Archive for the ‘Mobile devices’ Category

Snapchat Live, Citizen Journalism

You know what social media I purposefully held out on?  Snapchat.

I’d seen one too many of my peers get burned by that pesky little instant-messaging system –– either by sending the right snap to the wrong person, or getting that ugly selfie screen-shotted (I’m sure that’s a verb by now, right?).

No way, I scolded myself. Sending unattractive pictures of my face in different discrete locations is not the kind of social media I want to engage in.

And here we are.  I’ve succumbed to the inevitability of Snapchat, much to the delight of my closest Millennial friends.

Though I still haven’t figured out all the quirks and mechanics of the app itself, (like what really happens when you swipe left instead of right?), I’ve embraced Snapchat as a tool for news, like the nosey little journalist I am.

Not only is my favorite news organization, National Geographic, highlighted in Snapchat’s Discover section every morning, but there’s now a new feature I can’t stop clicking on: Snapchat Live.

Live is essentially a city spotlight, where one city from –– get this –– around the entire world is selected every few days.  Snaps sent with the city’s geotag (a marker identifying the city, swipe right a few times to see yours) are collected and sorted into a story by Snapchat support gurus.  The result is a curated, 100-some-second photo-story told from a handful of the city’s denizens, from almost every location (and angle) possible.

As a wanderlust soul stuck in suburban Ohio, I can’t help but smile and laugh along with those Snappers (a new term for Snapchat users, perhaps?) waving and yelling “Hello, from Cairo!” on my tiny little screen.  In the past few weeks, I’ve been transported to São Paulo, Brazil, and a dazzling city in the United Arab Emirates.  I’ve been taken on intimate boat rides, shown the pyramids of Giza from a lofty rooftop, and seen the sun set on different continents –– without having left my bedroom.

The world is truly a wonderfully small world, after all.

Now, I’ve seen many of these breathtaking sites from textbook stock photos and glossy banners in magazines.  But there’s something about this utterly raw, perfectly imperfect footage on Snapchat Live that keeps me coming back for more.

It’s real.  It isn’t some doctored postcard sent to seem luxurious, remote, or exclusive to us relatively affluent Americans.  Snapchat Live showcases young people, like me, using social media as a tool, a guide, to make our world feel more like a community instead of divided countries.  And I admire this emerging form of citizen journalism, for all of its genuine humanness, if you will.

Because when I’m driving around Columbus, I see more of Fifth Avenue traffic and corn-shucking at my local farmer’s market, a crowded movie theater parking lot and an even more crowded Jeni’s ice cream stand than I do the picturesque skyline of downtown plastered onto every travelogue in history.  And that’s the kind of story I want to tell, to show to others: the bright, beautiful, undiscovered world in which I live.

Snapchat Live is also being used to capture historic moments and live entertainment events happening around the world; I watched the U.S. Open of Surfing this afternoon.  So, don’t be like me –– see what Snapchat is all about today.  I believe it’s redefining citizen journalism in the 21st century as we know it.

Bethany N. Bella is studying Journalism, Environmental Studies and Cultural Anthropology at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Dissecting the State of the News Media 2015

There is no denying the media landscape is shifting toward a mobile and digital focus, and on cue the Pew Research Center confirmed it. Last week Pew released the State of the News Media 2015, reaffirming the growth of mobile and digital journalism, while not reporting on the most promising data for legacy media. In the report’s 12th year, it has released some interesting information about digital audiences and advertising that journalism outlets should be paying attention to.

Out of the 50 websites Pew used for its report, 39 received the majority of their traffic from mobile devices opposed to desktop computers. This exemplifies the importance of news outlets marketing their product to users on mobile devices, whether it is through apps or social media — news organizations need to meet their audience where they are. The mobile traffic for these websites has been important for these news organizations, but the next step is turning these high numbers of mobile visitors into quality visitors who spend a significant amount of time on the website.

While mobile visitors are more prominent than desktop visitors, desktop visitors spend a significantly more time on the websites once they are there. Out of the same 50 websites, only 10 has mobile visitors spending more time on the websites than desktop visitors. This finding gives news organizations a tangible area in which they can research and improve in. Looking into where the activity difference stems from between mobile and desktop visitors is key in improving the quality of the visits. There may be room for mobile websites’ design to be improved to encourage visitors to spend more time on the websites or there may need to be content created that is more suitable for mobile audiences.

