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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Mobile Know-How: Responsive Web Design

ImageEvery day, more than 1.3 million Android devices are activated globally — far more than the number of babies born each day. By 2016, there will be 1 billion smartphone users on the planet, with 257 million mobile phones and 126 million tablets used in the U.S. alone. And before the end of the year, more internet-connected mobile devices will roam the earth than people. Users are leaving their desktops behind, with more than half of all website traffic coming from handhelds now, and many users, especially in the Third World, have only their phones to connect to the Internet. [Sources: Cicso and Forrester Research as analyzed by TheNextWeb]

So, the better your website looks and functions on a small device, the more future-proof it will be. And especially if your company caters to women, think mobile first: a recent survey found that more women use smartphones than men (58% vs. 42%).

Successful brands have revamped their online presence to work on any device, be it desktop, tablet or mobile. We all crave communications that work everywhere — and we want to shop anywhere on the go. Web design is changing in the mobile age and adopting full tablet and mobile functionality. But why stop there? Since users want clean, simple, smart and scaled-down interfaces on their handhelds that load content quickly — why would they want anything different when returning to their desktops? Less is more on all platforms — and good content always matters.

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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.

Quickshots: December

Wired Magazine’s new look was introduced in its January 2012 issue. Old media and New Media meet: “The redesign is an entirely new platform for what Wired has become: not just ink on paper but increasingly, pixels on screen,” state the editors in their introduction.

According to Wired, 20% of their readers read the magazine in digital format (a number that strikes me as rather low for its sophisticated, wired, cutting-edge audience. But then again, also geeks like to read print).

“[With the redesign], the structure and format of every page is built to adapt seamlessly to digital form,” the editors write. “Every layout starts with the same challenge for the designer: How do you organize the page in a fresh and interesting way? Our solution was to simplify. Simplicity can be the most essential tool for navigating complexity.”

I couldn’t agree more. Well done.

 ♦

“The number of jobs eliminated in the newspaper industry rose by nearly 30% in 2011 from the prior year.” (via Reflections of a Newsosaur). “In other words, the decline in newsroom employment has been twice as great since 2007 as the 11% drop in over-all industry employment.”

A total of 3,775+ jobs lost. And you thought the recessions was over?

 ♦

We still remember the importance of “above the fold” placement of articles in the newspaper. New media don’t have the same restrictions, right?

“Wrong,” writes Emily Smith on the blog Design Festival. “The term was ported over to the web. It refers to any content that can’t be seen in your current browser window without scrolling or manipulation. This means that on most web viewing experiences, no matter the device, the fold exists.”

But should we pay attention to it?

 ♦

‎”We’re not out of the woods yet, but Web publishing is starting to hit its stride. Product offerings are getting smarter, prices are getting better and, most importantly, content is getting more interesting. We might not even be half way to the future of publishing yet, but the industry is picking up steam,” writes Jon Mitchell on ReadWriteWeb. 

There are new ways to read, new ways to write and new ways to advertise. Publishing is a rapidly changing high-tech business now, so the tools change the content and vice versa. Established publishers have lots of inertia, so the changes won’t sweep the world overnight, but here in the blogosphere, there’s a palpable sense of excitement.”

 ♦

Kind of creepy, but  Heatmaps Reveal Where People Look on Social Media Sites, reveals the Inbound Internet Marketing Blog. The technology follows eyeball movement of readers on the web to determine which content their eyes gravitate to on a webpage. Mashable commissioned a study called EyeTrackShop, a startup that performs heatmap studies for marketers, to see where people look on popular social media sites.

And, who knew, content still matters! The study found that people gravitate to where the content is: to the Facebook Wall of a friends for example. Also Facebook brand page visitors “almost always saw the wall first, and spent more time looking at it than any other element on the page,” according to Mashable.

“Time spent on mobile phones per day on average increased 30% in 2011 to an hour and 5 minutes, easily more than the combined 44 minutes devoted to print magazines and newspapers combined,” according to a new report by Nielsen State of the Media: The Mobile Media Report” that offers a snapshot of the current mobile media landscape and audiences in the U.S. and highlights the potential power of mobile commerce in the near future.

Forward to any young media consumer you know. This should be obvious but apparently many youngsters have no clue: Be skeptical, distinguish between news, facts, opinion and lies — The News Literacy Project. The project was introduced by a PBS Newshour report on Dec. 13. Read the transcript here.