Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Holding algorithms (and the people behind them) accountable is still tricky, but doable
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Jan. 9, 2017, 11:35 a.m.

Swipe to unlock: Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone 10 years ago today, changing journalism forever

“We’re gonna make some history together today” — he wasn’t wrong.

Ten years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone — and also became the first person to publicly complain about how news is presented on iPhones.

As part of his introduction to the phone’s capabilities, Jobs opened Safari and pulled up the full desktop version of the Times’ website. “We’re showing you the whole New York Times website,” Jobs said.

But he also noted: “It’s kind of a slow site because it’s got a lot of images.”

Jobs introduced the iPhone as three devices in one: a phone, a widescreen iPod, and an “Internet communications device.”

Jobs’ presentation that day focused on using Safari as the main way to access the Internet; he even rotated the phone to view the Times’ website in landscape mode. He was initially against the idea of native apps on the phone, pushing web apps as the state of the art. He likely didn’t envision that apps — and browsers within apps — would become the dominant way we access the Internet on mobile devices now.

Though the iPhone has evolved and grown enormously in power over the past decade, the device Jobs unveiled in 2007 still looks and feels familiar. While the iPhone and the competitors it spawned have changed nearly every aspect of our lives, they’ve had a particular impact on news organizations, which have spent much of the past decade optimizing their coverage for its tiny screens. And, perhaps most important of all, the app-driven model the iPhone brought to dominance meant that social platforms — Facebook above all — became the primary route for audiences to reach news on the devices we carry everywhere.

Most major news organizations now reach most of their audiences on mobile devices. Journalists — and everyday citizens — also have the ability to report live using just the phone in their pocket from nearly anywhere on the planet.

The iPhone enabled the creation of a mobile advertising industry that generated $31.6 billion in 2015, according to Pew. It wasn’t the first smartphone, but it was the first modern one; by 2022, there will be 6.1 billion mobile subscribers, and for many people globally, the smartphone is the only way they access the Internet.

The iPhone forever changed how we consume, produce, and pay for our journalism. “We’re gonna make some history together today,” Jobs said at the start of his big unveil, and it was one of the rare product debuts for which that wasn’t an exaggeration.

POSTED     Jan. 9, 2017, 11:35 a.m.
Show comments  
Show tags
Join the 45,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Holding algorithms (and the people behind them) accountable is still tricky, but doable
“We were able to demystify this black box, this algorithm that had very scary connotations, and break it down into what ended up being a very simple linear model.”
Fill in the blanks: What’s still missing from the study of fake news? (A whole lot.)
A big new report from the Hewlett Foundation pulls together existing research on social media, political polarization, and disinformation to show where we still need to know more.
Google announces a $300M ‘Google News Initiative’ (though this isn’t about giving out grants directly to newsrooms, like it does in Europe)
Also: an easier subscription flow, $10 million for media literacy in U.S. high schools, fact-checking efforts in search around health issues, and more.