News Goes Mobile

WASHINGTON:  After years of decline, mainstream media is seeing signs of turnaround and it’s all on line, particularly mobile.  That’s a take-a-way from the World Media Congress that took place in Washington from June 1 to 3.
As any reporter still getting paid knows, the transition to digital has been brutal. In ten years the number of working journalists is down 20%, traditional media share prices fell 80% while ad revenue fell by two-thirds.
Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron says things are getting better.  New owner Jeff Bezos, says Baron, has brought, “questions, ideas, patience and money,” guiding the Post’s transition. With newly hired reporters joining veterans, Baron says its digital audience has grown dramatically to 47 million unique visitors per month, lifting the Post into the top ten digital news sites.
Larry Kramer, retiring publisher of USA Today, is similarly upbeat. He sees opportunities because “more people are reading content than ever before.” Gannett, he says, is having success integrating national and local coverage among its nearly 100 properties.
Online advertising executive, Sorosh Tavakoli sees “explosive growth” in mobile, which he believes will soon be dominant.  Video on mobile is huge, he adds, and bigger smart phone screens translate into longer views.
Dave Callaway, executive editor of USA Today, says mobile users want accurate news quickly and often. “What do we know right now?” Callaway says social is the key to mobile and “digital changes how we tell stories.”
From Brazil Marta Gleich of Zero Hora—with a string of newspapers and TV stations—emphasized productivity. Every newsroom, she said, is given a daily quota of stories and videos.  Journalists are judged on a skills map evaluating competence, story telling, facility with mobile and social, video shooting and editing,
Digital allows writers and editors to know the number of clicks and time spent on each story. The US edition of the UK’s Guardian, now among the top ten sites, uses a heat map ranking the popularity of each story on the home page. “Traffic,” says its US C.E.O Eamonn Store, “drives revenue,” and he expects the US edition to be profitable in three years.
 Journalists are encouraged to promote their stories and begin the conversation with readers.
As 1/3 of US adults consume news on mobile, it’s not a surprise that Facebook and Snapchat have launched partnerships opening their sites to content from publishers.
Facebook has a trial project with nine entities, including the New York Times, BBC, Atlantic and the German sites Spiegel and Bild.  Snapchat’s Discover is a partnership with 12 publishers, including CNN, Yahoo News, National Geographic, and ESPN.
The picture sharing site’s head of media Nick Bell describes Snapchat Discover as a continuous vertical scroll,  “a fun and easy way to explore the day’s stories.”  
Snapchat’s Nick Bell demonstrating the ‘continuous scroll’ of Discover
One presenter attribute the explosive growth of news on mobile to the 700 million iPhones Apple has sold in seven years, including 20 million iPhone 6s.
The World Media Congress drew 1,000 editors and publishers from 80 countries. 

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