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 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.

CISPA = SOPA 2.0?

Remember the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)? This controversial privacy act was up for a vote in the House and the Senate respectively at the beginning of the year and caused a huge uproar, an internet blackout by more than 115,000 websites, an outpour of comments and discussions on social media and more than 3 million e-mails to Congress, urging lawmakers to change their vote. Read my recap here. On January 20, 2012, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Smith postponed plans to draft the bill: “The committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation … The House Judiciary Committee will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution.”

Now comes CISPA. The so-called Cybersecurity Bill, or by its official name the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act“, was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on April 26 by a vote of 248 to 168. The Senate is due to vote on the bill in the coming weeks. Obama has vowed to veto the bill. (You can follow the voting process of the bill in the House here). While SOPA was about intellectual property, CISPA is about cybersecurity.

Propublica offers this rundown on the debate and explains why you should care:

“CISPA’s liability shield has sparked concern based on the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. Opponents contend the law would make it too easy for private companies and the intelligence community to spy on users in the name of cyber security.”

Here is another take how CISPA would affect you, via Cnet:

“For all its flaws, SOPA targeted primarily overseas Web sites, not domestic ones. It would have allowed the U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against the targeted offshore Web site that would, in turn, be served on Internet providers in an effort to make the target virtually disappear. It was kind of an Internet death penalty targeting Web sites like ThePirateBay.org, not sites like YouTube.com, which are already subject to U.S. law. CISPA, by contrast, would allow Americans’ personal information to be vacuumed up by government agencies for cyber security and law enforcement purposes, as long as Internet and telecommunications companies agreed. In that respect, at least, its impact is broader.”

More resources: http://www.privacyisawesome.com/

 Feel safer yet?

Toby Young on Journalism

“[The media have] gradually become more respectable, which is a bad thing. Luckily, the Internet is making it less respectable again. To paraphrase Ben Hecht, journalists should occupy a rung on the status ladder somewhere between whores and bartenders.” […]

“I’m sure journalist/activists will become more common. It’s something that goes hand in hand with blogging. It’s a combination of roles that seems to be more and more popular with young journalists just entering the profession.” Read more (via The Browser).

SOPA/PIPA: It’s Not Over Yet

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), two controversial privacy acts that were up for a vote in the House and the Senate respectively, have caused a huge uproar, an internet blackout by more than 115,000 websites, an outpour of comments and discussions on social media and more than 3 million e-mails to Congress, urging lawmakers to change their vote.

The bills were designed to stop online copyright infringements by cracking down on websites that offer copyrighted material abroad and block Google search from displaying them. For now, it seems, the two attempts to stifle internet piracy by censoring website abroad, has been put on hold with many representatives switching sides. The proposed bills have not been, however, outright cancelled. 

I understand the need to protect copyrights. As a writer and “content provider,” I’ve had my fair share of articles and quotes “stolen” reused, quoted out of context and copied by others. That said, I still don’t want the government imposing censorship, and it doesn’t matter if the censored sites are located abroad or within the United States. Once we start policing the web, we go down a slippery path.

For more background info, read Wikipedia’s entry on the Stop SOPA/PIPA Initiative and excerpts of a primer on the bills via ReadWriteWeb:

“The Internet is in an uproar over the Stop Online Piracy Act. The battle lines are drawn. Big Media (the record labels, movie studios and TV networks) support the bill while Big Tech (search engines, open source platforms, social networks) oppose it. The bill, introduced to Congress by Representative Lamar Smith, is ostensibly supposed to give the Attorney General the ability to eliminate Internet piracy and to “protect U.S. customers and prevent U.S. support of infringing sites.

There is a lot that may be wrong with SOPA, but putting the power to censor the Internet into the hands of the government is chief among citizens’ concerns. The law would force Internet Service Providers and search engines to cut off access to infringing sites as well as give the government the ability to stop payment to those sites.”

Below is a recap of the events. Combing the web in the past weeks, I have gathered links to the best articles that I could find on the topic. Keep this as a reference tool, because it is not over yet. And make sure to sign this petition by americancensorship.org, who states on its website that more than 24 million internet users have had their voices heard in a “collective flexing of internet muscles”. Be one of them. Because backers of both acts are “still working on backroom deals” to get similar bills passed.

