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August 23 2012

10:26

Location-based mobile app Roamz relaunches: Is serendipity dead?

TechCrunch :: When Roamz first launched its social-local-mobile application, the thing was all about serendipity. That is, it was all about helping users to discover lots of new things that they might not have known about before. Strangely enough, what Roamz found was that users weren’t necessarily looking for brand new experiences every time they stepped out of the house. Instead, they knew what they wanted

A report by Ryan Lawler, techcrunch.com

Tags: Mobile

August 19 2012

06:15

Jeff Jarvis: Mobile's not the next big thing, just a path to it

Buzzmachine :: Google views content — our content — as a tool that generates signals about their users, building relationships, data, and value. Google views mobile as a tool that also generates signals and provides opportunities to target content and services to the individual, where she is, and what she’s doing now (thus Android’s Google Now).

[Jeff Jarvis:] We in news and media should bring those strands together to knit a mobile strategy around learning about people and serving them better as a result — not just serving content on smaller screens.

Continue to read here Jeff Jarvis, buzzmachine.com

Tags: Google Mobile

August 17 2012

14:00

Next Knight News Challenge Calls for Mobile Visionaries

The Knight Foundation, which now offers three rounds of its News Challenge instead of one competition per year, just announced the theme of its next contest: mobile. This round focuses on funding innovators who are using mobile to change the face of the media industry.

iphone sky.jpg

Considerable growth in mobile Internet usage over the past few years has meant the way in which people consume news is undoubtedly shifting -- so it's not much of a surprise that mobile would be the theme of one of this year's rounds. In fact, several mobile players have already been the recipients of past News Challenge awards -- think MobileActive, FrontlineSMS, as well as Watchup, Behavio and Peepol.tv, which were winners of the round on networks.

"We know that we (and our kids) have grown attached to our mobile devices," Knight's John Bracken and Christopher Sopher wrote in a blog post announcing the round, "but we have less clarity about the ways people are using them, or might use them, as citizens, content producers and consumers to tell, share and receive stories."

move over, data

The announcement of the next theme comes as round 2, which focuses on data, moves onto the next stage. The round is now closed for submissions, and Knight's team of advisers has selected 16 finalists. They'll be doing interviews and video chats with the finalists over the next couple of weeks. Winners of the data round will be announced in September.

"We've focused the News Challenge this year on big opportunities in news and information -- networks, data and now mobile," Bracken and Sopher wrote in their post. "In some ways, mobile represents both the greatest need and greatest potential for individual citizens and news organizations."

The mobile round will be open to applicants starting on August 29, and Knight will accept entries until September 10.

August 15 2012

20:28

The newsonomics of breakthrough digital TV, from Aereo to Dyle and MundoFox to Google Fiber

In 1998, when Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. bought the Los Angeles Dodgers, the storied franchise was worth $380 million. News Corp. sold the team in 2003 for $430 million. After winning the ability to negotiate a new multi-billion sports TV contract this fall, they sold earlier this year for $2 billion, blowing the lid off sports property values.

In 1994, the San Diego Padres were worth $80 million. After recently signing a 20-year deal with Fox Sports for $1.2 billion, they sold (pending league approval) for $800 million.

Meanwhile, in 2000, the Los Angeles Times was worth at least $1.5 billion when it was sold as part of Times Mirror to Tribune Company. Today, as it is newly readied for market out of the Tribune bankruptcy, it would go for something less than $250 million. The San Diego Union-Tribune, once valued near a billion dollars, sold for about $35 million in 2009 and about $110 million in 2011.

It’s a reversal of fortune: Newspaper franchises that once outvalued baseball teams by 3-1 or 5-1 or 10-1 now see the inverse of that ratio. Why?

Two letters: TV.

Those numbers tell us a lot about the continuing power of television, in worth, in value creation, and in the news business itself. If we look just at recent events in the ongoing transformation of broadcast and cable to digital, we now see multiple breakthroughs on their path to digital. They give us indications of what the news business, video and text, will look like in the coming years. While we can argue endlessly about the relative virtues and vices of print and TV news, we must acknowledge the relative ascendance of TV and think about what that means for the news business overall.

