The Future of Communications

NYWICI panel
(left to right) Sarah DaVanzo, Dana Points, Lisa Stone, Liz Kaplow. Photo by Jan Goldstoff.

On June 11, 2014, a panel hosted by New York Women in Communications (NYWICI) debated the shift in communications. A shift that is leading away from personal interactions toward a future obsessed with blazing-fast, always-on technology in our pockets. Is the ability to stay connected wherever we go a service or a disservice? To find out, NYWICI surveyed its members in partnership with BlogHer and discovered that 79% feel ignored when another person is using a phone during a conversation; 67% feel that multi-tasking is both a blessing and a curse; most would give up an e-reader before a phone (20% couldn’t decide). But overall, all seem to agree that technology is empowering — and disempowering them — at the same time.

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The Mobile Revolution: Apps for Journalists

Guest Post by Giuliana Lonigro

Gutenberg’s movable type printing press is often cited as the first 15th century mechanism that enabled the mass dissemination of information. But it wasn’t until the 17th century that the first newspapers were mass distributed in Europe. The last two centuries have seen bewildering advances in technology, which have all benefited journalism — from radio correspondents to broadcast television news and news organizations’ websites.

A previous blog post on this blog references a Nieman Journalism Lab article, in which Nicholas Carr postulated that 2012 would see the appification of media. Six months later, Pew’s newly released 2012 report on the state of American Journalism found that close to half of all adults own a smartphone, and the number of tablet owners has risen to nearly 20% of Americans over age 18. Media are increasingly being consumed via mobile devices, and journalists are following suit by creating media and using apps to get their reporting done on their mobile devices.

Apps for journalists fall into several categories, including social media, reporting, workflow, blogging, photography, and video/audio recording, editing and streaming. Many of the most popular apps also seem to be favorites with journalists, with some variations for iPhones or Android phones. Below are some of the apps used most often by journalists. What apps do you use most often? Let us know in the comments section below!

SOCIAL MEDIA

  • Twitter – can be used to track news from AP and other sources and also to tweet URLs to articles once they are posted. Has long been hailed as an extremely well written and user-friendly app.
  • LinkedIn – can be used to find professional sources for quotes, depending on the beat(s) you cover.
  • Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Buffer – help with productivity and time management with dashboards and helping schedule tweets.

REPORTING/WORKFLOW

  • Evernote – This award-winning app lets you take searchable notes, capture photos, create to-do lists and record voice reminders.
  • 5-0 Police Scanner – to listen to radio traffic from police, fire, or ambulances.
  • Skype – offers surprisingly clear connection as compared with regular mobile phone lines for interviews.
  • Merriam-Webster dictionary – Because every good reporter needs to check on a word once in a while! Also features audio recordings of pronunciation.
  • AP Style book ($24.99) – surprisingly pricey, but it’s considered the Bible in many circles, and it’s worth it for the reporter on-the-go.
  • Dropbox – store files in the cloud and access from computer, laptop or portable devices anywhere.
  • Cardmunch – works with LinkedIn by scanning pictures of business cards and automatically adding contacts to your LinkedIn profile.

BLOGGING

  • Tumblr – can post text, video, a URL, audio, photos from a mobile device.
  • WordPress – The platform of choice for many bloggers; the app allows you to create and edit blog posts as needed.

PHOTOGRAPHY/PHOTO EDITING

  • Camera+ ($0.99 for a limited time) – includes a timer, a grid to make sure photos aren’t crooked, settings for exposure and focus, a fill light and digital zoom.
  • Instagram and Hipstamatic – Poynter has reported on the debate about whether these photo filtering and sharing apps are dumbing down photography and whether news organizations are cheating their audiences by their use of filters.
  • ProCamera ($2.99) – this app is similar to Camera+ but also shoots video.

VIDEO & AUDIO RECORDING/STREAMING/EDITING

  • iTalk Recorder – records from iPhone and emails files.
  • Audioboo – records up to three-minute voice memos; audio files can then be uploaded to the Audioboo website with titles, tags, geolocation information and a photo. “Boos” can then be easily shared to social media channels.
  • Ustream and Ustream Broadcaster – allows live streaming of interactive video. Allows you to poll your audience and follow other broadcasters’ streams.
  • 1st Video Net – Unlike most of the apps in this post, this video editing app is for networked commercial customers of VeriCorder who are professional reporters and other content creators.

REPORTERS WHO TRAVEL

  • JiWire Wi-Fi Finder – Finds Wi-Fi hotspots for public Wi-Fi anywhere in the world; works both online and offline
  • Word Lens – Translates English, French and Spanish in real-time with the phone cam. A network connection is not needed, and language packs are sold separately via in-app purchase.