Feb. 2

Jan. 31

Jan. 20

Jan. 19

Jan. 18

Jan. 17

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.
  • Poynter discusses 3 trends from 2011 that will reshape digital news in 2012: “Storytelling is more than an author’s words; Facebook means news and e-readers and tablets go mainstream.”
    …Now, if impoverished editors and writers only could afford those…
  • 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.

Long Live Long Form

In a Mediabeat Interview (click image to view) with Michael Wolff, founder of Newser (“Read Less, Know More”), a news aggregator, Wolff explains: “We take lots of content and make it short, without ripping of someone’s headline or lead. We take a full story and very carefully reduce it to 65-200 words, using editorial skills. People have a need for shorter, faster information. We have to absorb more. The New York Times is a bore; they write for an older world.”

I agree that there is a need for places to get news fast and as a quick, easily digestible read. But reading long-form journalism is not “a bore” or meant for an “older world” (whatever that means) and far from obsolete. And I am sure, Mr. Wolff, that many of the articles that you reduce are written by these “old-world” journalists.

Want proof that long-form journalism is on the rise? Take as an example the news site ProPublica. Its readers like to read long stories, according to the results of ProPublica’s 2011 Reader Survey. Steve Meyers concludes in Poynter that “ProPublica’s not alone here. Long-form journalism is benefiting from new technologies (the iPad) and Web services (Instapaper, Read It Later), curating services (Longreads, Longform) and products (Kindle Singles, Byliner, The Atavist).”

So, Newser, your days might be numbered. Just skimming the surface is becoming the new bore.

We increasingly chose to read content, not just snippets, online. And tablets are exhilarating that pace. Not only do they entice online readers to read longer articles, but they also have an ever-growing impact on users’ willingness to pay for that content.

On that bright note, Happy New Year!

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.

Quickshots: October

A great example why print still works: The Occupy Wall Street Journal is a 4-page broadsheet that is widely distributed among protesters downtown.

“Forgive an old newspaper hack a moment of sentimentality, but it is somehow reassuring that a newspaper still has traction in an environment preoccupied by social media. It makes sense when you think about it: Newspapers convey a sense of place, of actually being there, that digital media can’t. When is the last time somebody handed you a Web site?” (David Carr, “A Protest’s Ink-Stained Fingers“, New York Times).

 ♦

In Is Journalism As We Know It Becoming Obsolete?”, Mathew Ingram debates the question that Dave Winer (Scripting) raised in his blog post, where he argued that it is obsolete “because everyone can do it”. Winer writes, “Now we can hear directly from the sources and build our own news networks. It’s still early days for this, and it wasn’t that long ago that we depended on journalists for the news. But in a generation or two we won’t be employing people to gather news for us. It’ll work differently.”

You should know my point of view by now. And if you agree with the notion that journalism is an old hat, why are you reading this blog? Ingram (and I happen to agree with him) argues that everyone has their own definition what journalism is, “but I think it’s fundamentally about a spirit of inquiry, of curiosity, of wanting to make sense of things. It’s something like the spirit of scientific inquiry, as Matt Thompson noted recently in a post at the Poynter Institute. It has very little to do with specific tools or specific methods of publishing.”

Yes, anybody can access sources and write. But we still need those of us who can curate the flow of information, put it in historic and political perspective and digest the findings. We are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Journalism, says Ingram, “is a state of mind.” Yes, indeed.

“A new generation of web entrepreneurs has discovered the joys of charging users cold, hard cash. […] If we’re lucky, this trend will save the Internet from one of the most corrosive forces affecting it — the bloodless logic of advertising,” writes Clive Thompson on Online Ads in Wired Magazine. “I predict that in 2050, we’ll look back at the first 20 years of the web and shake our heads. The craptacular design! The hallucinogenic business models! The privacy nightmares! All because entrepreneurs convinced themselves that they couldn’t do what inventors have done for centuries: Charge people a fair price for things they want.”