TV’s revenues are holding up far better than newspaper companies’, and TV is better positioned to survive the great digital disruption.

TV has continued to have great audience. Nearly three in four Americans tune in to local TV news at least weekly, surpassing newspaper penetration, even as Pew Research points out they mainly do it for three topics: breaking news, weather, and traffic. Further, it retains great ad strength — 42 percent of national ad spending, matching the actual number of minutes Americans spend with the medium and making it the only medium still ahead of digital spending as digital has surpassed print (newspapers + magazines this year, both in the U.S. and globally). Yes, TV remains a gorilla. While Netflix won headlines when it announced it had streamed one billion hours of TV and movies in a single month, that huge number compared to about 43 billion hours of U.S. TV consumption, according to Nielsen’s 4Q 2011 Cross-Platform report.

In a nutshell, that’s the difference between TV and video, circa 2012. Video is the next wave — incorporating TV perhaps, but still the very young kid on the block.

Today, TV is no longer a box. Sure, even with all the Rokus, Boxees, and Apple TVs, it seems like TV isn’t yet an out-of-the-box experience. But with Hulu, Netflix, and Comcast’s Xfinity, it’s emerging quickly, escaping our fixed idea of what it once was — the boob tube in the living room. If it’s not just a box anymore, it’s a platform. From that platform, we see both the disruptors and the incumbents doubling down their bets. As in most things digital, few of these launches will be huge winners — but some will drive big breakthroughs. Some of the iconic legacy companies we’ve long known will be absorbed in the woodwork as new brands supplant them. Consider the spate of recent innovation, as we quickly assess the newsonomics going forward:

