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Mobile-First Strategy
This document combines (with minor editing) three posts on mobile strategy for news
organizations. T...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                           Page 2


News organizations need ...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                          Page 3


I heard someone recently ...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                       Page 4


A caveat: People have a diff...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                        Page 5


important than push. You kn...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                          Page 6


The only way that you can...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                         Page 7


Steve Buttry:

Kevin, I co...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                        Page 8


I agree it needs to be done...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                         Page 9


Every newspaper should imm...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                          Page 10


We all have different in...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                      Page 11


Great post, Steve. I‘m a 30-...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                                   Page 12


News companies ...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                        Page 13


have taken a considerable ...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                      Page 14


Sometimes we would prepare ―...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                    Page 15


I don‘t think this opportunity...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                         Page 16



How news organizations n...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                        Page 17


The mobile-first strategy ...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                        Page 18


Location. Where has always...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                       Page 19


I saw a blog post a while b...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                         Page 20


      Emails, texts and t...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                      Page 21


      We need to add metadat...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                           Page 22


Shifting resources. New...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                     Page 23


mobile-first operation needs ...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                    Page 24


customers produce advertisemen...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                     Page 25


sale, using a customer‘s cred...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                        Page 26


Marketing
News companies k...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                       Page 27


much more than provide reso...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                        Page 28


But some staff members wil...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                        Page 29


desk. It allowed me to dic...
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Thanks again for the post, gr...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                      Page 31


Judy Sims makes it personal,...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                        Page 32


generation. The generation...
News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry                   Page 33


Steve:

A tour de force post. T...
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Mobile First Strategy

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This combines three blog posts about mobile-first strategy for news organizations.

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Transcript of "Mobile First Strategy"