Giuliana is a writer and social media strategist who lives in Jersey City.

Cutting-Edge Technology

I attended a very interesting panel discussion and lecture yesterday at Google’s headquarters in Chelsea, hosted by the New York Technology Council (NYTECH): “Cutting-Edge Technology Showcase” by tech enthusiasts, artists and “white hat” hackers.

The five speakers represented growing fields in consumer technology: From interactive gaming platforms (“mobile augmented reality” presented by Ogmento), 3D visualizations of the human body (by BioDigital Systems in collaboration with New York Hospital) that run on an ordinary web browser with stunning results, to 3D printing (by Shapeways) and of course camera- and voice activated searches by Google (“Google Goggle” and “Search by Voice”). Senior Google Research Scientist Johan Schalkwyk called the latter “augmenting your own intelligence,” by using speech recognition to translate, navigate and understand data pulled from the cloud to make the world accessible.

From mobile to social to location-based and now augmented, I am less interested in virtually throwing rings on a bottle of beer that I’ve photographed with my smart phone (even though the sounds and shapes are life-like), but I guess there is a huge market for that. But what I found intriguing is our ability to use gadgets to dig ever deeper into our research, to come up with even more information, to be able to customize what we’re looking for (and maybe losing sight of what we really ought to know?).

As a writer, ahem, forgive me, as a “content creator,” I was especially intrigued by “Google Goggle” that lets you take a picture with your smartphone of a paragraph in a book or a newspaper/magazine article and Google will find within seconds the source: be it in a book (via “Google books” or via Google search of online publications, including PDFs and databases). My silver-haired seat neighbor drily remarked: “that’ll be the end of plagiarism.” And of quotes taken out of context. Good times indeed for, what keynote speaker Rick Karr of PBS referred to as “dead tree media.” Bad times for German politicians. But I regress.

The 3D printing was truly stunning: Case in point, a workable propeller  with 70 moving parts (at left) that got printed in one take using a malleable, white plastic material. The printers are still as large as refrigerators, but they will soon shrink and their price will fall. The possibilities are endless: cheaply and quickly mass-produced stuff or designer products on the go — from the individual creator to the market.

Scientists are already working on printing organs by using human cells: They’ve already created a human kidney prototype. But can it be implanted using augmented reality and Google goggles, Search by Voice and 3D visualization to guide the scalpel?

It still needs another remarkable gadget: us.

2012 Previews and 2011 Reviews

At year’s end and the new year’s beginning, I suppose it is inevitable to look back to forge ahead. Here are some interesting takes on the past, present and future. Expect longer blog posts about some of those trends throughout the next months. Let me know which topics interest you most.

  • Here is Time Magazine’s list of the 50 Best Websites of 2011.
  • A list of The Best of TedGlobal 2011.
  • The Nieman Journalism Lab‘s Predictions for Journalism 2012: Numerous renowned authors and media analysts predict that social media will get boring and its bubble will burst, the dawn of “appification media,”  the control of free-flow information, credibility will be back, pay walls will increase, streaming home pages will be the norm, the rise of the tablets will bring about personalized platforms, mobile payments and big data will be the next big thing and the focus will return to the writer (!!). Good times.
  • Some good news about the future of news in 2011 offers the Canadian Journalism Project: “It’s possible that 2011 will come to be seen as a watershed year; the year that saw the emergence of a business model that might actually allow risky, time-consuming and expensive journalism to be pursued, allow journalists to get paid a living wage, and allow media companies to make a reasonable return on their investment.”
    …Pinch me, I’m dreaming…
  • CNET‘s 2012 predictions: “News readers” — “It’s a long way from 3D printers and Kinects to tablet and smartphone-based news readers, but in the world of tech culture, aggregators [and apps] like Flipboard, Zite, and Pulse are growing in importance every day.”
More to come.

E-Publishing — A Revolution?

 

Got your Kindle/Nook/iPad? Happy?

I love gadgets. I am usually the first to try out a new electronic thingy. I bought a cell phone when they were still as large as a brick; my first PC was a DOS-based IBM XT computer with a floppy disk slot, a 10 MB hard disk drive and 56 KB of memory. Remember DIR [drive:][path][filename] [/P] [/W] [/A[[:]attributes]] [/O[[:]sortorder]] [/S] [/B] [/L] [/V]? I do. I built my first website when it wasn’t fashionable yet to promote one’s personal brand digitally (and not on a blogging-platform, mind you, where you copy and paste and that’s all there’s to it, but by painstakingly hand-coding.)

But using an e-reader? Hmpff.