  • NBC, bashed up and down Twitter, nonetheless proved out a new business model with its multi-platform approach to Olympics coverage. Whatever you think of the tape delays or the suspended reality of Bob Costas’ gaze, NBC made the economics work, surprising itself and others. Its live streaming has ratified the development of cable- and satellite-authenticated, all-access digital delivery. That reinforces cable/satellite value. Further, it whetted prime-time viewing appetites, boosting ratings and earning NBC more ad revenue than it had projected. That’s icing on the cake for NBC, which, under Comcast ownership, has rocketed forward in digital strategy. The network has made a number of moves to transform itself into a global, video-forward, digital news company, joining the Digital Dozen global news pack. Recently, it bought out Microsoft’s share of msnbc.com, a leading Internet news portal. It immediately rechristened it NBCNews.com. In short order, it appointed Patricia Fili-Krushel as the new head of NBCUniversal News Group, an entity made up of NBC News, CNBC, MSNBC, and the Weather Channel. A former president of ABC, with 10 years of experience at Time Warner, she heads a growing news operation. Earlier this year, NBC combined its sports properties into a unified NBC Sports Group, merging NBC’s broadcast sports unit and Comcast’s regional sports networks. NBC is growing out of its digital adolescence. (See “One year after she was hired, Vivian Schiller’s ‘wild ride’ at NBC is just beginning.”)
  • Aereo, the TV startup funded by media magnate Barry Diller, is expanding its footprint from its current New York City base, and starting to offer multiple promotional deals. Diller’s in-your-face challenge to over-the-air broadcasters (CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, CW, PBS) takes their signals and delivers that programming via the Internet. It charges consumers $12 a month, or as little as a dollar a day. They can then watch those TV stations on up to five devices; in addition, they can deliver these signals to a TV via Apple TV or Roku. Aereo also offers DVR capability, with 40 hours of storage. It’s classic disruption, with Aereo upping the pressure on the cable bundle and messing with the “retrans” fees that broadcasters get from cable companies to run their programming. Is it really legal, as a court recently found? It may be as legal as Google presenting snippets from every publisher and directory provider.
  • Local broadcasters — representing a broad swath of ownership groups organized in a newer company called Pearl — are bringing local TV to our mobile devices themselves. Just a week ago, Metro PCS started selling a Samsung Galaxy S phone with a TV receiver chip in 12 markets. That’s just the first push of Mobile Content Ventures, a collection of Pearl, NBC, Fox, and others. Expect mobile TV, marketed as Dyle, to be available for other phones and tablets, either with built-in chips or after-market accessories — although price points are an issue, with $100-plus premiums likely over the next year. So what does this innovation mean? Simply, that broadcasters are going direct to mobile consumers — no Internet needed, no data charges applying, and maybe providing more consistent video connectivity — with live programming; whatever is on TV at that moment is also on your phone or tablet. Broadcasters just use part of their digital signal to, uh, broadcast to us on our phones. It’s that antenna, and its cost, that’s the issue. Business questions abound. Given the timing of the launch, Dyle seems like an aspiring Aereo killer, and certainly broadcasters would like to see it do that, if further court action doesn’t. More deeply, though, broadcasters want to maintain their direct-to-consumer brand identity as they do a balancing act and try to keep those retrans fees from cable and satellite companies. They don’t want to be left out of the digital party.
  • Social TV pulls up a chair. First it was startup Second Screen, matching tablet ads to real-time TV viewing. Now ConnecTV, partnered with Pearl, is trying to corner the activity as it takes off. Its promise: “synchronization of local news, weather, sports, and entertainment programming along with social polls.” Ah, synchronicity, a Holy Grail of our digital aspirations. Last week, Cory Bergman (a man of at least three full-time digital lives, with MSNBC, Next Door Media, and Lost Remote) sold his Last Remote social-TV site to Mediabistro.
  • Then there’s the disruptor of everything on planet Earth, Google. The company recently announced it is putting another $200 million into YouTube Channels, building on its initial $150 million investment. The move emphasizes how quickly YouTube is growing beyond its homegrown, user-generated roots. Now partnering with dozens of prime video producers, creating more than 100 new channels, it is trying to establish itself in viewers’ lives as a go-to video aggregation source. Major video producers are still wary of Google getting between them and their customers, both ad and viewer, but many others are signed on. Meanwhile, in Kansas City, Google Fiber TV (TV that’s healthier for you?) launches. It’s a rocket shot at the cable, telco, and satellite incumbents. It’s also a demonstration project: providing more, cheaper. The more: interactive search for TV that combs your DVR and third-party services such as Netflix. (Yes, The Singularity ["The newsonomics of Google ad singularity"] marches on.) Google Fiber TV combines DVR and third-party (Netflix-plus) search. Its DVR holds 500 hours of storage of shows in 1080p and the ability to record eight TV shows simultaneously. Bandwidthpalooza. Google’s goal: Toss a hand grenade among the TV-as-usual business models, and pick up some of the pieces, adding new significant revenue lines.
  • CNN moves to break out of its identity funk, figuring out what that powerful global brand means in this fast-changing digital news world. CNN President Jim Walton recently stepped down, clearly acknowledging that his 10-year run had reached an end. “CNN needs new thinking,” he said in a farewell note. On TV, CNN has been beaten up badly both both Fox News and MSNBC. In 2Q, CNN showed its worst numbers in 20 years, down 35 percent year-over-year. On the web, it’a a top-three news player. But overall, it’s become the Rodney Dangerfield of news entities, getting little respect. Its cable fees — the strength of its revenues — could be challenged by low ratings. Going forward and competing against other global news brands — many of which are transitioning their own businesses to gain far greater digital reader revenue — it is, at this moment, caught betwixt and between. How it brings together a single — and global — digital/TV identity is at the core of its continuing journalistic importance and financial performance.

That’s a short list. We could easily add HuffPo’s streaming initiative and The Wall Street Journal’s wider video embrace. Or Les Moonves’ digital moves at CBS. And Fox’s new MundoFox, Spanish-language TV network, taking on Telemundo and Impremedia. The new network, at birth, offers a strong digital component, working at launch with advertisers along those lines. Let’s note some quick takeaways here, all of which we’ll be talking about in 2013:

  • Note how much you see the names News Corp. and Fox here. While segregating its text assets (and liabilities), News Corp. is investing greatly in the video future.
  • Cable bundling’s longevity is uncertain. There’s a lot of residual power here, but we know how quickly that can fade in legacy media. Yes, the unbundling of cable and satellite has been overestimated by some, as Peter Kafka pointed out recently. Yet, these multiple digital strategies may still push a tipping point. Clearly, legacy TV media, despite their public protestations, sees that potential and is acting in multiple ways to prepare for it.
  • Though broadcasters are making major digital pushes, they start from a lowly digital position. Many broadcasters can count no more than 5 percent of their total revenues coming from digital. That compares to 15-20 percent or more for newspaper companies. While there are other sources of revenue have been more stable than those of newspapers, they need to grow digital revenues quickly to make up for inevitable erosion of older money streams.
  • TV ≠ newspapers. Much of broadcasters’ revenues are made on non-news programming, as much as one-half to two-thirds for most local broadcasters. While learning from TV experience here is useful, given lots of differences, the learnings must be smartly applied. As news consumers and advertisers move increasingly digital, though, that thick line that separate local TV from local newspapers thins by the day.

The all-access, news-anywhere, entertainment-everywhere era has created a new massive business competition. Which brands will be top of mind? Who will consumers pay? How valuable is news itself in this contest?

Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, AT&T — pipes companies — are in one corner. CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, HBO, Showtime, and other known-to-consumer brands in another. Aggregators like Netflix and Hulu over there. Media marketers like Amazon and Apple holding court. Google. The local broadcasters fighting for their place in this digital ring. This new battle of brands, in and around “TV,” is now joined.

16:12

Mobile’s not the next big thing, just a path to it

The Knight Foundation’s News Challenge just announced its next theme: mobile. And that’s a good thing because news organizations have been all-too pokey in figuring out how to serve people in this venue.

When Arthur Sulzberger announced his hiring of a new CEO, the BBC’s Mark Thompson, he said, “Our future is on to video, to social, to mobile.”

With respect, I’m not so sure. Saying that mobile is what comes next means, I fear, that we’re going to take what we do in media — making content, selling audiences — and figure out how to keep doing it on video, in social, and in mobile.

But that’s not what we really do.

Is Google just doing mobile next? Google has a mobile operating system. It has a Google-branded phone and tablet. It bought a phone manufacturer. It made apps for all its services for mobile. Even so, I don’t think Google is becoming a mobile company. For Google, mobile is a tool, a path to improve its real business.

What is its real business? The same as media’s business should be: Relationships — knowing people and serving them better because of what it knows about them.

With newspaper companies, I’ve been arguing that they should abandon page views as a metric because it has been a corrupting influence that carried on the old-media myth that the more “audience” you have the more you can charge advertisers and the more money you’ll make. The pursuit of page views has led news organizations to draw traffic — people — they cannot monetize (because they come from outside the market or come just once from search or Drudge). And the insistence that they remain in the content business has led news organizations to believe they must still sell that content; thus, pay walls.

Google views content — our content — as a tool that generates signals about their users, building relationships, data, and value. Google views mobile as a tool that also generates signals and provides opportunities to target content and services to the individual, where she is, and what she’s doing now (thus Android’s Google Now).

We in news and media should bring those strands together to knit a mobile strategy around learning about people and serving them better as a result — not just serving content on smaller screens. Mobile=local=me now. We should build a strategy on people over content, on relationships.

That’s what mobile means to me: a path to get us to the real value in our business. For you folks cooking up ideas for the Knight News Challenge (and for you, my new neighbor, Mr. Thompson) I suggest starting there.

August 14 2012

15:38

August 13 2012

15:30

In the Philippines, Rappler is trying to figure out the role of emotion in the news

As news organizations fracture and specialize, it’s often suggested that audiences seek out the kind of coverage that reflects their own preconceived perspectives. It’s the idea that right-wingers are watching Hannity while left-wingers are watching Maddow.

But when it comes to how we decide what information to share, there’s more than political ideology at play. Maria Ressa, a longtime TV journalist and CEO of the Manila-based news startup Rappler, has been thinking about the overlap between emotion and social interaction for a while now. Her forthcoming book, From Bin Laden to Facebook, examines social media’s role in the spread of terrorism.

“When you look at how terrorism spreads, you look at how emotions spread through large groups of people,” Ressa told me. “You take the idea that emotions are important in decision making. And on social media, what spreads fastest, it’s actually emotions more than ideas.”

“If you actually go through the exercise of identifying how you feel, you’re more prone to be rational.”

