New Habits Push News To Mobile-First
ATLANTA -- If news organizations want to keep up with their users' mobile-centricity, experts say adopting a new set of habits is essential.
Get live pictures of those mobile products up everywhere in the newsroom, for instance. Watch real-time monitoring on mobile — not desktop — first, and note the very different takeaways from the metrics. Live like the audience in terms of mobile-first consumption patterns, and get editors, producers and designers to take a mobile-first approach to big event coverage.
Preaching to a dense crowd of the already mobile-converted at the Online News Association's annual conference on Thursday, mobile experts from CNN, NBC's Breaking News vertical and The Boston Globe had a litany of ground game tips to get newsrooms in a new head space on mobile content.
Etan Horowitz, CNN's mobile editor, stressed the importance of having mobile visuals plastered across the newsroom, reinforcing the mobile interface's importance for staffers. Horowitz says everyone's computer should have a live view of the mobile product, that app emulators ought to be on the newsroom's big screens and that Apple TV and an iPad or iPhone should be used to bring up the mobile view in daily meetings.
Horowitz is particularly emphatic about having a mobile preview in the newsroom's content management system. "At that decision point where they're thinking about stories and headlines, they have a view of how that will translate to their mobile app," he says, enabling better content calibration for the form factor.
Cory Bergman, general manager of NBC's soon-to-be-revamped Breaking News website, says tracking the mobile metrics closely — though not slavishly — is equally important.
Morning and primetime mobile peaks ought to guide programming for the platform, he says, and newsrooms would do well to note the surges in mobile traffic on weekends and even holidays such as Christmas, when freshly gifted mobile devices are in heavy use.
"How can you schedule people more to target mobile on the weekends and take advantage of that?" Bergman says.
He also notes that everything shared on social is predominately mobile, pointing to stats that 75% of Twitter's monthly users are mobile along with 78% of Facebook's daily users.
Fiona Spruill, until recently the editor of emerging platforms at The New York Times, exhorted attendees to "force yourself to be looking across all platforms all the time."
She says big news events are good catalysts for trying new things on mobile, and the Times would often try new mobile products developed within only a 12-24-hour window during such events. Mobile-focused internal teams are also indispensable, especially when planning for coverage of a known big event.
Damon Kiesow, senior product manager at The Boston Globe, says internal ownership of mobile is key, and that starts with having staffers who have "mobile" in some part of their title. That also means that when the app or mobile site goes down, it's clear who's responsible for getting it back up and with the same sense of urgency as if the website has crashed or the paper was delivered late.
Kiesow adds that product meetings need to start with how new endeavors will work in mobile.
So what's the measure to determine mobile success?
"You'll know you're winning if you're making money on it and advertising is being sold into it," Kiesow says, adding that another score is if the CMS allows mobile-only headlines and summary text.
If these experts are any measure, there's also a healthy job market ahead in mobile news. "Capability to recruit good developers in mobile is a key asset today," Bergman says.
They also say that wearable technology, only in its infancy today, is an important space to watch in charting longer-term mobile thinking.
"There's something really powerful there, getting some of that technology/information on our bodies in some way," Spruill says, gesturing to her own Fit Flex wristband, which wirelessly gathers personal activity and sleep data.
"If we can figure out how to insert ourselves into people's daily lives, that's pretty powerful."
A closer look at the panelists' tips on new habits is here.