I personally would like everything to work on my mobile phone.
My son is too worried about the latest movie poll on Facebook to really worry about things what’s going on in the world outside his own room. He’s 16 years old.
My eight-year-old daughter does watch the news – on television. She recognizes her father’s name in bylines on the front page of the morning newspaper, but only recently put together that it was part of the news, too. It wasn’t somebody ready it to her.
“Where do you think the televisions stations get their news anyway?” I said. But that’s a debate for another day.
No matter what our age, we’re still a society in flux about how we get the information that matters to us, where we get it and in what format. I feel fortunate that I’m a reporter: a content person. The tools of the trade are changing, and I can collect that content and develop it in ways that never were available before. Instead of just describing what happened, I can show it on video. People can listen to emotional quotes through audio. The video isn’t good, or even available. I watch my TV colleagues shake their heads, as if a story doesn’t exist without moving pictures. I don’t need them. If it’s not a compelling video story, and the audio is a drone, I can just write about it. There are advantages from coming to a print background and moving toward the web. You can use it all. You can use the best of it. You can use none of it.
Distribution has always been someone else’s job. The pressroom and circulation department have always been important, and I’ve found myself wondering what will happen to those hard-working folks, as our distribution moves more and more to the web. Instead of someone throwing papers onto my doorstep, or at least to my curb, we need people to figure out how to deliver our content to our phones.
This is the point Rob Curley is trying to make in his excellent article in this year’s edition of The Journalist, and which we’ve been expanding on in this blog.
“If we can figure out how to beam content directly into our readers’ brains, we should do it,” Curley writes.
Good luck with that. For most newspapers and their web sites, it’s a matter of making sure the news gets on the web site, from reporters used to not filing anything until 6 p.m. And you want video and audio, too? Sure, we’ll get on that right away.
Out here in middle America, we’re working hard just to try and get people the news in ways they can best use it. Multiple platforms are on our task lists, but it’s way down the list. It may be why Curley made this one number six out of seven.
Katie Lohrenz has such a to-do list for our web site. She studies what people want and how they want it, and she said while multiple delivery options are indeed the wave of the future, it’s not what’s coming tomorrow or the next day. The reason? No one really is asking for it right now.
“People aren’t emailing us saying, ‘that story was great, wish I could have read it on my iPod,.’ ” Katie said. “The majority of our users are sitting at their desks at work surfing the internet. We know this to be true, and we feel comfortable saying that the web version of our content, while certainly imperfect, goes a long way toward meeting their specific needs. Developing a format for mobile use means serving an audience outside of our core users, and we need to find out what they want before we try to figure out how to give that to them.”
This is the way it is in Wichita, Kansas. We recognize it’s different with each market, even between where Curley works now, in Washington D.C., and where he used to work, up the highway in Lawrence, Kansas.
“When you work in Lawrence, you’ve got an audience of college hipsters to serve, so you get to innovate and wow them over,” said Katie, a University of Kansas grad who still calls Lawrence a second home. “When you work in DC, you’ve got commuters who want podcasts to listen to on their morning ride to work. We’ve still got a lot of work to do serving our web users: improved navigation, organization, customization. I think our time is still best spent improving our mainstream web offerings.”
Distribution needs to be studying, and these discussions need to be happening in newsrooms across our industry. If it’s not happening where you work, maybe you should start one.
What do your readers, viewers and users need?