So Ressa had an idea. Why not find a way to track the emotions that news stories elicit from members of an audience? Enter the Rappler Mood Meter, which gives readers the opportunity to click on the emotion that any given Rappler story made them feel. The options: Happy, sad, angry, don’t care, inspired, afraid, amused, or annoyed. (Ressa says Rappler developed the mood categories with the help of a group of psychologists.)

Mood Meters feed into a larger Mood Navigator, which determines the mood of the day and features a visual, story-by-story representation of the mood breakdown. On one recent day, for example, most people were happy — despite one big story that made most people sad, and a couple that made most people angry. Check it out:

Readers can mouse over any of the circles — each one represents an individual story — to see the mood breakdown. For example, a story about Bam Aquino’s 2013 Senate candidacy made most people happy, but even more people were either annoyed or angry:

“The idea behind the Mood Meter is actually getting people to crowdsource the mood for the day,” Ressa said. “If you actually go through the exercise of identifying how you feel, you’re more prone to be rational. If you can identify how you feel, will you be more receptive to the debate that’s in front of you? I hope. That’s really the rationale, aside from the fact that it’s cool.”

The Mood Navigator is also revealing. Rappler’s two most popular stories ever made most people either inspired or sad. The former was a story about a Filipina physicist who helped prove Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity on a cosmic scale. The latter was about how a Filipino-Mexican would have won American Idol had voting not been limited to U.S. residents. Ressa says both stories had “geeky” components to them.

“It’s about trying to understand our world today,” Ressa said. “I think everyone is trying to understand our world today and we’re doing it together. Too few media companies are actually in the space where most Filipinos are going.”

The idea of tying readers’ moods to specific stories isn’t new. NBC’s local O&O station sites debuted them back in 2009, although they disappeared in a later redesign. News.me wants to know if a story elicits a “Wow” or an “Awesome,” while Buzzfeed wants an “LOL,” “OMG,” or “WTF.”

But the Mood Meter, and Rappler more generally, is proving to be a significant new force in the Philippines, where Internet use is not yet mainstream but where the connected are very connected. Only 30 percent of Filipinos reported using the Internet within a four-week span, according to an October 2011 Nielsen study. But those who did reported being online for more than 21 hours per week, among the highest in Southeast Asia. Mobile phones and social media are both hugely popular in the country, which is seeing a rapid shift as more consumers buy multiple devices, including tablets and smartphones with Internet access.

Ressa says the lion’s share of advertising revenue in the Philippines still flows into television, which may help explain why Rappler is a relatively rare online news startup in the region. “In 2010, we were doing very well on television but you could already see the market fragmenting,” Ressa said. “This was really an experiment to see: Could we survive purely online without any ads on print or television? It’s actually much more potent than any of us had expected.”

The country’s largest TV networks and newspapers have web sites, but most have the cluttered design that tends to reflect a supplemental approach to an outlet’s online presence. Ressa credits the site’s web-native DNA for its rapid growth. “In Rappler’s first month, we hit the traffic it took the largest Philippine news group a decade to reach. That’s the power of social media.”

“We’ve moved from the age of authority to the age of authenticity.”

In its first six months, Rappler grew quickly. Its best month of traffic saw nearly 3 million pageviews, with most months clocking between 2 million and 3 million hits. Ressa says most traffic comes through social media channels.

On one hand, the Mood Navigator draws people in by “gamifying things a little,” but it also helps demonstrate “the way emotions flow through society.” Inside the newsroom, it helps journalists better understand how to tell stories that resonate with people. “We’ve been journalists a long time,” she said. “And you get tired of telling the same stories without any resolution.”

In future iterations of the Mood Navigator, the plan is to enable people to be able to click on an emotion for a list of mood-customized content. That way, you can create reading lists that include only the stories that made most people happy, or angry, or amused, or whatever other emotion you choose. (The New York Times’ Show Tuner is a niche experiment in the same wheelhouse; it lets users select their moods along a sliding scale from light to dark in order to find targeted theater reviews. Get ready for more filter bubble articles.)

