If you want local news to survive make it mobile

Newspapers are the living dead. But we can fight back the zombie apocalypse. Just make news available in a usable way on mobile computers aka smart phones.

Image Source: Mack the Flack

“Nearly half of all American adults (47%) report that they get at least some local news and information on their cellphone or tablet computer.” says the Pew Research Center. Plus some trends show that mobile device adoption is increasing globally in an exponential way. 29% of US adults own a tablet or e-reader. That’s up from 2% less than three years ago. You can see the arrow on the chart right? It’s pointing up!

With that known why don’t all news organizations have a mobile app or mobile website? That’s a rhetorical question by the way. Sure news corporations have been playing catch up in the past year or two in large groups. But frankly I don’t think they really understand that the news business is actually now the software business.

That means our beloved paper based media business is over. Believe me it’s hard for me to say. I have a giant book library. I love the ink from newspapers on my hands. But we need to say goodbye to that age so young people will read good local journalism again.

When I worked at the UNC School of Journalism in 2005, as a lowly tech support guy, I suggested that reporters need to learn how to program computers. This was met with brash attitudes and a general misunderstanding. Thankfully just after my departure they hired a new electronic journalism professor.

I’m not sure what each person’s difficulty with that idea was. One could be that math is perceived to be hard. Students study journalism because they like to write the english language not computer programs. I think this issue is in part a problem with how computer science is taught, or not taught, in K-12 education. Computer Science is misunderstood by general education teachers and not included along with math, science, and english.

Only now is basic web scripting considered an important skill by J-Schools. Twenty three years after the world wide web was invented. That isn’t enough. Universities need to teach a new breed of media makers that are a mix of journalist of old and modern web computer programmers. Not just people conversant in the web but experts in it.

Now that you understand that figure out the mobile news business model. Maybe I’ll explain that in the next blog post…

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