Building a news video experience native to mobile

“Just as people choose music for different settings — chill workout, hardcore workout, cooking dinner, putting the children to bed — users could tailor the news content they want to hear or read based on mood or situation rather than, say, politics or locale.”

In addition to learning how to file open-records requests, shoot video, and incorporate data in their reporting, today’s journalism students think about innovation in product management terms.

I hope they’re working on UX and UI projects in which news and sports broadcasts go back to the future to better integrate with mobile devices — fewer cameras, simpler angles, more voice, less graphics. Mobile programmers could show live sporting events that are more organically friendly to smartphones — think billiards, not baseball. Realistically, though, most people use their smartphones to watch NFL games (optimized for 80-inch screens), when they need “live” more than “dazzling.” So instead of having to choose between one app for radio-style play-by-play (already global mainstays, especially for golf and tennis) and another for a TV feed, one app could combine the existing streams for the best experience on a smaller screen.

In line with Steven Henn’s prediction of “intelligent, thoughtful radio,” imagine streaming a newscast with a single camera of one person literally reading the news. Or a voiceover could be accompanied by scrolling text (which you could stop in order to read links). The “reader” could occasionally offer prompts for the news consumer to view graphics or images designed especially for smartphones.

Mainstream news is also ready for its Spotify-like transformation. Just as people choose music for different settings — chill workout, hardcore workout, cooking dinner, putting the children to bed — users could tailor the news content they want to hear or read based on mood or situation rather than, say, politics or locale. Weaving in complicated traffic? Just headlines. Need to cocoon from Washington? “Kathleen, here is your news without any political stories. Let us know you’re ready to be fully informed.”

Kathleen McElroy is associate director of the University of Texas School of Journalism.

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