Ressa, who spent more than two decades of her journalism career in television, is excited about opportunities to interact with audiences online. (Perhaps it’s not an accident that both NBC Local and Rappler approach emotion from a broadcast perspective — a medium that’s long been more comfortable with audience emotion than newspapers.) Another crowdsourcing project that Rappler recently launched, #HealthAlert, involves developing a local map of cases of Dengue fever, the potentially deadly mosquito-borne illness that tends to occur in tropical regions during their rainy seasons.

“We know this is a yearly problem, and yet we could never get a map of where it happens,” Ressa said. “Tap the wisdom of crowds to help strengthen government initiatives — actually ask the people who are reading Rappler, ask our community, if there’s an incident of Dengue, map it. The map is simple: It’s a Google map with an Ushahidi overlay. Then we’ll be plugging into the department of health so that they can see, in real time, hopefully, a nationwide map of incidents of Dengue. It then means the authorities, maybe they can more proactive.”

Being proactive is largely what Rappler is about. Ressa says she sees the site as the first “truly multimedia” news organization in the Philippines. What that means is merging journalists with broadcast, print, and tech expertise. Rappler produces news broadcasts that are optimized for mobile devices. (Ressa anchors.)

“We’ve moved from the age of authority to the age of authenticity,” Ressa said. “Professional journalists now have to move from that old ground of authority — because we’re losing ground, and frankly it’s hard to be an authority now. In the areas where breaking news happens, they’ll know more than the professionals. So what can we add to this changing landscape?”

06:24

Why New York Magazine sees responsive design as the future

Instead of building interface solutions for each platform and device (digital, mobile) many publishers turn to responsive design. Unfortunately this approach also has some hurdles and pitfalls. Josh Sternberg talked to Michael Silberman, the general manager of digital for New York Magazine.

Digiday :: New York Magazine launched a fashion site this week called The Cut. What’s interesting is that the publication is using the site as a pilot of sorts to join the now-trendy responsive design movement.

A report by Josh Sternberg, www.digiday.com

August 10 2012

20:21

T-Mobile ordered to pay $350,000, give job back to whistle-blower

Puget Sound Business Journal :: The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered Deutsche Telekom and its subsidiary, Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA to reinstate a fired T-Mobile employee and pay the employee almost $350,000.

A report by Jennifer Sokolowsky, www.bizjournals.com

Tags: Mobile

August 09 2012

22:03

Are Tablet-Only Publications Dead?

Is there a future for tablet-only publications? “The last few weeks have cast an ominous shadow over this niche industry following substantial staff cuts at News Corp.’s The Daily and a decision by the Huffington Post to give up on charging for its iPad magazine after just five issues,” Adweek reports. “While some media observers are quick to write off the format, many in the industry see recent woes as part of the natural growing pains of an emerging market.”


14:00

How User-Centered Design Powers FrontlineSMS, Version 2

I'm going to be honest: When I first joined FrontlineSMS, I had no idea how much goes into the design of software. Every screen, every button and every function has principled thought behind it.

gabrielwhite.jpg

In 2011, we worked alongside Gabriel White, a user experience designer from Small Surfaces, to help translate FrontlineSMS users' needs into the new design of Version 2. I came to realize that no matter how advanced and amazing a piece of software might be, it has no relevance if users can't access it or work out how to use it. I think that the user interface -- that point of contact between a user and the functionality (or what the software can do) -- is the most important entry point in the way users experience a tool.

It's now been over a year and a half after the design work first began, and I recently spoke with Gabe to share his reflections on how we ensured users' priorities were central to the design of Version 2.

What user design experience involves

I'm sure that for many of us it's not clear what User Experience Design really involves, so I asked Gabe to explain. "To me, it means creating products and services that address real user needs, and defining how people can interact with software in a way that's useful and meaningful. The most important things to consider in this process are what you (as an organization) are trying to achieve by creating the product or service; what the needs of the end users are; and then bringing those two sets of goals together through a design solution that is usable, useful and engaging."