  1. 1. Mobile-First Strategy This document combines (with minor editing) three posts on mobile strategy for news organizations. They originally appeared on the Pursuing the Complete Community Connection blog, Aug. 31, Nov. 20 and Dec. 9, 2009. In a comment on the Dec. 9 post, Chuck Peters suggested a table of contents, so I have organized all three posts and the comments into a single document. I start with the Nov. 20 post. Substantive comments have been included, though some that were off-point or merely agreeing with earlier comments have been omitted. I consider this to be a continuation of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection, published on my blog April 27, 2009. – Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Table of Contents News organizations need mobile-first strategy Page 2 Comments Page 3 News companies need to help local businesses pursue mobile opportunities Page 12 How news organizations need to change to pursue mobile-first strategy Page 16 Journalists Page 17 Design Page 21 Technology Page 23 Sales Page 24 Marketing Page 26 Other Departments Page 26 Executives Page 26 Staffing Page 27 Examples to come Page 28 Let‘s get started Page 28 Comments Page 29
  2. 2. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 2 News organizations need mobile-first strategy November 20, 2009 by Steve Buttry News organizations are belatedly, reluctantly and often awkwardly pursuing ―web-first‖ strategies. As we fight these web battles, I am increasingly coming to believe that ―web first‖ is what the military would call fighting the last war. News organizations need a mobile-first strategy. ―Web first‖ was a tremendously difficult concept for journalists and newspaper companies. Publishers and editors worried about ―scooping ourselves‖ and ―cannibalizing‖ our core product. Editors and reporters thought ―web first‖ meant posting our newspaper stories online before the press rolled (but often after the late newscast). Advertising staffs thought web strategies meant upselling print customers into annoying pop-up ads or ineffective banners. We wasted energy and time fretting over whether and how to move online and then went about it wrong, as the world moved ever swifter to the web and got more things right than we did and learned more lessons than we did from mistakes. Even today, one of the primary reasons news executives cite for favoring paid content is that they want to protect the print edition. Newspaper companies are so thoroughly rooted in print and so devoted to ink and paper that we missed opportunities and held back as digital technology revolutionized communication, leaving us behind. We can‘t waste that much time in mastering the mobile market. We need to start thinking mobile first. Now. The world is moving swiftly to smart phones and we can‘t afford to be as far behind this time (in truth, it‘s too late to be ahead, but not too late to pursue opportunities that can lead us to a prosperous future). We need to make mobile innovation the top priority and the first thing we think of when we plan change in our organizations. (I should note that web-first meant content would be published online before in the print edition, and that the organization should start thinking first about the web, though most didn‘t, regardless of what they were saying. When I say we must shift to a mobile-first strategy, I‘m not talking about where content appears when, but about the priorities of the organization: what you place first in your thinking and acting.)
  3. 3. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 3 I heard someone recently cite figures on the low (in his view) percentage of people who actually own iPhones (I won‘t cite the figure he gave because it‘s out of date and the relevant numbers are those about growth of iPhone sales and apps). Actually, the penetration percentage is a great reason to get moving swiftly into iPhone opportunities. If we wait until nearly everyone has some sort of smart phone, someone else will be filling the roles that we can and should fill. ―Mobile first‖ needs to change how we think and act throughout our organizations. Reporters, editors and visual journalists need to think first about how to package and deliver news for mobile devices. Information technology staffs need to work first on development of mobile applications for popular devices. Sales staffs need to make it a top priority to guide business customers in using our mobile apps and platforms to reach customers with advertising and direct-sales opportunities. Designers need to present content that is clear and easy to read on the small screen (even if this means spending less staff resources on design of print or web products). Executives need to redirect resources and set priorities so that we pursue mobile opportunities as aggressively as we pursue the most important news stories in our communities. We try to make one size fit all in many aspects of our business, but that will not work in a mobile-first world. We need to become the mobile news, information and commerce connection for people with the latest iPhone, BlackBerry or Droid (and whatever comes next), but also for people with simpler phones that handle only phone calls and text messages and for non-phone devices such as iPods. We need to figure the best ways to deliver news and conduct commerce effectively on mobile devices: text messages, email, mobile applications, tweets, easy-to-use mobile web sites, podcasts, location-based news and commercial information. Whatever your role in your media organization, consider how you would change your work, your priorities and your thinking to support a mobile-first strategy. This will either be our future or our next squandered opportunity. Comments This blog post drew 39 comments. I have included the ones I see as most pertinent to the continuing discussion, identifying the commenter where possible. Xark! blogger Dan Conover (who’s working with Gazette Communications now as a consultant for e-Me Ventures):
  4. 4. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 4 A caveat: People have a different relationship with a ―phone‖ than they do a computer, and if what you‘re pushing toward them is something they really don‘t want, they‘re going to be aggressive in the way they turn you off — for good. So while we‘ve always looked at news as something we pushed out to people, w hen it comes to mobile, it needs to be more of a pull… or at least some kind of app that learns from the individual user‘s stated preferences and actual actions. Gazette Communications CEO Chuck Peters: Steve – Absolutely, and mobile first will require a complete rethinking of how information is created in the first instance. Dan – Agreed – if we push, we lose. We need to get working on those apps, but they won‘t be of much use unless the content is created differently in the first instance – atomized and heavily tagged. Media Guy: For something to be succesful on mobile it needs to be formatted correctly (and easy). For example, a news agency has some hot story but the mobile site doesn‘t work right and you have to scroll through all that junk the main site has, that just turns consumers off. Steve Buttry: I agree with Media Guy and Dan. The secret to commercial success in a mobile -first company is not bombarding people with unwelcome ads, but helping them by providing easy access to the commercial information they need and helping them do business with a few taps of the thumb. Sue: Honestly, I don‘t even mind ads. Truth be told, I kind of ignore them and barely notice them anyway. What drives me nuts is mobile sites that are broken, and stories on mobile sites that are exactly the same as the one on the website. If the story is good and I‘m interested in the topic I don‘t mind paging through a 3 page story on a website. That same 3-webpage story on my Blackberry howe ver is quite painful. John Hill: Dan makes a good point. The relationship with the phone is different. That said, I read more on my iPhone than I ever thought I would and I‘m not so sure that pull is more
  5. 5. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 5 important than push. You know what would be cool? If you could bookmark something you‘re reading in a news app, ie, NYT, and next time you pulled that site up on a computer and were logged in it would push a reminder to you on the home page that you‘ve bookmarked some content to read. Then you could read it on your larger monitor later. Many times I run across things I want to read but I don‘t want to read it on the tiny phone window or I don‘t have time but don‘t want to forget about it either. This happens frequently in Twitter and luckily I can ―favorite‖ these items or email them to myself. In any case, I‘m rambling but my point is that I think Steve is right that any media org that isn‘t paying attention to its mobile strategy is doing so at its own risk. The way we find and digest information is changing rapidly and radically, like it or not, and ―protecting print‖ (God, how tiresome that‘s growing) is not an effective long-term view if you want to extend the brand and capture or even keep your market share. Print is just one golden egg, the goose is that all-important audience. Aamer Trambu: Mobile-first is a simple idea but a great strategy. Smart phone penetration is skyrocketing even in markets like India and China. Any news distribution and publishing model that can be truly Mobile-First would take the mobile phone content market by storm. Diana Pesek, Gazette Communications archive curator: Absolutely correct. Mobile is where the growing market is, I believe. Formatting the content and providing useful apps is key to successful use of the smart phones. For busy people it‘s going to be short sound-bites (headlines re: Twitter etc.) for news and the use of apps that make life easier (connecting users to whatever information they‘re searching for). Jeff Sonderman, metro editor and Internet content director of The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pa.: I think you‘re right. Also, though, we need significant new thought about HOW to do mobile right. It would be a mistake to treat mobile just like the desktop web, same as it was a mistake to treat the web like print when it arrived. And see the whole picture as a company. Newsroom folks will think about mobile news, but the company has to also go after the commercial side with sponsorships and location-aware ads or coupons. Tom Altman, Gazette Communications web developer:
  6. 6. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 6 The only way that you can do this wrong is to not do anything at all. Let‘s try SOMETHING other than talk about it. Count me in, what can I do to help? I agree in principle, but isn‘t it really about just publishing as much as we have as often as we have it. I understand that sounds simple and obvious … but why must we say to ―mobile‖ or to ―web‖ or to a ―carrot‖. It just seems blatantly obvious to me that whenever we are, where ver we are – publish the information we have to any medium we have access to. If we are at the print deadline – publish what we have. If we have a new story about the re-opening of a flood-ravaged business, push it out to the website. If we receive a scanner call about a fire at 5th and Main and we have a person tracking that story – publish it to Twitter and maybe a ―mini-blog‖ section of the website. Who cares what, where or when – just push out the content. The consumer should know what we know, very shortly after we know it, in the medium they choose to receive it in. Kevin Sablan, leader of the Orange County Register’s web task force: Great post, Steve. A few thoughts, some as devil‘s advocate: Use: Many reporters and editors became comfortable with the idea of a web-first approach once they started to really understand and use the web on a daily basis. That might be the first step to a mobile success. Staff must start using their phones for more than phone calls and an occasional text message. Report: Aside from publishing to mobile, journalists need to start using their phones to report. ―Citizen journalists‖ have been doing it for quite some time. Instead of filing a picture from the field and waiting for it to be included in a blog post or article, they have been tweeting pictures, sans-article. Journalists can and should follow that example. Champion: One of the biggest motivators that I‘ve seen is success. If people witness a colleague succeed with mobile (of course, we‘ll need to define success), they will be more likely to climb aboard the mobile train. This is what I‘ve seen with blogging journalists. Security: Many people in news organizations are just plain scared that they might lose their jobs. They‘ve seen friends go ―web first‖ and still lose their jobs. Other colleagues thought blogging would save them, but they were let go too. If journalists fully embrace mobile now, will they have a better chance at surviving the next round of downsizing?
  7. 7. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 7 Steve Buttry: Kevin, I completely agree on use, report and champion, and appreciate those insights. On security, I wouldn‘t pretend that I can predict how corporate executives will decide to make the next round of downsizing. We‘ve seen lots of irrational moves to protect the print product, and those people will throw the wrong people overboard. But they will keep cutting because that strategy won‘t work. So my answer is that mobile-first is scary, but not as scary as not trying it and not getting as deeply involved as possible in it. Brian Cubbison, online editor of the Syracuse Post-Standard: There are some similarities: Jumping from well-established print to the lower-revenue web, jumping from a well-established web site to the much lower usage (for now) of mobile. The challenge will be familiar: How does a well-established news company switch to a low-revenue but disruptive technology? Does it start a separate operation or try to leverage its brand? Can it be the ―two guys in a dorm room‖ with the people and organization it has? Will it wait and buy the two guys when they‘ve got a hit on their hands? Can a local newspaper spend its shrinking money on app developers? Does the local newspaper understand the different consumer cultures of print, web and mobile? Does the advertising staff? If you were mobile-only, how much money would you make? Would it support nothing more than spending money for two app developers in college? And how much mobile reporting will it take to support mobile news? I can kind of understand why someone might say, ―Here we go again. All I want is a revenue-first strategy.‖ Well-established companies are not good at moving to disruptive technologies. They tend to wait until a development is ―big enough to be interesting‖ and by then, someone else owns it. The best companies in their fields often have the hardest time. It sounds depressing. There are excellent mobile news apps, like NPR‘s. Can a local newspaper do as much? Steve Buttry: Brian, mobile-first is critical to any revenue-first approach (the downward trajectory of all ad streams shows we need to move beyond advertising and a mobile device is great for location-based direct commerce). Read my C3 Blueprint to understand the revenue-first framework in which we need to pursue a mobile-first strategy. Brian Cubbison:
  8. 8. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 8 I agree it needs to be done, and it could be an exciting challenge. Sadly, too many newsrooms are worn out and managing the decline. Others might be ready to, but must defer to the headquarters of the chain, where the developers are. Others rely on buying from a vendor. Still, there‘s no substitute for an energized newsroom that knows the community, and vice versa. Andrew Ottoson, sports reporter at the Hillsboro (Kan.) Free Press: You know those services that advertise ―Text JOKE to 55555″ and charge you a quarter to deliver a joke from a database? Why not ―Text NEWS to 55555….‖? Andria Krewson, freelance journalist: Great stuff. Cubbison‘s questions get to the heart of the problem for most existing newsrooms. People have relationships with their phones. Thinking mobile first means going beyond pushing information to those phones and responding to a tweet if you‘re not busy. Phone software like Foursquare enables people to gather and share information, and rewards them emotionally for doing so. Current newsroom culture plus community skepticism make it hard for legacy news organizations to embrace that change. Some news organizations might be in a position to get IT people to build mobile apps, but those are few: NYT, and then who else? So what to do: Think about what newsrooms produce that could be valuable to those two guys (or gals) in a dorm room working on augmented reality or games like Foursquare. What archives, lists, maps, photos, stories or ads could be traded for tech development, links or ad positions? What historic photos can be tagged and traded with the makers of augmented reality apps, so a person can stand on a corner and use their phone to see how the corner looked 50 years ago? How do you strike a deal right now? To those still in newsrooms or out selling ads: Embrace clear tagging of everything: bylines, datelines, maps, photos, lists and ads, with the understanding that the content can be sold or traded to other companies. Steve Buttry‘s absolutely right about fighting the last war. Maybe newsrooms could make allies of those tech folks in a dorm room instead of fighting another one. Elaine:
  9. 9. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 9 Every newspaper should immediately secure at least one branded shortcode (e.g., ―CRGAZ‖ for Cedar Rapids Gazette). These will become a critical point of interaction for both news and commercial purposes. And of course we‘re all storing cell phone numbers in our consumer CRM system, right? Matylda Czarnecka, New York University graduate student: I agree that shortcodes are still relevant right now. However, vanity shortcodes are expensive (a steep monthly fee plus paying per message sent out adds up) and limited (ever try replying to a tweet via mobile? You have to manually type the ―@someone‖ for it to know it‘s a reply. Ditto for news signups – make one typo and the message bounces). The character limit is restrictive also. I can‘t say for sure what might replace shortcodes, but I can‘t imagine a technology wi th so many limitations dominating the market long-term. Brian Cubbison: A live EveryBlock is something to shoot for if you have the tech chops. Designers should understand that mobile includes many platforms: Twitter-like services, standard web pages that are reachable by smartphone browsers, web pages that are optimized for the iPhone and others, apps that are really optimized for a certain phone, plus formatting for e-readers. Reporters and editors should understand that just as a web site is not necessarily the best way to read a 12-part series, a smartphone is not the best way to read a 20-inch story. A different kind of news — location-based updates — thrives on mobile. Advertising staff should see advertising as ―news for customers.‖ Especially, mobile is a chance to facilitate intent. Most advertising interrupts us while we‘re trying to do something else. Google‘s genius, even if they didn‘t realize it at the time, is in serving ads that facilitate your intent. Search for snowblowers, and Google serves ads that facilitate your intent to buy one. Mobile ads can facilitate your intent to go out to eat, among many other things. Matylda Czarnecka: Context is a another huge ingredient in mobile. Mobile is different from the web in part because it‘s always with us. While context could play a role in web experience via IP address, it tends to be less significant since we usually use different machines at home and at work.
  10. 10. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 10 We all have different informational needs depending on where we are at the moment. A restaurant coupon might be handy around lunchtime near the office but irrelevant near a school in the afternoon. We can already customize our notification settings for different contexts (vibrate in pocket, silent during a meeting, different ringtones for friends versus clients). Mobile apps should be equally sensitive to context and deliver info, coupons, news, etc. that takes time and place into account. The trick is finding a way to let it learn from your habits so it gets better at anticipating and fulfilling needs you didn‘t know you had. Contextual mobile alerts would recognize that you stopped by a grocery store to pick up zucchini but alert you that swinging by the greeting cards aisle might be a good idea since your aunt‘s birthday is coming up soon. Tim Bates, president of CST Research: The right mobile program makes a newspaper money. This technology allows newspapers to utilize their existing sales team, advertising expertise and operational resources to generate new revenue stream. All the pieces are there today to do this. Furthermore, link the right mobile location-base service with a newspaper‘s sales and marketing resources and the company can lock up their local mobile ad market. Add into this mix an integrated digital media advertising and delivery service and you have the makings of a really powerful, money generating digital ad service that delivers across many digital platforms. But the window is closing fast on this opportunity. Steve Buttry: A Facebook friend asked about this post: ―Has there been much research on how iPhones are used for news? Do people use them as a daily source of news? Do they just read whatever links people send to them? Or do they just kinda scan CNN or favorite news sites once in a while when they have downtime? It‘d be an interesting challenge to package a classic five-part investigative news series for a mobile platform.‖ I replied: ―I don‘t know all the research that mig ht have been done. But I know when I sit around an airport lounge, I see lots more people looking into phones than looking into laptops or newspapers (or talking on phones). I don‘t know that the classic five -part investigative news series would get the same readership on a mobile platform, but it‘s not getting the same readership in print either. On the other hand, Amazon has a Kindle app that people are using to read books. I would like to see someone try (please point me in the direction, if they have) that series as an iPhone app: interactive graphics, video, maps and audio. Yeah, some text that‘s formatted for the small screen.‖ Steve Woodward, CEO of NozzlMedia:
