they don’t have to share any information or pay any fees.

In addition, neither the replica digital copies nor the iPad versions count in the “rate base,” which is the number of readers publishers guarantee to deliver to advertisers. So, for now, publishers tout it as “bonus” circulation they can’t really charge for.

Despite this, some organisations are optimistic about the prospects for mobile devices. In February 2011, News Corp. launched The Daily, a tablet-only newspaper. First offered on just the iPad, though there are plans to extend it to more tablets, The Daily announced a start-up budget of $30 million, which let it hire enough journalists, designers and technicians to create 100 pages of content per day. Integrated into the Daily are features that seem to shine on the iPad platform, such as social-media links, audio and video.

Recently video has become an essential element of the digital experience. According to comScore, about 89 million people in the U.S. watched at least one online video, or video advertisement, daily by the end of 2010.

Paradoxically, persuading users to watch news video isn’t easy. Some outlets, like CNN.com are very successful in their online video journalism. The company says it delivers between 60 million and 100 million video streams a month.

Part of their success comes from the fact they program by times of the day. Visitors to their site peaks between 11am and 2pm on regular news days and social media links go up a lot at night. Programming decisions are based on a mix of demographic and editorial priorities. For example, users under the age of 25, who are disproportionately on social media, tend to be more interested in entertainment and features rather than in hard news. More than 50% of their unique visitors watch video content.

In contrast to this, an unidentified local TV stations website attracted about 7 million page views in October 2010 but it delivered only 622,000 video streams.

Print-based media are still building video resources and expertise and have a hard time winning a video audience. Most are relying on supplied content from wire services and other organisations.

There is a growing realisation that people’s attention span is relatively short and even shorter on a small screen. There is also the need to adjust to user expectations. According to Nancy Andrews, Detroit Free Press’s managing editor for digital media, “People are interested in the raw video content, show me what happened. … You don’t necessarily need the context in video form, too. … Think of it more like a picture that talks than a full story.”

There is no doubt that video is becoming increasingly more important however making more attractive as a news source and monetizing is apparently harder than anticipated.

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