The growth of digital advertising is important because of the transition away from relying on revenue from print advertising. News organizations had previously relied heavily on print advertising to sustain their business model, but with the decrease in print sales the system is no longer sustainable. Pew reported that $50.7 billion was spent on digital advertising in 2014, which was a 18 an percent increase from 2013. This shows companies are further understanding the importance that digital traffic can play in generating revenue. The companies buying the ads are benefitting and the news organizations are benefitting from the increased revenue. Mobile has also been a focus of digital ad spending, increasing 78% from 2013 to $19 billion. Smartphones and tablets have become too prevalent for there not be specific focus shown to mobile sites. The high numbers of mobile visitors coincides with the ad spending.

These numbers exemplify that digital and mobile journalism is here to stay, and will most likely continue to expand in the coming years. The State of the News Media shows news organizations need to take the digital journalism realm seriously if they want to compete on a serious level. And beyond just taking the digital world seriously, the increasing mobile numbers show significant attention should be paid to this area in the coming years to benefit as much as possible from that audience.

Taylor Barker, a member of the Ithaca College chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, is the student representative for SPJ Digital. Barker is also an editorial intern for The Miss InformationYou can follow her on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Tablet or Traditional? News Consumption

One afternoon in my second semester at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, I grabbed a copy of the morning’s The New York Times, more on an impulse than as a conscious, consumer choice.

When you attend one of the top-ranked journalism schools in the country, reading and consuming news in the traditional sense (think thick, inky newspapers and ever-present CNN coverage) is standard – and addicting.

I was never a read-the-newspaper-every-day kind of person until I started rubbing elbows with other collegiate academics, most of whom keep a copy of the Times under their suit jackets, like an essential accessory.

Resorting to a classic case of peer pressure, I soon began plucking a Times from the shelf every day, skimming the headlines over morning coffee – you know, what ‘smart, news-engaged people’ do.

But then one morning, after having watched the documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011) in my journalism class, I stared incredulously at my Times and thought, “Who have I become? A digital-age person caught in the mentality of a traditional news junkie, living in the past?”

It’s no secret: Print journalism is undergoing a massive revolution.

Some critics claim it’s dying. Either way, print journalism has suffered incredible losses in the past five years alone, thanks to a surge in online news consumption and mobile compatible content.

Page One took The New York Times as a case study in this traditional journalism dilemma – one of those elite print models that’s grappled with financial hardship and a rapidly evolving audience, all while the American technological age keeps plowing ahead.

I’ve been conditioned to think that a newspaper – real, heavy, ink-blotted paper – is the only respected or sophisticated method to consume daily news.

And yet, what was I getting out of this old model that my digital subscription to the Times couldn’t have provided as easily, or more conveniently?  Perceived intelligence or blind optimism?

I thought, if I only consume news through traditional mediums, and ignore digital media, I’m championing a sputtering art form.  Like supporting the Cleveland Browns, instead of finding another, more promising team to root for (my dad’s an ever-hopeful Browns fan, but I gave up on them years ago).

It’s time to face the facts: Newspapers aren’t the sole providers of news, anymore.

And I’m choosing to live in the future, and support the next wave of journalism distribution, with my smartphone, my laptop, and my thumbs.

For those who think (or desperately choose to believe) that the printed newspaper will ever dominate as the primary method of news consumption in the future? Join the digital wave, while you still can.

Bethany N. Bella is studying at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

iPhones, iPads under attack from China?

WireLurker logoApple Inc. made its powerful brand name on the strength of intuitive technology that for years seemed immune to routine hacking. Now, a malware campaign afflicting China threatens to dampen that distinction and harm those here who rely on any one of an estimated 800 million iPads, iPhones and 64-bit Macs.

The WireLurker malware reportedly flourishes in China on pirated software. Once installed it burrows into the operating system and waits for peripherals to connect, whereby it records the information passed between the devices. Much of that information consists of serial numbers, phone numbers and iTune store identification information.

Then WireLurker installs benign-looking apps that sift for other identifiers including texting history, address books and other private files to pinpoint potential targets. WireLurker also imports regular updates from an attacker’s command servers, thus remaining on guard against counterattacks.

Security company Palo Alto Networks alerted Apple users on this side of the Pacific in a recently released white paper.

Although WireLurker poses no immediate threat here as yet, it represents a comprehensive approach to malware distribution not seen before with Apple products, Palo Alto Networks says.

To reduce the risk of infection, users of Apple devices are advised to take a few precautions:

  • Avoid downloads from any location other than iTunes or the Mac App Store. To ensure this, in the System Preferences panel, click on the check box next to “Allow apps downloaded from Mac App Store (or Mac App Store and identified developers)”
  • Avoid connecting or pairing your Mac or portables with other unsecured devices, whether they are Mac- or PC-based.
  • Keep the operating systems updated on all devices. The updates also plug holes in system security.
  • Keep all antivirus and anti-malware programs updated as well.