  11. 11. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 11 Great post, Steve. I‘m a 30-year newspaper veteran who left newspapers last year to help develop a mobile news company. I‘ve been talking with newspaper editors about our mobile web app, which will be able to stream news, public records, social media and ads to smartphones. Users can then filter the real-time stream according to keywords and location. What‘s fascinating is that when I talk about the app with editors, one of the first questions I get is: ―Can you put that on our web site?‖ Since it‘s a mobile web app rather than a native smartphone app, the answer is, in so many words: ―Sure, if you want to embed our mobile phone on your web site, we can do it.‖ The result: I now have a real-time web widget to sell along with our mobile app. The apparent lesson: If your customers are always fighting the last war, don‘t try to sell them supplies for the next war.
  12. 12. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 12 News companies need to help local businesses pursue mobile opportunities August 31, 2009 by Steve Buttry When I try out a new app for my iPhone, I think of This actually was the first of my opportunities the news business missed years posts about pursuing a mobile ago. More importantly, I think of opportunities we strategy. But in this context, I think need to pursue today. it works best coming second. Many years ago, before the development of the World Wide Web, I was an editor at the Kansas City Star. Some critics fault newspapers for failing to anticipate the need to move into the digital age, but I remember a project called StarText. We were planning to deliver the next day‘s news stories electronically to subscribers the night before. The stories were just in text and you needed a modem to receive them and few people had modems then. But we were making our first awkward moves into digital delivery of news. I didn‘t have a modem on my home computer then, though I had been thinking about getting one. But I wasn‘t sure how I would install it in my computer (home computers then had hard drives we would regard today as massive, and nothing as simple as plugging in a flash drive). And I wasn‘t sure I could figure out how to use it. Home computers then were somewhat like smart phones now: Lots of people had one and knew how to use it for a few essential functions, but many users weren‘t yet using all of the features. At a meeting of managers making plans for StarText, I suggested that we follow the cable-television model, selling modems to customers, amortizing the devices over their bills for the basic service and sending people out to customers‘ homes to install the devices and show them how to use them. Think how slowly the cable market would have grown if we had to buy the equipment and hook it up ourselves; cable‘s remarkable growth came before people became used to hooking VCR‘s and DVD players to their televisions. Supplying and installing equipment helped cable grow and would have helped StarText grow. And, of course, cell-phone companies roll your phone purchase in with the plan for the service. My colleagues and bosses at the Star dismissed the suggestion (clearly I did not argue for it persuasively, so I should bear some blame for any failing I see here). Part of the reason the Star didn‘t seriously consider my suggestion, I‘m sure, was that it would
  13. 13. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 13 have taken a considerable investment in equipment and people to provide that service, while simply delivering our text, which was already digital, was relatively cheap. But when you think about it, our company already made a huge investment in trucks and people to deliver the print edition. In our comfortable traditional model, we recognized that we would have a much bigger audience for our news and advertisements if we developed a system to deliver our content to homes in a timely fashion. And we financed it by charging the consumer for the cost of production and delivery (as I‘ve noted before, we didn‘t charge them the cost of producing the content; that was always supported by advertising). We thought we were in the newspaper business, but we went into the transportation business because we saw the value in controlling newspaper delivery. A few years later, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy, I was working at the Omaha World-Herald and suggested that we should become an Internet service provider, helping people get access not only to our digital content, but to the rest of the digital world. Instead, our company moved online slowly and grudgingly. Our industry probably made another mistake (but I can‘t claim to have seen this one in advance) by failing to develop mobile technology. If a newspaper company had developed the iPhone or BlackBerry, can you imagine how differently that company would produce content, generate revenue and use technology today? I say this not to continue the discussion of the many sins of newspapers in the early days of the Internet. (Alan Mutter, Howard Owens, Steve Yelvington, Jeff Jarvis and I have all written our own views of the Original Sin of newspapers in the Internet age. I‘m sure the various ministers in my family would prefer that I stop using this metaphor anyway. My wife, Mimi, has grown weary of the Original Sin discussion, as has college student Joey Baker, who tweeted, ―Newspapers‘ original sin isn‘t nearly as interesting as the current one: not letting go of the past.‖) Joey, business director for CoPress, has an excellent point. And, despite my long lead-in about another sin from the past, this post is about opportunities we need to seize today. What I was talking about in that distant StarText past was expanding our view of our core business and venturing into a supporting business, to help customers use our core business more easily and to explore the possibilities of the supporting business. That was always part of newspapers‘ approach to our business. In addition to getting into the transportation business to deliver newspapers, we got into the advertising design business so we could sell more ads. Our core advertising business was selli ng space in the newspaper. But if a potential customer didn‘t have the skills (or an agency) to prepare an ad, we had designers on staff to prepare ads for the customer (still do).
  14. 14. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 14 Sometimes we would prepare ―spec‖ ads for the sales pitch, knowing that seeing the actual ad might help close the deal. We need to take the same approach to the biggest opportunity facing us right now: helping community businesses connect with customers using mobile technology. At dinner in Chicago the other night, Mark Potts, who‘s using way more iPhone applications than I am, showed off several apps to Mimi and me and we‘ve each added a few. We know that we would get even more use out o f our phones if we someone would show us all the right apps for our needs, interests and lifestyle. Helping local businesses serve that growing mobile audience may be the most urgent opportunity that local media companies face today. We are spending lots of energy and money trying to fix the errors we have made on our web sites, mistakes that Mutter, Owens, Yelvington, Jarvis and I have debated at length. But I suspect all five of us could agree (maybe just four; we‘re a contrary lot) that mobile technology presents more opportunities (and threats) now than finally getting it right on the web. Edward Miller tweeted this weekend that a New York Times story about cell-phone coupons was more evidence that the ―newspaper business model is dead.‖ Per haps, I thought, but why can‘t a news media company provide that service for businesses in the community? Yes, businesses can send coupoons directly to consumers, costing us our business delivering coupons with the newspaper. But if we pursue this opportunity correctly, we can offer many businesses two good reasons to use our digital coupon- delivery service: We should be able to reach a larger audience than most businesses in the community (and we can know which people have interests that make them the best targets for particular coupons and other services). The business wants to spend its time and energy doing what it‘s good at, whether that‘s making pizzas, landscaping or repairing cars. Just as many businesses outsource essential work such as payroll and janitorial services, the community business that can design and deliver coupons to cell phones will provide a valuable service that other businesses will gladly outsource. I will confess that I did not see this opportunity as quickly as I should have. In looking back through my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection, I am disappointed that I didn‘t stress mobile opportunities more often and in more detail. I am trying to correct that error now. It‘s too late for newspaper companies to be early in the business of developing mobile applications. More than 110,000 apps have already been developed for the iPhone. But
  15. 15. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 15 I don‘t think this opportunity has passed us by. The fact is that most of the local businesses that represent the future for local media are even further behind in the mobile world than we are. They know how to use their own phones, but they are as unsure about how to use them for business as I was about using a modem back in 1990. We need to gain expertise, through hiring and/or training, in developing apps for iPhones, BlackBerries, Droids, Pres and whatever mobile device comes next. We need to devise ways to help local businesses sell their products and services to people on the move. We need to teach local businesses how to connect with people who are always connected. We need to develop mobile formats for news content, community information, databases, calendars, advertising and other services for users and for businesses. Joey Baker is right. We spend too much time reliving the mistakes we‘ve made in the past. Let‘s not make mobile one of them.