I agree! Thanks, Clive. But what took you so long to discover this? And do you pay for what you read online?

  ♦

Very sound advice:

“Online publishing has made it deceptively easy to become a publisher. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Back when editors and publishers were gatekeepers, there was someone who was reviewing your writing. Content creation, like any other art form, generally improves with practice. If you haven’t ever written for the web or you’re just a bit rusty, you should consider practicing more in private. Working out your routine in private is far less damaging to your brand than producing sub-par content.” (Buddy Scalera, “Content Strategy Tip: Write Awful Content”) 

World press trends: Newspapers still reach more than internet. “Circulation is like the sun. It continues to rise in the East and decline in the West,” said Christoph Riess, CEO of WAN-IFRA, who presented an annual survey at the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Vienna, Austria. Nicely put.

Quickshots: June

NYTimes’ Bill Keller in “The Twitter Trap“: “… [B]efore we succumb to digital idolatry, we should consider that innovation often comes at a price. […] I wonder if the price is a piece of ourselves. […] Basically, we are outsourcing our brains to the cloud.”

At left, my own rant.

And here is more on Twitter: “Twitter is building a machine to convert 140 characters on Barack Obama, Ashton Kutcher, narcissism, the struggle for human freedom and Starbucks into cash — and quick, before its moment passes. Is this asking too much of even the world’s best technologists?” asks Joe Hagan in New York Magazine under the headline “Tweet Science”.

No, it is not.

This PBS story, “Children and Facebook: The Promise and Pitfalls for Social Media,” reminded me of another quote by Keller: “Last week, my wife and I told our 13-year-old daughter she could join Facebook. Within a few hours she had accumulated 171 friends, and I felt a little as if I had passed my child a pipe of crystal meth.”

Bill Moyers on the Daily Show: “I try to figure out the difference between the important and the immediate […] News is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity. […] We amuse ourselves to death.”

 

David Carr of the New York Times says: “I don’t believe in the sort of bifurcation of old and new. The whole ‘we’re old world media, we make phone calls and we put them in the newspaper’ and ‘we’re new media and we grab whatever’s in the ether and put it up.’ There’s been this steady march toward each other and what you’re doing is no different from what I do.” More here.

♦ 

Very interesting article in the NYTimes “In Praise of Not Knowing” (June 18). “It’s fun being In the Know, but once everyone’s in it, there’s nothing to know anymore. […] I hope kids are still finding some way, despite Google and Wikipedia, of not knowing things. Learning how to transform mere ignorance into mystery, simple not knowing into wonder, is a useful skill.” 

 ♦

There is so much wrong with this blogger’s assumption that journalism is dead and its market value is zero in the digital age, but he argues his point well and that is what good communication is all about. Judge for yourself.

And here is a counter argument in the discussion whether the value of journalism is zero, posted by Newsosaur, a blogger whom I respect a lot: “The Value of Journalism, Sir, Is Not Zero”. 

 ♦

Are the 700 Gannett layoffs “a vote of no confidence in the future of print by America’s largest newspaper company?” According to Poynter, they are indeed. Humph.

 ♦

You’ve got to be kidding me: “Women Still Don’t ‘Get’ LinkedIn” (via The Atlantic). Nonsense. According to TechCrunch, “Women rule the Internet. [They’re] the routers and amplifiers of the social Web. They are the rocket fuel of e-commerce. If you figure out how to harness the power of female customers, you rock the world.”

Do you have a LinkedIn profile yet? No? Get going. Here’s mine.

180,000 Crazy Twitter Users

Had to get this off my chest!

What do you make of this stunt? Does this bother you as much as it bothers me?

Social Media are great, but I think some people are slowly losing sight of the gist of it all: Providing meaningful content/context and engaging with others. Learning or offering new insights and giving some productive feedback.

Too hard? Then leave the field to people who are serious about communication and connecting with their peers.

Just go away and find another venue to bother us. May I suggest link harvesting, engaging in dubious SEO practices (the New York Times has a few suggestions here), spamming or phishing? You’d be good at it.