Keep in mind as well: The people most at risk are those who ignore every pop-up security warning Apple throws at them.

Palo Alto Networks is providing a tool to detect WireLurker infection on Mac and advises that removing WireLurker and the damage it causes will require expert attention.

Cautionary tale evident in latest Snapchat snafu

Snapchat logo

Snapchat’s logo

Our society is chock full of rules, some of which deserve to be broken.

But before breaking one, try reading the fine print.

That salient detail might have helped those who were victimized by a security breach that leaked 200,000 images and videos, some possibly lurid and potentially embarrassing, that belonged to users of the photo messaging application Snapchat.

For those of you unaware, Snapchat is a mobile app with a programmable timer to limit availability of the photos and recorded videos its 100 million monthly users send to each other. Recipients have just a few seconds to view shared content before it disappears forever — in theory, anyway.

The appeal of an app such as this is obvious. Some photos — snapshots of a goofy face or what you ate for lunch — deserve only a few seconds of our time, whereas incriminating photos — sexy selfies and the like — we hope will last only a few seconds.

Friday, Snapchat acknowledged that some of its content stored by a third-party application turned up on a fake photo website. The third-party application, Snapsaved, apologized and took full responsibility, saying a misconfiguration of its servers left the app’s archives vulnerable to hacking. Initially, media reports had blamed Snapchat for letting the photos leak.

The site that published the photos,, has since disappeared. What happened to its content remains uncertain. (Snapsaved’s site has been unresponsive since the breach was discovered.)

The current worry is that many of those 200,000 photos were provocative and incriminating — and now they may be everywhere. But Snapchat insists that less than a third of its content is too mature for the app’s youngest subscribers, ages 13 to 18. The other content, Snapchat says, is disposable, unmemorable.

It would be easy at this point to heap shame and insults on Snapsaved and curse it for not being more careful. But Snapsaved provided a service made possible only by Snapchat users breaking the rules they promised to uphold: In its terms-of-use policies, Snapchat prohibits users from culling and distributing content.

Of course, nobody reads terms-of-use policies, in part because the legalese used to craft them borders on unreadable. And where there are rules, there are rule breakers. Nevertheless, believe it or not, terms of use exist to protect customers’ rights, too.

This is why real blame for the photo leak rests with the Snapchat users who ignored the terms and in the process put people’s reputations —  perhaps even their own — at risk.

Digital Journalism takes a big step forward

SPJ DigitalFrom typewriters to Twitter, technology has shaped and reshaped journalism. Only now, the technology is coming faster than we can master it.

In the span of a lifetime, hot type gave way to cold type, which in turn sank beneath a wave of websites and blogs and social media apps. Today, we have come to think that two-year-old tech is obsolete, and that new news can become old news before readers reach the last sentence.

Moreover, we’ve entered an age when, thanks to rapidly evolving technology, the practice of journalism is no longer restricted to journalists.

All of this is why the Society of Professional Journalists has tried to evolve as well — it’s casting a wider net for freelance news gatherers and non-affiliated journalists, and revising its Code of Ethics to meet the needs of the new age.

And it’s expanding the Digital Journalism committee into a digital journalism community.

The new community, SPJ Digital, began unofficially last week but already has a Twitter account (@SPJDigital) and a presence on Google+. It debuts officially in September at EIJ in Nashville under the shrewd guidance of student journalist and editor Alex Veeneman.

Incoming SPJ president Dana Neuts says SPJ Digital’s mission is to “examine and raise awareness of current trends in social media, as well as digital innovations and the digital culture and their affect on the culture, craft and practice of journalism.”

In committee form, Digital Journalism has been chiefly a conduit for information on digital culture. Members met at SPJ’s annual convocation to discuss potential topics for Net Worked, as well as the Digital Media Toolbox and occasional features in Quill, and report on hot tech and trends worthy of special consideration by SPJ leadership.

As a community, SPJ Digital will keep the discussion going year round, encourage input and participation from digitally savvy citizens both inside and outside journalism, and help everyone see the blur of onrushing technology a little more clearly.

The mission is to “serve all members interested in the digital future of the industry as well as the profession,” Neuts said.

A new landing site for SPJ Digital on is in the works. Neuts and Veeneman invite those who are interested in joining the community to stay tuned for updates and registration information at @SPJDigital, Google+, and right here at Net Worked.


David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.