  16. 16. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 16 How news organizations need to change to pursue a mobile-first strategy December 8, 2009 by Steve Buttry I used to watch the crowds in airport lounges when I traveled, studying how people read newspapers. Even with circulation declining, you could see people reading newspapers intently. Especially after 2001, people would have plenty of time to read while waiting for flights, and newsstands stocked a variety of papers to choose from. Look around an airport lounge now. You‘ll see more people looking into their phones than holding newspapers. I get disgusted as people in news media companies fret over trying to squeeze some money out of Google or trying to charge for the privilege of reading our content. Whatever the merits of those arguments, they are essentially pleas to slow time down. But when I see people in the airport lounge, I know time is only accelerating with each tap of their thumbs. My concern over this acceleration pushed me last month to call for news companies to pursue a mobile-first strategy. I was pleased with how many people agreed with my call, either in blog comments, tweets or their own blog posts. New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen wasn‘t satisfied, though. He called for me to ―describe what a ‗mobile first‘ newsroom would do differently.‖ That‘s what I‘m trying to do here, start the difficult but important job of answering the question: How do we need to work differently (not just in the newsroom, Jay) to command the attention of those people reading and tapping small screens? In a different context (not addressing me or the mobile-first strategy), Jeff Jarvis issued a similar call to ―futureshockers‖ this week: What would be helpful is to see you … flesh out your own visions for a sustainable future of journalism starting TODAY. I‘ll try to answer Jay‘s question and Jeff‘s challenge on six levels: journalists, designers, technology, sales, marketing and executives. A successful mobile-first strategy will require effective work by all these people (and probably more; please feel welcome to add an area, or to expand on any of my suggestions here). Both men called for detail, so this post will be long, though it won‘t provide enough depth in some areas (I invite you to help me add to the depth).
  17. 17. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 17 The mobile-first strategy needs to be move beyond advertising and embrace new relationships with the community, as described in my blueprint for the Complete Community Connection. That principle is fundamental to mobile-first success. We can‘t simply transfer our failing business model onto mobile platforms. As with web operations, a crucial question will be whether mobile opportunities should be the responsibility of a separate operation focused exclusively on mobile or whether the full operation needs to share mobile responsibilities. My answer is that if news companies want to succeed in pursuing mobile opportunities, we need to make this success the top priority and responsibility throughout the company. News companies have not succeeded in doing that with the web and may not be able to do that with mobile either. Certainly some of the companies disrupting us will be focused exclusively on mobile (or mobile and web) opportunities, and some news companies might succeed with small mobile-only operations. I recognize the cultural obstacles will be huge, but I believe the greatest opportunity for success lies in converting an entire existing news operation to a mobile-first strategy, so that is what I will address here. If you are either a mobile- focused startup or a news company trying to succeed with a mobile SWAT team, some of the suggestions here may apply, with adaptation to your situation. I should also humbly acknowledge here that the best I can do is point a direction and share some ideas. The real answers to Jay‘s question will come from the people pursuing mobile opportunities and learning from their successes and mistakes. Here is my effort to point in that direction. Journalists The traditional job titles of editors, reporters and photographers are painfully out of date, and the new titles seem inadequate, so I‘m just calling them all journalists for purposes of this discussion. Journalists will need to change how they gather, process and distribute information. Every journalist must quickly get serious and fluent with metadata, data about data (think of the story behind the story). This will feel scary and unreasonable at first. Even the term is a bit scary. But reporters and photographers have always gathered more information than we shared with readers. We often have to tell editors about a story or photo, to help editors understand the context and connections, so they can understand where and how to play a story. That‘s sort of what metadata does; it tells the computer, or the phone, about the story (or photo, video or piece of information), so the mobile device knows what to give the user when and where. Think of metadata as context.
  18. 18. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 18 Location. Where has always been a journalism fundamental, the fourth of the five W‘s. Well, in the mobile-first world, it might become the first W. In gathering content of any kind, we need to provide specific location metadata wherever location is relevant. Our technology staffs will need to automate this as much as possible, when journalists are sending text or images from a location, their p hones or laptops should be GPS-enabled to provide the location. But journalists need to be able to supplement and override automatic location information. Many events and stories have more than one location, and journalists don‘t always have access to relevant locations. So a journalist should be able to quickly and easily supply locations not automatically generated and correct the automatic locations. The data and technology specialists will need to develop ways to use this location in multiple ways. We need to be able to convert addresses automatically to GPS coordinates, because sometimes content gatherers will have an address but will not be at the location physically, so their phones cannot supply GPS data. The presentation needs to let people access information by proximity to their physical location or by other meaningful ways such as a route, a neighborhood, a city or political boundaries such as school districts, wards or legislative districts. I just enabled geotagging on my Twitter account through Tweetie, so every tweet I send on my iPhone through Tweetie bears a map that other users of clients such as Tweetie and Tweetdeck can see. While it was an amusing novelty to see tweets pinpointing me while traveling in Russia, the value will grow rapidly as we assemble news, information and commercial opportunities from all around town. We can only begin to imagine the possible uses of location-specific information. Think back to your first cell phone. You could see that it gave you mobility, but you didn‘t imagine all the ways you are using it today. Tagging. Where isn‘t the only W we need to provide in the metadata. We need to tag content efficiently with the other relevant W‘s: Who is pictured in this photo or video? What is happening? When did it happen? Sometimes why or how or ho w much will need to be in the tags as well, and some of those questions will need to be answered many times, for each person in a story, video or database or for each date in a narrative story. Efficient tagging is going to require effective semantic tools as well as disciplined use of the tools. Tagging will help us provide relevant content for users and will help us link to more relevant content. We can‘t afford to leave tagging to the whims of individual journalists or to the arbitrary reading of software. We need to train the journalists to use the software (and keep improving the software).
  19. 19. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 19 I saw a blog post a while back about a politician who had been ―testing the waters‖ for the 2012 presidential election. A semantic program posted four links with the post: One was appropriate, about the politician in the blog post. Another was about a different candidate testing the waters in 2007 for the 2008 caucuses. A third was about a different politician testing the waters for the 2010 Iowa gubernatorial race. A fourth was about the University of Iowa Hydrology Lab actually testing water. Usually a good semantic program will do better than that in suggesting links or tags. We need to develop (or work with vendors who are already developing) better software to analyze content and suggest tags more accurately. We need to train journalists to check and correct inappropriate tags and links. We need to train journalists to understand what sort of information needs tags, so they can quickly read and correct or approve the suggested tags and add any other tags needed. Just as journalists learned to use AP style widely, we can and should expect them to follow a uniform style in tagging content. These tags will help the mobile-first operation quickly provide content that answers the questions and addresses the needs of the user. Investigative. Newspaper journalists tend to equate investigative journalism with long text stories, so at first blush it might seem that a mobile-first strategy would downplay or eliminate investigative reporting. But effective watchdog reporting deepens a news organization‘s bond with a community and it must be part of the mobile-first strategy. I hope that Investigative Reporters and Editors will be a strong voice in taking advantage of mobile technology for investigative journalism, just as it has with teaching journalists to analyze data and to use the web as a tool both for gathering and distributing investigative journalism. As traditional financial models for news media have been failing, some of the most encouraging business-model innovation has been in the area of investigative reporting, including the community funding of Spot.us and the philanthropic models of ProPublica and the Center for Investigative Reporting . I am confident investigative reporting organizations will lead the way on mobile-focused journalism as well. Some ways that I think mobile-first strategy might shape investigative reporting: Crowdsourcing holds great potential for investigative reporting, as some journalists are already demonstrating. A news organization that effectively engages its community on mobile devices will have a valuable crowd enthusiastic about contributing to investigative efforts. Imagine how quickly and effectively a community linked through a mobile-first journalism operation could identify election-day voting problems.
