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18 February, 2015

A mobile-first manifesto for news and visual content marketing

The smartphone is the new reporter’s notebook. The power that journalists now have to find, report and share multimedia stories from the field is nothing short of a revolution.

The smartphone has become the beating heart for both news production and consumption.

Mobile-only journalism will replace “mobile-first,” “digital-first” and the other transitional phrases we have been using to describe what is rapidly becoming a mobile revolution.

Mobile is where the audience that brands want to reach are and that truth will drive the “mobile-only” concept for startups and legacy media players.


If publishers and marketers are going to succeed with mobile, they will have to adapt to the notification, alert, subscription, and personalization behaviors that only purpose-built mobile-first teams and tech can deliver.  

Let's take a look at the current trends.

"Cardification" of news is a standard story form expectation for mobile consumers. And they expect to be able to interact with the information in smart ways.




This manifesto is a popular Webinar and presentation that I give.
It is designed to spark discussion and develop a roadmap that publishers, marketers, storytellers and media instructors can follow to succeed in the mobile space.



The "Cardification" of news needs to be fully understood and embraced head on, the 'Circafication' of topic subscription needs to become a common feature, the "Ziteification" of news is a standard expectation for many users.


"Cardification of news" - Google app

"Circafication of news" - Circa app

"Ziteification of news" - Zite app
My popular presentation "Your Smartphone is Your Newsroom," has been showcasing these trends since 2010.

I have led design method workshops and hackathons with developers and journalists to embrace these behavioral assumptions but they return to face entrenched resistance to make the needed leaps in their newsrooms.

Many online managers are still focusing on building mobile versions of their Web sites using responsive design.

Responsive design is not going to solve the core needs and expectations of mobile users.


The mobile space has pivoted hard towards p2p user-generated media, personalization of notifications, and private multimedia chat apps.


Do the editors of the Chicago Sun-Times really believe that this is what people expect when they open a politics story on their mobile device?



This is the politics section - which is confusingly called "Early and often."

And, as if we hadn't already noticed with Facebook's recent push, video has returned to center stage in the consumer's media diet.

With mobile, video storytelling is being reimagined with imaginative apps like Storehouse that offer sophisticated video stories built around short video clips.
That's great but let's look at a very common story example - a "Best of these kinds of places" report.

I came across a NYT article about the best craft beer joints in Berlin.

Even though there was a sidebar locating all the establishments, there was not even a simple Google locator map showing me where they all were.

#FAIL
So, I made this map in about 10 minutes time.

 


Reporting from simple data sets (Listings information) and making simple maps for stories with location data is something we should demand of every journalist we employ - from the editor-in-chief on down.




Ask yourself: What does a mobile consumer expect from a 'Best of" report like this?

  • They expect to be able to interact with that information. 
  • You offer to show them the story in the form of an interactive map. 
  • You also offer to use their location to show them how close they are to any of the places the reporter visited. 
  • You also include a data layer of customer reviews of the same places for comparison. 
  • You include the shop contact info so that they can book a table right within your app (or link to the Open table app, for example)

Mobile news and information consumers expect frictionless engagement with content. 

They may also like to be offered a notification that will alert them when they are close to one of the places they have favorited in the story.

So if that is our user's expectation, then why are the reporters and editors in your newsrooms still hooked on reporting and presenting stories in text? 

A story form like a "best of" can incorporate location, transit, consumer rating and notifications as well as supplemental text that profiles the owners and the flavors.

You see, that right there is the key

You will have to craft your stories in new ways to succeed.

The kinds of mobile experiences that drive brand loyalty, please advertisers and keep you in the news business are there for the taking. But you really have to be willing to think differently and embrace inversions of traditional story formats and delivery modes.

There are behaviors that you can adopt, roadmaps you can draw but, let's not pretend that it is easy.

It will take strong a commitment to continuous investment to develop the news and information services that work for your market.

You can borrow concepts from the lean-startup model, but you have to be serious about reinventing your business around mobile and cutting investments in areas that aren't oriented towards growth.

If publishers are going to succeed with mobile, they will have to adapt to the notification, alert, subscription, and personalization behaviors that only purpose-built mobile-first newsroom teams and tech can deliver. 

These trends show that the mobile experience needs to be rethought and rebuilt from the ground up.




Your Smartphone is Your Newsroom: 2015 edition
Retooling into a mobile-first operation involves meeting mobile consumers expectations and organizing workflows around highly-responsive mobile news production and delivery.

Robb Montgomery works with large media houses like Radio Free Europe to reshape their thinking, training and workflows around mobile journalism, mobile apps and delivering a great mobile experience from top to bottom. 

He built the IREX S.M.A.R.T. Media lab - a mobile-first newsroom and training center built entirely around mobile technology and behaviors.

Montgomery is the author of "A Field Guide for Mobile Journalism" and a suite of online courses in video and mobile journalism.

Robb Montgomery
CEO, Montgomery Multimedia
Berlin, Germany