Making videos on the go just got much easier

Software developer Adobe has simplified video production and editing for any journalist on the go who’s armed with an Apple iPad. The company officially unveiled today its new Adobe Voice app, a kind of PowerPoint on steroids now available for free at Apple’s iTunes Store.

Quite simply, Voice makes video possible without actually filming any video.

Through a simple step-by-step process, users simply insert their own photos or animation clips or download images from rights-free sources into a kind of storyboard template, then add text from a selection of more than two dozen preinstalled themes and 25,000 icons.

The app gets its name from the feature that allows users to then record narration by tapping the microphone icon at the bottom of each page as they assemble a scene. Voice also includes a music list to lay down an audio foundation.

Once complete, each video can be shared on social media, blogs, and websites, or uploaded for display on Adobe’s own servers, by tapping another icon.

Adobe predicts Voice could make the most noise at schools, where students and teachers can make quick videos without the hassle of complicated equipment or software. Net Worked however predicts a faster adoption by the public — and certainly by street journalists looking for yet an even quicker way to make a good first impression.


David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Instagram now lets you embed photos, video on websites

Instagram logoInstagram expanded its image-sharing capabilities Wednesday.

The social networking service unveiled a new feature that allows Web embedding for user photos and video. Before Wednesday, most sharing outside Instagram was limited to other social sharing sites such as Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr and Twitter.

Now, users can find share buttons next to their images appearing on Instagram’s website. Clicking on the button, located just south of the comment button, opens a small window containing an embed code that can be pasted into blogs, Web pages and news articles.

Below that code in the same window is a publish button. The photo or video includes an Instagram identity wherever it’s published.

As for technical details, that’s all Instagram said about the new feature. The rest of the service’s news release Wednesday dwelled on content ownership, which Instagram insists will remain with the image’s owner.

“Your embedded photo or video appears with your Instagram user name, and clicking on the Instagram logo will take people to your page on,” the release said.

In December, Instagram changed its terms-of-use policy to permit all user content as fodder for “paid or sponsored content or promotions.” The only way to avoid this was for users to delete their accounts.

Subsequent outcry from privacy advocates as well as Instagram users forced the service to apologize and change the policy after one day.

Instagram launched in 2010 originally for Apple platforms but grew to include Android devices in April 2012. That same month, Facebook acquired Instagram for about $1 billion in cash and stock.


David Sheets is a freelance editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

More reasons to focus on mobile news

A study by the Local Search Association found that smartphones are increasingly the way people are accessing local information on the Web — along with other “connected devices” such as tablets, portable game consoles and e-readers. More than a third of US smartphone users also own a connected device other than their phone.

In December 2012, nearly one in two (48%) mobile users accessed local content, up from 42% in December 2011. The figure will continue to rise with the greater adoption of smartphones: 77% of smartphone users accessed local content, compared to just 14% of non-smartphone users.

It’s worth keeping these statistics in mind when developing a digital-first strategy for newsrooms.

Video Grammar for Journalists: Apps, Gadgets and GorillaPods, oh my!

Back with more video grammar for multimedia journalists.

To date we’ve talked shooting technique and how to shoot video like a pro. Indeed, it’s all about aesthetics and enhancing storytelling! Which segues into today’s installment.

I found Nicole Martinelli’s great post on IJNet International Journalists’ Network site recently. Graduate School of Journalism students at University of California Berkeley road tested mobile multimedia apps for journalists and she shared their picks.

Besides road testing apps and support gear students Casey Capachi, Evan Wagstaff, Matt Sarnecki and instructors Richard Koci Hernandez and Jeremy Rue also put out a MobileGuide for shooting video and recording audio on your iPhone. (Though good shooting and recording technique applies to any smartphone!)

It’s a great resource for journalists.

My favorite video support gadget by far is Joby’s line of small, lightweight, portable GorillaPod mini tripods. These tiny, flexible, highly versatile beauties allow you to mount a small video camera, DSLR or smartphone to just about anything. And I have! GorillaPods allow you to mount your camera on table tops, pipes, park benches, car side mirrors.

And they’re small enough when collapsed to fit in a purse, briefcase or small gig bag. Now, rock solid camera support is always with you in the field – even for your phone.

Here’s a secret from a video pro: steady camera = steady video = professional video. Period. But that doesn’t mean you have to lug around a big honk’n video tripod. Hey Joby, I shrunk the tripod!

No excuses. What are you waiting for? Just shoot.

NEXT TIME: I shot video, now what? A guide to video editing software and techniques.

Tim McCarty is a consultant, educator and Emmy award-winning Video Pro. A Professional Instructor and TV Advisor in the Journalism & Digital Media department at Ashland University, his department blogs at:


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