  20. 20. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 20 Emails, texts and tweets, the favored short communication forms of the mobile world, can give headlines and summaries of investigative projects, with links to full-text and video accounts or promotion for applications that users can dig into on their phones, on computers with bigger screens, on the printed page or television. Increasingly video, audio and databases need to be part of the presentation of investigative projects. These can be presented effectively on mobile devices and should be designed primarily for the small screen. Don‘t rule out the possibility that people will read long text on the small screen if you engage them effectively with well-presented content. Amazon has a Kindle iPhone app for people to use for reading books on their phones. I do expect long-form writing to continue to be part of mobile-first journalism. Newspaper staffs spend lots of time on the print (and sometimes web) presentation of an investigative project. A mobile-first operation might sacrifice some of the print or web package because the first presentation priorit y will be developing a killer mobile app for the project. Data. Some of the best innovation of web-focused journalism has been the widespread and creative use of interactive databases, which I detailed in my Newspaper Next report, Be the Ans wer. Databases are an effective tool for delivering location-specific information and other answers that are valuable for mobile users. News organizations need to maintain (or strengthen) their commitment to development of interactive databases and make mobile presentation a top priority in design of the databases. One of the best-known journalism databases, EveryBlock, has developed an iPhone application. Development of applications to easily and quickly deliver answers for mobile users needs to be an essential step in developing interactive databases. News organizations need to support the development of the skills and tools for developing effective databases for mobile use. Archives. Newsrooms maintain extensive archives primarily to serve our staffs. Most archives available to the public are usable by search and for pay (pay that brings in only a trickle of revenue). A mobile-first organization will want to offer appropriate archived information relevant to your location. The information might be free, supported by businesses who want to reach customers at that location, interested in that topic. Effective use of archives for a mobile-first organization will require tending the metadata of content you produce and collect. I‘m sure I don‘t know all that we need to do to make full use of our archives, but some possibilities:
  21. 21. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 21 We need to add metadata to content gathered from the public. We may do this by a combination of prompts to help contributors submit accurate metadata and staff supplementation of the metadata from contributors. We might want to add appropriate metadata for mobile -first use to content the organization has created prior to the adoption of mobile-first metadata for new content. For instance, in Cedar Rapids, we might decide that information about how a certain location was affected by the 2008 flood might be valuable to provide, so we would add location metadata, where needed and possible, to content in our archives relating to the flood. Or an organization might decide topic pages on community landmarks or important community issues would be helpful to the mobile audience, so the staff would need to add metadata to archived content on that topic. Social media. I have blogged and taught extensively about social media‘s impact on journalism. I see social media overlapping with the mobile-first strategy, but not duplicating. Many people engage with social media primarily on their laptop or desktop computers, so a social-media strategy needs to be focused more on how to engage through social tools, regardless of which devices people use. However, lots of people use their phones to tweet or check their Facebook pages or watch YouTube videos, so a mobile-first strategy needs to consider at every step how to use social media. Especially as Foursquare and other location-based platforms grow, and as Twitter and Facebook start adding location metadata, any location-based service needs to aggregate social content for that location. EveryBlock shows the value of aggregating Flickr photographs and videos by location. That‘s just the start of how a mobile -first strategy will use social media. Training. Newsroom training has taken a severe hit in the cutbacks of the last few years. We can‘t succeed in shifting to mobile-first strategy without heavy training in a variety of areas, both concepts such as how journalists need to think differently in a mobile-first operation and specific skills such as tagging and using metadata. (I cover training specifically in relation to journalism, but we could add a similar paragraph under each of these areas.) Design In a mobile-first operation, design may be both a journalism function and a technology function, or it might be a separate area of the operation, combining both skills. However you organize, you need to make mobile service the priority of everyone involved in design.
  22. 22. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 22 Shifting resources. Newspapers spend lots of staff time designing the print edition, and spent lots of money and time over the past few decades redesigning print editions. Considerable but less time and money has been spent redesigning web sites. None of that investment has changed the fact that newspaper circulation is declining rapidly and that most newspaper sites provide frustrating user experiences. While I personally appreciate a strong newspaper design and valued that skill (partly because I lacked it) as an editor, we need to minimize staff and consultant time spent designing the daily newspaper. Other than section fronts, newspaper pages should be templated and even automated as much as possible, so copy editors can flow content into them with minimal time spent on design. This will make the paper marginally less attractive, but it will have far less negative impact on performance of the print product than the positive impact of all those snappy redesigns on which newspapers spent millions of dollars in staff and consultant time. Print customers pay primarily for content, selection and convenience, which can be provided in a format, still allowing for news judgment, and reserving design flair on the covers. (Of course, when big news breaks, you still blow up the templates for dramatic headlines and photo packages.) Some staff design time will be required to auto mate formats of inside pages, but that will be a wise investment of time, if it saves the daily cost of print design. If this is a difficult shift in priorities to imagine, try to remember the last time you spent a lot of time and money to make dramatic improvements in the presentation of your newspaper: Chances are that you received a lot of complaints from readers, even if you thought the redesign was a stunning improvement. Spend those resources instead on delivering a better experience for the mobile user. Web design has already been formatted pretty tightly in many operations, and most news web sites do need improvements in navigation and design. A web-first operation would spend considerable staff time in improving web design. A mobile-first operation recognizes that the best design for the larger screen of a laptop or desktop computer isn‘t the best design for an iPod or cell phone. You need to both minimize staff time spent in web design, to free resources for mobile design, and keep mobile web consumption in mind when you do spend staff resources on web design (for instance, simpler display and larger headlines and body type will make for easier mobile web use). While vastly better print design delivers only a marginally better user experience (if at all), design is critical to the mobile user experience. Type that is too small or an application that loads slowly or is confusing to use can doom a mobile project. But a ―killer app‖ can develop viral momentum as users talk, tweet and blog their delight. The
  23. 23. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 23 mobile-first operation needs designers with visual and technical skills to design new products and to carry out the daily execution of existing products. Staff design resources need to be shifted to ensure top priority for mobile design. Sometimes we will want to do multiple versions of content. For instance, we might change text size on a video clip so the TV and web versions are the right size for those screens but the mobile version has bigger type that is easier to read on the small screen. But in a mobile-first operation, if you can take the time to make only one version, you make the font large enough for the mobile screen and let web and TV users get used to larger text. Technology The information technology staff of a news operation faces multiple, constant and often conflicting demands from throughout the operation. Priorities need to be set to ensure that technology experts, whether part of a central IT staff or assigned to a department such as a newsroom, have the training and time to help other departments execute an effective mobile-first strategy. Development. The web-first operation (or even a print-centric operation with a web site) can make constant demands on web developers. This staff resource needs to shift heavily into mobile development. To the extent that you still commit staff time to web development, you need the training and priorities to ensure that all products developed for the web provide a strong user experience for mobile web use. Applications. A news operation needs staff developers who can quickly and effectively develop mobile applications. The evolution of mobile devices will dictate whether you can develop effective applications that work on multiple devices or whether you have to develop separate apps for iPhones, Droids, BlackBerries and other products. But applications appear likely to become the primary platform for content and commerce in the mobile world, so they need to become a high priority for the mobile -first operation. Apps will be important in several ways. Yo u will use apps to deliver content. For instance, you might have apps for specific parts of your routine content, such as a calendar app, obituaries app, local sports team app or business directory app. Or you may develop apps for an investigative project, a new interactive database or for coverage of a big event (for instance, Gazette Communications might develop an Orange Bowl app, providing access to a variety of content about the Hawkeyes‘ participation in the Orange Bowl). Don‘t think of apps just as devices for delivery of your content. Apps should become a revenue source, too. Just as newspaper and television companies he lp business
