Captive news audience: from college newspapers to smartphone users

Many things can be found on a college campus that don’t exist anywhere else. Masses of people hidden behind broadsheets reading their school newspapers is one of them. At a time when most print media are hemorrhaging readers, local and national dailies must be looking jealously at their campus cousins, wondering why their popularity doesn’t carry over with grads as they matriculate into the real world.
It’s true that students make a captive audience for their campus media. The  newspapers are distributed next to classrooms and food courts, and students don’t have much of a choice in paying for them as the fee is included in their tuition. But if they were not genuinely interested in reading about their campus community, they would find a way to avoid even touching the school paper. The fact that they do just the opposite tells us something. If relevant news can be delivered conveniently–that is, as convenient as having it delivered into your line of sight–without thinking about how much you are paying for it, then people will read. Avidly.
There is another medium that students are notoriously captivated by, which educators, parents and others rank high on their list of “what’s wrong with young people today”… cell phones.
While many accuse cell phones of “making society stupid,” the devices now do so much more than merely dial phone numbers. This ain’t your mother’s cellular phone, as they say.
Some now call them smart phones. And why not? They can bring a weather radar of your neighborhood right to the palm of your hand. They can tell you driving directions, updating when you take a wrong turn, and they know where to get the least expensive gas on your way. They can even morph into a level and other handy tools for making sure you’re drilling in a straight shelf!
But any cynic who sees a washing machine that still won’t do the laundry for her where others see a washing machine with all its bells and whistles would say that a smart phone is only as good as its user. This is true of any technology, as has been discussed previously on this blog.
This post, however, is primarily concerned with the implication these smart phones have for news media. Mobile devices create a captive audience in their owner, as many have noted with dismay. So why not explore a robust model of delivering news to the palms of people’s hands? Recipients can specify what kind of news they want, when and how, and journalists can rejoice is reclaiming their audience.

It will be just like when they read their college paper, but better.
And if you are into that kind of thing, advertisements on smartphones seem to be having some success.

Here is some of the buzz on the Internet about journalism and smartphones.

Reporting News With a Cell Phone
The Emergence of Citizen Journalism Through Handheld Media Devices

TED talk: Clay Shirky, The end of top-down control of news, the beginning of mobile news media
“Shirky, a prescient voice on the Internet’s effects, argues that emerging technologies enabling loose collaboration will change the way our society works.”

Nielsen: Smartphones To Be Majority of Cell Phones By 2011

The Wall Street Journal was talking about advertising’s natural fit with the iPhone back in May…

… and the Nieman Journalism Lab blog picked up the conversation:

And apparently Mizzou’s J-school students are now required to have an iPhone or Touch

Some iPhone Apps for Newspapers:

Blog post about local newspapers going iPhone through an application from Verve:

Still, there is no need to rush to come up with cute names. Think about how silly the person who coined “computer-assisted reporting” must feel:


3 thoughts on “Captive news audience: from college newspapers to smartphone users

  1. Pingback: Smart phones and journalism « Lauren Paulauskas's Multimedia Journalism Blog

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