I like the printed book too much. I like the smell of books. I like dedications in books, authors’ signatures and the memory where I bought the book or who gave it to me. I like to feel the weight of the book, see exactly how much more there is to go before I’m done, before I snap it shut to give it away; or before I write my name in it and put it on my shelf to re-read, where it awaits its turn next to the colorful spines of many other books. I like hardcover books that have their own sewn-in book mark. I like cheap paperbacks with stains, like the one from the memorable flight to Europe, when my daughter spilled Bloody Mary mix all over my bag. The book still smells like a cocktail shaker. Memories like that. And no e-reader can give me that.

But regardless of my nostalgic digging into old times, I am aware, and at awe, that the e-book revolution has arrived! This might be good news for print media in general. Fascinating.

U.S. e-book sales grew from $3 million in 2005 to $88.7 million in the second quarter of 2010. According to the International Digital Publishing Forum, by the end of the third quarter, it had reached $119.7 million. It’s a phenomenon that redefines the nature of reading itself. We are close to the tipping point of forever changing the publishing industry.

New York Women in Communications recently hosted a fascinating panel that gave a glimpse into what publishing will have in store for us. The panelists included Ray Pearce, vice-president, Circulation & Reader Applications at The New York Times; Lauren Indvik, assistant editor at Mashable.com; Matt DeVirgiliis, e-book manager, Digital Rights & Alliances at McGraw Hill Digital; and Sujata Gosalia, associate partner at Oliver Wyman. The moderator was Tim Carmody, a writer at Snarkmarket.com and the founder of Bookfuturism.com.

Now that the iPad and various simpler e-readers have become the must-have gadgets for the avid reader, Google launched its own cross-platform initiative “Google Editions” or simply Goggle eBooks — a hub for purchasing and accessing more than 3 million e-books on various platforms (computer, mobile, e-reader and tablet), giving consumers a choice where, on what platform they read and at what expense. Their initiative is shaping up to be, according to MediaBeat, “the world’s largest library of titles.”

With Google introducing the new purchasing model, there is no more device-restricted downloading; readers freely share content and read it on any device they own in the “cloud,” or pay for downloads in one centralized marketplace, thus taking control away from the e-reader manufacturers that are still vying to curb the distribution of free content.

“For newspapers, Google is ‘very interesting’,” admits Ray. Still, he says, “we, at the newspaper, decide what we want to keep control of, namely our customer care. We want you as a New York Times reader; we want to know who you are. We want to determine a consistent pricing model, no matter the device you read the newspaper on. We need to structure the payment that meets our needs.” And newspaper content online, after the reader exceeds a pre-set amount of downloads will soon disappear behind a pay wall.

Google’s arrival at the e-publishing forefront, “shows how important search is to finding content,” adds Sujata. “They’re a lot of players to influence what users see first and respond to. Now, the end consumer owns the content and thus takes the power away from the manufacturers of the devices.”

But in the new world of publishing and sharing, who has the rights to the content? “We need to find the happy middle,” says Matt. “Keep your customers and your clients in mind and strike a balance; be also careful to safeguard the content for the author.” Adds Ray: “Publishers start to bundle in packages to meet the customers’ needs, like “buy once — access anywhere” wherever it fits me at the time. Most publishers are on that track.”

The publishing industry is met with a growing consumer demand that content ought to be customized to a specific platform. Reading is not a one-size-fits-all experience any longer; depending on the device, readers expect the content, the level of interaction and the ease of accessibility to change across the various platforms.

The average consumer has now changed dramatically: “When the first e-readers hit the market, about 75% of the average readers were young and female,” says Lauren. “The e-publishing market has grown to a billion readers [worldwide, who access content electronically]. Now, the split is even, with shiny devices preferred by men.” But interestingly, readers who use their iPad to access newspapers use these devices almost as they would use their print newspapers: they tend to use their gadgets early in the morning, in the evening and on weekends. According to Ray, during the day, mobile devices and computers are used more frequently to access The New York Times. “E-readers are in between mobile and computers. And size matters: The e-reader wants to conquer your bag; the mobile wants to conquer your pocket and the iPad wants to sit on your coffee table.”

What’s next in e-publishing? “Screen sizes!” predicts Matt. “TVs will use the same apps that are on your mobile. Everything that’s electronic will soon be talking to each other.” “The line of what is publishing, media and technology will blur and interact,” believes Sujata. “For consumer technology and content creators, this is scary but exciting!”

Book authors will rethink their works to fit a certain digital platform. “The criteria for how to judge a ‘good’ novel will change to ‘is it interactive?’” adds Lauren. “Not only how the book is written but how engaging it is. Authors will rethink what they can do with content to reach more consumers.”

