Last weekend, I helped out with an ONA dCamp of mobile. It’s been brewing for awhile, before I even got into mobile, but after a long conversation about products, mobile and product teams with folks like Damon Kiesow and Eric Ulken at ONA13, Damon, with the help of the amazing Miranda Mulligan, made a conversation into a reality.
[Sidebar: Part of my interest in this is the struggle for a traditionally “non-tech” person like myself to budge into product teams. I am not a strong coder, but I can work with people who code. Is that enough? Depends on who you talk to.]
You can read this to see a little bit of what we did, but here are my takeaways.
I wrote this on one of our sticky notes. We can talk about the Internet of things, or wearable technology. But what all those things come down to, is that they know.
Some of the best apps, the ones I use every day, they know. It’s creepy, but what constitutes privacy is changing. Mynd, my calendar app, knows who I am meeting with next and shows me their LinkedIn profile. My alarm clock app, with a little input, has told me I sleep better when I drink tea and work out.
But news apps, news sites, they have never known. Not well, really. They might know what your friends have posted on Facebook from that site, but that’s hardly interesting.
What if you gave it access to your calendar and Facebook, and it told you Rob likes the Atlanta Braves and feeds you a few stories so you can make a tense meeting more relaxed? What if it told you the hotel you’re about to check into had break-ins last month that are still unsolved?
At least a couple teams tried to work on this. In our group the conversation went back and forth as to whether we — as news companies — really can compete with the timesucks of Facebook and Twitter, and the information gatherers like Flipboard.
But there are other moments in the day we can find. We can fill in the time where we’re waiting in line. The time when our readers wake up. The time when our readers are doing research. The time when they are looking up what is happening down the street. Is there a tree down?
We spend a lot of time focusing on the time of day we’re on mobile (early and evening) but the questions is what is our audience doing then? It’s not about time, it’s about activity. My hiking app has become indispensable when I’m out in the woods. Outside of the world of mobile, public radio is obsessed with drive time. Those moments, when people are trapped in the car and need something, anything to take their mind off it — driveway moments.
This is the least sexy thing. But it’s the most important. We can’t build anything for mobile unless we can actually program, write for, and control mobile. Most mobile websites are slight re-hashes of homepages. But when you’re on your phone, you’re most likely looking for something specific, or something that fills a need (interesting, funny, etc).
But to build something where the mobile display feel radically different, customized, we need to start somewhere better.
Our CMSs have to be ready for different displays. The preview needs to show not just desktop, but mobile. How can we have outstanding mobile products if our web producers and our mobile producers are just reproducing the same story, with the same basic elements? What’s the point of having two people if our systems won’t even let us produce different things?
If we crunch everything down to building blocks, then it’s easier to build on breaking news (goodbye, timestamps!!) and we can scale up easily to large scale projects without freaking out about mobile in the end.
In tweet form, other thoughts that crossed my mind over the weekend
We need to get more women interested in mobile, in the tech side. Female product managers in news? A rare sight.
Push alerts aren’t the answer, they’re the beginning. The more relevant they are (@Circa) they more people use them.
Constant reminder: We are not typical news consumers. We have to stop building for ourselves.
The struggle to get newsroom to think mobile is the same struggle as social. We’re pushing the object of change, not the idea of it.
Big data needs to be broken down into small, actionable data on my phone.
"If that sequence is reversed with opening parenthesis, hyphen, colon (-: , areas of the brain most readily involved in face perception aren’t able to process the image as a face," lead researcher Owen Churches told ABC. — Your Brain Now Processes a Smiley Face as a Real Smile | Smart News | Smithsonian
The higher levels of fat in whole milk products may make us feel fuller, faster. And as a result, the thinking goes, we may end up eating less. — The Full-Fat Paradox: Whole Milk May Keep Us Lean : The Salt : NPR
Consumers today have “contextual” analysis coming out of their ears. What they’re getting less of is the hard information — “what’s happening” — around which context is built. There are fewer reporters from general-interest publications covering city halls and statehouses, fewer devoted to issues such as the environment and healthcare, fewer keeping an eye on state and federal regulators. — Supply of news is dwindling amid the digital media transformation - latimes.com
The only real thing 30 took from me was the sense of limitless time. I can reasonably expect 30 more years of good health. With luck, there will be 9,000 sunsets to get the great work done, before one starts fearing cancer and death. — On Turning 30 | VICE Canada
Your eyes typically move across a page for between 7 to 9 letters before needing to pause to process what you’re reading. — The Science Behind Fonts (And How They Make You Feel)
Women and members of minority groups, especially, are often raised with one set of values and expectations, and then suddenly need to excel in a new environment where the path to success is much different. — How to Suppress the Apology Reflex - NYTimes.com
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22′
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace! — Kurt Vonnegut on the Secret of Happiness: An Homage to Joseph Heller’s Wisdom | Brain Pickings
The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. — Linus Pauling, 12 quotes from authors to remember when starting your first book (via nevver)
The second disruption for news organizations is taking shape quickly, according to new data that illustrates the poor performance of news apps in 2013. A new study by Flurry (above) discovered that news and magazine apps were among the slowest to grow (+31% in user sessions) compared to the app average (+115%) and dreadfully behind the explosion of social media apps (+203%).
Separately, a Pew study released in November illustrated a growing population of users who get their news from social media. For example, 30% of Americans get news on Facebook, and 78% of Facebook’s daily active users are visiting from their mobile devices — nearly all of those from the Facebook app.
Apps continue to overwhelm the mobile web and are poised to surpass the desktop, too. Analyst Ian Maude tweeted a graph (above) — using Comscore data — that projects that time spent in mobile apps is “set to overtake desktop usage by year end.”
We’re in the throes of the fastest shift in news consumption in history. For news organizations desperate for distribution, under-performing on the fastest-growing and soon to be dominate distribution platform is not an option. However, a new report from Forrester Research found that many media companies and retailers are under-spending when it comes to investing in mobile: half are spending under $1 million a year.
Mobile apps are difficult and costly, and they demand investment and reinvention across the entire organization. The landscape will only grow more competitive with personalization and precisely-targeted advertising leading the way. For media companies hoping for a magical, inexpensive, third-party solution to save the day — or the sudden collapse of mobile apps — there’s a rude awakening right around the corner.
"Like a hanging, mobile focuses the mind," writes Lewis Dvorkan, chief product officer of Forbes Media. “I often say the $2 to $3 CPMs publishers frequently get for smartphone ads will crush all traditional newsrooms built for the era of $50 print CPMs — and most of them still are, whether they admit it or not.”
(I work at Breaking News, a mobile startup owned by NBC News).