After shoveling stories across platforms and mastering the art of the “Five things to know for today” listicle, local news organizations will finally begin to “get it” on mobile in 2016. The focus will turn to crafting unique experiences within mobile apps that truly take advantage of the features and benefits of the smartphone platform.
This has been the year many newsrooms (finally!) ditched the Page 1 meeting. Dare I say the coming year will see us lavish as much attention on the small screen as we still do on print Page 1 designs.
Today, my own company’s smartphone apps — and those of just about every news provider — are strictly curated story lists, incorporated within a user experience that takes advantage of the Apple or Android platform. There’s nothing particularly special or unique out there — with the notable exception of the NYT Now app, which builds weather, video, articles, and a quick spin around the broader web into a useful, friendly package.
The coming year will bring more crafted experiences and dynamic story selection, all programmed specifically for the smartphone. Location services will be enabled beyond weather, with stories automatically recommended (just as weather reports are now) based on where a reader is traveling. Archives and historical material, also location-based, will be summoned to automatically enhance news reports.
At least one news organization will begin to experiment with combining mobile content and commerce, testing whether users are willing to make small impulse purchases, such as flower delivery from local advertisers through a news organization’s smartphone app.
These efforts will require some extra effort within newsrooms to geotag and incorporate metadata in content at the start of the process, in addition to overcoming the traditional divide between content and commercial interests. In combination, they are critical steps to begin rebuilding the value proposition around unique local content and information relevant to consumers of products and services at the local level.
Mizell Stewart III is managing director and chief content officer of Journal Media Group, parent company of 14 U.S. newsrooms.