Traditional publishers will have to assess how they produce their content and what kind of interactivity and freedom they want to give the reader. “We still need to understand the brand process and how it is accessed, where and by whom,” says Sujata. “How do we rethink the workflow of content creation, layout and how it looks on the various screens and screen sizes?”

In the end, however, all agreed that there will always be a place for printed books, magazines and newspapers in the world. “Overnight, the idea that you cannot charge for digital content evaporated when it became clear that there is no ad revenue online,” concludes Ray. “Customers now expect to pay for content on their gadgets. No more free for all.”

 

Print to Pixel: Mobile E-Readers

Since the introduction of Apple’s iPad, the publishing industry has been on edge. Blamed for the demise of book publishing and at the same time hailed as a savior of print media, Apple’s shiny gadget and its alternatives — smaller, cheaper e-readers — are everywhere: e-book sales jumped 183 percent in the first half of 2010, and Amazon now sells more e-books than hardcovers. And Google just announced its initiative to launch an e-book store Google Editions with an open, in the cloud purchasing and reading model, where all you need is an internet browser to buy any e-book from any platform.

TechCrunch has this to say about Google’s entrance into the e-book market:

“The advantages of not having to go through, for instance, Amazon, when selling your book, are hard to quantify. But the notion that an author will be able to place a widget on their own page, and have the book-buying transaction be self-contained rather than being transferred to Amazon, is significant.”

Hitching a ride on the iPad’s appeal, print media are scrambling to churn out iPad apps with the goal of erecting pay walls for electronic content across all mobile platforms. We will actually have to pay for what we read online.

In addition, people who own or plan to buy an e-reader  are a ready-made audience for newspapers, according to a study released by Scarborough Research. “E-reader devices are becoming an important technology for millions of Americans and our data confirms their emergence as a natural companion to newspapers,” said Gary Meo, senior vice president of digital media and newspaper services for Scarborough Research. “At this point, many newspaper publishers are determining strategies for making their content available on e-reader devices, and this is creating a new opportunity to monetize content and increase readership.”

And that’s not all: According to a study released by the Harrison Group and digital newsstand provider Zinio, digital tablet and e-reader owners read more newspaper articles and books, and they are more likely than non-owners to pay for digital content.

The iPad has raised the bar, but to be fair, it is a full-fledged tablet and not an e-reader. It has a huge, and therefore heavy, full-color, backlit LCD screen, and it only supports Apple formats. It has no free 3G and is the most expensive mobile reader on the market. But it does look gorgeous, and it is especially suited to reading texts with graphics.

For simply consuming e-books, however, e-readers are just fine. Most devices use crisp, monochrome e-ink screen technology that resembles old-fashioned ink; they can be read even in direct light without eyestrain (but not in the dark). New color e-ink screens will enter the U.S. market very soon.

Before buying one of these devices, you need to consider several things: the weight, screen size and price of the reader; your reading habits and your need for free Wi-Fi or access to AT&T’s 3G cellular network, Bluetooth or an USB port; and whether you plan to download various e-book formats, borrow library books in EPUB format (books stored in online library catalogues) or read PDF files.

The following e-readers are currently considered front-runners:

Kindle (Amazon): Often referred to as “the iPod of books,” the Kindle gets glowing reviews; it uses e-ink, is roughly the size of a paperback, and is lightweight and thin. It holds 1,500 books and has a battery life of two weeks. However, it only supports Amazon’s e-books and is the only reader that doesn’t support Goggle Editions or EPUB. It comes with optional free Wi-Fi/3G and a full keypad and offers magazine and newspaper subscriptions (take that, iPad!). The newest edition, the KindleDX, can store more than 3,500 books and has a 9.7-inch screen that can be read both horizontally and vertically.

Nook (Barnes & Noble): Supporting almost all platforms, including e-books in the public domain and EPUB, Nook has an e-ink screen and free Wi-Fi/3G. The recently released Nook Color has a 7-inch color screen. You can “loan” downloads to a friend for up to two weeks and read e-books for free in B&N stores. Nook shows page numbers that differ from the print editions, but many e-readers don’t display pagination at all or only show the portion of the book already read. One drawback is Nook’s baffling navigation system.

Daily Edition (Sony): The first to introduce an e-reader in 2006, Sony uses e-ink with infrared touch-screen technology that allows you to turn pages with a swipe of the finger instead of pushing buttons. The device’s large 7-inch screen makes it bulkier, heavier and more expensive than most e-readers, but it does come with free Wi-Fi/3G.

The Huffington Post has 13 suggestions for iPad alternative tablet PCs.