  24. 24. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 24 customers produce advertisements for their products, a mobile-first organization is going to help business customers develop mobile apps to promote their businesses and sell their products and services. Many of the aspects of the mobile-first approach will require shifting resources from current print, broadcast or web operations to mobile operations. But development and deployment of commercial applications will produce revenue to support eventual expansion of mobile operations. Development of commercial applications will need to stress applications whose content can be updated easily by merchants. For instance, if a local pizza parlor has an application for ordering pizzas for pickup or delivery, the operator should be able to update prices or add new ingredients or menu items easily from an office computer, so that applications will update automatically when a user next opens the pizza application. Sales Sales staffs need to listen to consumers and businesses and learn how to help businesses serve the mobile audience. In the early stages of a mobile-first organization, sales efforts will be focused heavily on educating and training business customers on mobile opportunities and our organization‘s role in connecting businesses in our community with mobile customers. Traditional advertising was intrusive and often unwelcome. You open your newspaper to continue reading a page-one story and photos of women in bras attempted to catch your eye about the lingerie sale at the local department store. Or you tune in the evening newscast and ads for local car dealers shout at you between the news reports. We still need to sell those ads because they deliver value for businesses in traditional ways and because they are the revenue streams that keep us operating today. But mobile revenue will keep us operating tomorrow and we need to learn how to help businesses pursue mobile opportunities. Mobile commercial content will be convenient and responsive, rather than intrusive. Search advertising provides the answer that the pote ntial customer was seeking. Location-based advertising should not be intrusive or people will devise ways to turn it off. Our community apps and sites need to provide location-based tabs such as ―shop nearby,‖ ―dine nearby‖ or ―nearby entertainment.‖ The user can ignore those tabs if she knows where she wants to go and just wants information on parking, for instance. But a user who clicks on such a tab welcomes our help (and the help of businesses paying us for access to these customers). As described in the C3 revenue approach, we need to be sure we don‘t fall into the trap of focusing just on advertising. Some of the best mobile opportunities will go much deeper than simply delivering business messages to an audience. We may make the
  25. 25. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 25 sale, using a customer‘s credit card (or possibly an account with us that taps into a credit card, checking account or prepaid balance). We may make a reservation or enroll a user in a class or a business‘s preferred customers club. We may send the business an inquiry from the customer. We also need to be careful not to use just a single mobile tool, such as a mobile web site or iPhone application. Some businesses may want to sponsor breaking news alerts, reaching the text-message audience with a link to the company‘s web site or to its enhanced listing in our business directory. Some ma y want to sponsor a podcast or an email newsletter, reaching people wherever they access email. Sales staff will need training in how mobile opportunities can work and how to teach a local business to pursue those opportunities. While we need to be willing to invest heavy sales staff time in landing accounts and in training businesses to use their apps, we also need to design self-serve mobile accounts that the business customer can change and update after we get them launched, as describe in the pizza example in the technology section. We need to develop pricing that helps businesses use our mobile services. We can‘t discount services that we know will be valuable. We need an affordable base rate, with most of our pay based on performance as we deliver for our business customers. For instance, in the pizza example, we need to charge a reasonable fee for development of the app. But most of our revenue will come from pizza orders (of course the app needs to record orders accurately for both us and the business customer). We may collect the revenue ourselves from customers‘ debit and credit cards, taking our cut before we pass most of it along to the pizza parlor. Or the merchant may collect the money (in this example, we might want to leave an option of paying cash) and we invoice for our fee. Or we may use a third party such as PayPal to handle the transaction. More and more, we need to sell customers into a full range of services. We sell them an enhanced listing in the business directory, so we can connect them with customers searching for the services they offer. We help them determine the best way to use our services to move the customer toward the transaction or to actually make the sale. We sell them location-based premium listings. We develop an app for them and help them deliver the app to the phones (or other devices) of the right customers. Yes, web, print and broadcast advertising will be part of the package for some customers, too, but we can‘t just call on our usual suspects. Location-based advertising will appeal to some merchants who haven‘t been interested in reaching the full community through a newspaper or TV ad, but absolutely want to reach the person who‘s nearby at lunch time.
  26. 26. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 26 Marketing News companies know how to market newspapers and newscas ts. We shouldn‘t stop marketing those products and our web sites, but the mobile-first organization will have a mobile-first marketing department. The community knows about the legacy products and will continue to find them with a reduced marketing effort. We will need an aggressive (and vastly different) marketing effort to tell the community about all the ways we serve your mobile audience. The effective marketing strategy needs at least a two-pronged approach: sophisticated and witty to alert the savvy mobile customer to our services and simple and educational to teach the new or confused mobile customer how many jobs we can help her with. Of course, print and TV ads will still be a part of the marketing strategy (Apple‘s ―there‘s an app for that‖ ads and Verizon‘s ―there‘s a map for that‖ ads have helped both companies pitch their mobile services effectively). We need to work aggressively in sales channels to get our apps onto people‘s phones. Obviously we need to use iPhone‘s App Store. We also need to connect with local retailers selling phones and other mobile devices, perhaps offering free apps that introduce and promote our apps or offering to load our package of apps on each phone sold (perhaps as part of a deal that includes advertising for the retailer). We can offer classes in the community on how to use our location-based services and our applications. We might consider cross-promoting: Get a new iPhone with all our mobile apps with a full-year newspaper subscription. Other departments I am sure that I haven‘t described all the ways that a legacy news organization needs to embrace a mobile-first strategy. The finance department needs to work with sales on the pricing issues I discussed. The human resources and finance departments needs to update compensation to include incentives for achieving mobile goals. Human resources also needs to work on training and recruiting issues. The details will vary with each organization and its structure and strategy. Executiv es Top executives of news organizations – CEOs, publishers and general managers – need to lead the way to a mobile-first future. If you want to launch a mobile-first SWAT team but not change the whole organization, then the top executive may not need to do
  27. 27. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 27 much more than provide resources and direction. But if you want to transform a legacy media operation into a mobile-first company, executives need to lead the way aggressively, firmly and consistently. Our default settings are powerful and the whole company or individual departments will veer back to our print-broadcast-web roots if the top bosses are not demanding and vigilant. The bosses need to set the example by using and mastering mobile apps for their personal use and by consuming our products and rival products on their mobile devices (and talking with managers and staff about how they use them and the lessons they learn). The top bosses need to spend their most time and attention on pursuing mobile opportunities. You can say mobile is important, but if you spend your time on print, broadcast or web issues and hold feet to the fire in those areas, managers and staff will see. They will know by your actions whether mobile first is a wish to achieve in spare time or a priority for all to embrace. Unless you‘re loaded with cash (and who is these days?), you can‘t pursue a mobile- first strategy without risk. Traditional media such as print and broadcast provide the revenue that supports your company. The inclination will be strong to try to pursue a mobile strategy on the side, while you protect those core operations. Top executives need to acknowledge the short-term risk of shifting resources away from those core revenue streams and also to reassure managers, staff and shareholders that the long - term risk of timidly pursuing mobile opportunities is far greater. The top executives need to coach all managers in pursuit of a mobile-first strategy. This means tolerance of mistakes and risks in pursuit of mobile opportunities but no patience for protection of the old priorities. If the top executives preach mobile-first and practice mobile-whenever, whenever will win. Staffing A mobile-first operation will need different skills and a different outlook from an organization focused on established pursuits such as print, broadcast and web. Through a combination of training and recruiting, we need to move quickly to the right staff for a mobile-first organization. I have spent enough time in the training business and learned enough new skills and new thinking myself to know that committed staff members can learn the skills and outlook that a mobile-first organization needs. The more we can help staff members transform, the more we will benefit from their other skills and their community knowledge.
  28. 28. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 28 But some staff members will be unable or unwilling to make such a transition. And we will need to hire some people for skills so specialized or advanced that we can‘t reasonably expect staff members to reach the necessary level fast enough. Examples to come In coming posts, I will provide some examples of how a mobile-first operation might work, both from the company and consumer perspectives. For now, I call your attention to an example published in May by Xark! blogger Dan Conover (the post has a long lead-in that I like, but it‘s not why I‘m calling this to your attention; the example starts with the subhead, ―From documents to data structures‖). While he wasn‘t writing specifically about mobile-first strategy, Dan gives a great example of how mobile-first journalists would cover a fire. Recovering Journalist blogger Mark Potts also provides an instructive example, with his critique of how the Washington Post, a renowned journalism institution, fails in its mobile operations (again, the example follows a lead-in, in this case, praising my call for a mobile-first strategy). Let’s get started In the coming weeks, I will be discussing this approach with my colleagues at Gazette Communications. CEO Chuck Peters has praised the mobile-first approach, and I hope we can start making some significant steps in this direction. I hope your organization starts doing the same thing. As we make progress (or encounter setbacks) here, I will share the story on this blog. I hope others will similarly share the stories of your efforts to pursue mobile strategies. As we proceed, we need to remember the ―good enough‖ principle of disruptive innovation that Harvard business professor Clayton Christensen taught in theNewspaper Next project. An innovation doesn‘t have to be perfect to launch; in fact the cost of pursuing perfection can doom a project to failure. ―Good enough‖ performance along traditional lines is sufficient for launch, if it is providing a distinct advantage over existing products in some new approach. The cell phone is a perfect example. One of the first times I used a cell phone to dictate a news story was in 1995 in Herington, Kan., as authorities were searching the home of Terry Nichols, Timothy McVeigh‘s accomplice in the Oklahoma City bombing. The phone was huge. It dropped the signal twice during the call and I had to call the city desk back. I pretty much had to shout to be heard. And the battery was about to die (as it almost always was, because it didn‘t hold its charge very long). By every respect that I would have measured the performance of the phone back in the office on my desk, this cell phone was just barely good enough. But the phone wasn‘t back in the office on my
  29. 29. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 29 desk. It allowed me to dictate from the sidewalk across the street from Nichols‘ home as I watched the search. (I think Herington probably had two pay phones and 100 reporters that day; fighting for time on a pay phone to dictate would have been a nightmare.) I knew reporting would never be the same. Now I carry an iPhone that I use to take pictures and post them to my Flickr page while traveling in Russia or to text tweets to my Twitter feed. And if my Siberian host tells me it‘s minus-23, I can use my ―Units‖ app to convert from Celsius and comfort myself that it‘s only minus-9 Fahrenheit. That good-enough start didn‘t mean we were settling for mediocre. It meant we were getting started on a new road to excellence I couldn‘t even imagine then. That‘s what we need to do now with mobile -first strategy. Comments Mark Potts, CEO of GrowthSpur: Another great post, Steve, on this important topic. And since I criticized The Washington Post‘s mobile strategy in my recent post, I‘ll pile on with another anecdote from their disappointing mobile service: The Post alert service sent out texts today about the FBI requesting an independent review of its actions leading up to the Ft. Hood shootings (anything but urgent) and about the Senate rejecting an abortion amendment to the healthcare bill (procedural news, at best)–but was utterly silent about a gunman firing shots at a local community college campus (urgent and local). Flabbergasting. It‘s so incredibly critical for news organizations to get this right. News is about immediacy and location, and mobile devices are about immediacy and location. It‘s a perfect match–but so far, in too many instances, it‘s a nearly perfect mismatch. Ed Bice: Excellent post. We are cycling lots of brain cells thinking about meta -data and tagging. I agree that the journalist of the future will be working as much with the meta -data as with content. So, while the CEOs are surfing their mobile devices, the CTOs should be working on tools that help reporters surround their stories with the sort of structured meta -data that will make their content sing. Structured tagging tools like http://swiftapp.org will be the printing presses that drive these next gen journos.
  30. 30. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 30 Thanks again for the post, great stuff. Chuck Peters: Steve - How much time in the airport did you have? This is so long it needs a table of contents and an index! (Buttry note: Done, in this pdf version. Thanks for the suggestion.) As you have stated before, you tend to focus on the what, and I focus on the how. Any company attempting to make this transition needs to focus on both, congruently. With this ―storm of the last 30 years‖ currently upon us, I might have more time today for a more comprehensive response. For now, here are my first thoughts: 1. I think you and Jeff Jarvis are answering different questions. You seem to be focused on a user-centric sustainable system for the next 20 years, and as Jeff reminds us, he was focused on what happens tomorrow if a major daily stops production – how is the community informed? 2. To get anywhere close to the functionality you describe, we need to create content in the first instance in a very different way – atomized and heavily tagged. There are so many technical, cultural, emotional, work process and business issues in just this aspect that it is beyond the scope of any one company. A coalition of the willing needs to form to pursue the various aspects and share best practices. 3. For the user, we need multiple user-defined applications, mobile and desktop (think Twitter apps) that allow the user to obtain the content they want in the new mobile, social, location based information world. 4. For the business, we need a system whereby the creators of the information content, the creators of the commercial content, the application developers and promoters and the system administrators can all get paid their fair proportion of the revenue, automatically, driven off the tags. The revenue comes from very targeted promotional messages and transactions, easy for the users to experience and act on. 5. If #2 is not beyond the scope of one company, 3 and 4 clearly are. I believe Dan Conover‘s frustration with our industry‘s ―lack of imagination‖ stems from the fact that not enough people are even talking about the same ―what‖, so we cannot get to sharing the ―how‖.
  31. 31. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 31 Judy Sims makes it personal, in her comparison to the grieving processhttp://simsblog.typepad.com/simsblog/2009/11/pity-the-poor-publisher.html Once we get past the grieving, we need to start fresh http://bit.ly/6QYaO4 Steve Buttry: Chuck, Yes, lots of time in airports and airplanes (and hotels, awaking even earlier than usual, thanks to jet lag). I got feedback that people preferred reading C3 as one take rather than several, so I tried that here (though this was much shorter than C3). I thought detail was demanded because of the focus on the how in this piece. 1. I‘m not thinking 20 years here. The world is moving mobile now and media companies need to hustle on this. 2-4. No doubt we need to help and learn from each other (but not wait for someone else to figure it out). Love the Sims piece. Looking forward to reading your snow-enforced more comprehensive response and to discussing this when I‘m back on Iowa soil (or snow). Rory Moulton, online content manager for Colorado Mountain News Media: Let me begin by agreeing with you that mobile (and streaming media) is absolutely the future (perhaps the present) of all media consumption. Additionally, your outline above is the most comprehensive and workable approach to a mobile-first strategy that I‘ve ever read. Kudos. That said, I‘m not convinced it‘s going to be a monetizeable (sometimes I make up words) medium for newsgathering organizations because: 1) Online readers — especially mobile ones — don‘t read, they scan. That‘s one reason why online ads perform so poorly. As a survey of one, I consider myself a hardcore reader — I devour books, blogs, newspapers, magazines, etc. — but I rarely get past a headline or summary graph on mobile devices. Admittedly, I spend far more time watching my son play with the cool light-saber app and watch steaming videos, movies. This point correlates to news media‘s main problem — the one no one wants to talk about: the kids don‘t read these days. I‘m 28 and consider myself an anomaly in my
  32. 32. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 32 generation. The generation below me is even worse. Video games, Facebook, viral UGC, movies — that‘s where the eyeballs are. 2) The money in mobile is in development and hardware. I doubt any news organization will buy RIM or Apple any time soon or build a competing device, so that leaves app development. A good iPhone app developer will cost so much that I don‘t see a strong ROI on apps. And that‘s assuming news organizations other than the super-big ones can even find a good app developer. 3) Text-based media — which is still what all newspaper organizations do best and most prolifically — can‘t possibly survive the shift to a mobile/streaming media-based ecosystem. We‘d have to completely clean house and start anew with broadcast journalists, developers and producers as our content creators and editors. I‘m not sure that‘s feasible for many newspaper organizations. I think many will wither away before they make that transition. I dunno Steve. I‘m conflicted. But I guess that‘s common in our industry. I‘ll think about it some more and post a response on my blog. Regardless, keep up the good work. We need more people like you with the foresight to initiate these discussions. Steve Buttry: This comment and response started as some Twitter direct messages between Rory and me. I asked if we could do it as comments on the blog to share with a broader audience. I appreciate Rory doing that and elaborating more than Twitter allows. On points 1 and 3, Rory is absolutely right that a mobile -first strategy can‘t be rooted in text. As Chuck noted, we need fundamental change and a big part of that change will be that we can‘t be text-based. The effective mobile-first service will include video, data, maps, photos, games and more. Rory and I disagree, though, about people‘s willingness to read text on the small screen. A small percentage will still do that, so text can and should be part of your content. On point 2, Rory is right that we need to pay app developers well. But we disagree about the potential for revenue. I think people will conduct lots of commerce through mobile apps and a media organization that builds a large community audience and develops apps and mobile opportunities for businesses in the community will have a tremendous opportunity. Kirk LaPointe, managing editor of the Vancouver Sun:
  33. 33. News organizations need mobile-first strategy, by Steve Buttry Page 33 Steve: A tour de force post. Truly and nicely definitive on the needs now and ahead. Makes me feel a lot better about how I‘ve set priorities for the time ahead, but also makes me understand just how much there is to learn. Chuck Peters: Quite a conversation you started here! We are starting now to build something from the ground up that can last for 20 years, because it is that fundamental.

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