version2launch.jpg

At FrontlineSMS, we have always endeavored to put our users first and be responsive to their needs -- to make our software work better for them. This user-centered design process is at the heart of Version 2. I was curious to ask Gabe how he got involved in the FrontlineSMS project. "I decided to move to Uganda to focus my work on projects which were meaningful to me in terms of positive social impact," he replied. "I found out about the Mobiles for Development Conference in Kampala in 2010. I'd heard that FrontlineSMS' founder, Ken Banks, was going to be there, and the FrontlineSMS project was exactly the kind of initiative I wanted to get involved in. So I basically cornered him and said, 'We have to have a coffee together!' When I later found out that he was thinking about how the user experience would evolve in the then-upcoming Version 2 of the software, it felt like serendipity. Working with FrontlineSMS turned out to be one of the highlights of my design career."

step one: personas

The first step in working together was when Gabe asked us to draw up profiles representing the characteristics of different types of FrontlineSMS users ("Personas" in design-speak). We asked volunteers who represented diverse projects using FrontlineSMS to be involved in the design process. Gabe explained the importance of this: "It's really critical to involve users throughout the entire process so that you can continuously ensure that you address users' real needs in appropriate ways. First, we interviewed existing users of the software to understand their aspirations and pain points. This helped us frame the problems we wanted to solve with Version 2. As I began to craft a design solution, it was important to continue to engage end users through the process. So even when we had only very early design concepts, I shared the alternative solutions with users to understand how effectively the design ideas met the needs I'd earlier uncovered."

"One of the things we found was that, while it was often easy to do basic things in Version 1 of the software, it was sometimes harder to do more sophisticated things with it. For example, FrontlineSMS users often want to use the tool to gather together messages from a group of people on a range of specific topics, or create a poll and easily understand the responses. Essentially, it's great to be able to gather or disperse information using FrontlineSMS, but that's only the beginning of the story -- it's often what users do with all those messages afterwards that counts. Making it easier for people to use FrontlineSMS to do more sophisticated things was critical as we thought about building the new software."

the inspiration behind activities

This speaks volumes to a central feature of Version 2: the "Activities" which guide users through common tasks like announcements and polls, so I was keen to know more about where the inspiration for this came from. "In the research we found that most people were wanting to use the software to carry out three or four core types of tasks (such as conducting a poll)," he said. "Version 1 of FrontlineSMS required users to put the pieces together themselves when doing these tasks, which meant that many users were unable to unlock the full potential of the software. I realized we needed to do two things: Make it easier for people to do more complex things with the software, and also help people appropriately manage the information that was coming in and going out in relation to each of these different activities. So we created this idea of Activities -- if we know you wanted to create a poll, for example, we could guide you through the steps of setting it up, and then help you manage and understand the responses coming back in. With Activities, people do not need to put the pieces together themselves -- the software now supports them through the whole process by providing pre-packaged sets of tools."

Activities FrontlineSMS 2.jpg

Moreover, the system was designed to inspire people to make the most of FrontlineSMS and explore more sophisticated uses of SMS. Gabe elaborated: "Activities expose people to the possibilities of what they can do with the system. FrontlineSMS users have always been aware there was potential, but some didn't know they could do more advanced things with the software. Activities make it much more explicit and easy to understand. It's now more obvious about potential possibilities and so makes everything much more approachable."

the elements of design

When we presented early designs to users to seek their feedback, one person highlighted the power of the "email metaphor," particularly in reference to the ability to star messages or select multiple messages using check boxes. I wondered to what extent Gabe's design was influenced by online tools like Gmail and Facebook. His response: "As a designer one of the things I think about is: What are the design approaches or metaphors that people are familiar with and makes most sense to them? Design most often is not about creating completely new and radical solutions; rather it's about bringing together elements and metaphors that people already deal with in novel and interesting ways."

Gabe's approach was logical and meticulous, sticking to predictable behavior to ensure the usability of the user interface. It wasn't until after building user personas, choosing the task-based "Activity" concept and creating over 100 pages of design documentation that we first saw the first line of Version 2 code and a blue hyperlink for "Inbox" in summer 2011. Now that it's fully working software, I sometimes have to rub my eyes to believe how far we've come. What I love the most is hearing what people think, because that is what's central to user interface design. So find out about what's new in Version 2 here and share your ideas on what you think of the design on our forum here.

Gabriel White's company Small Surfaces designs user interface solutions for smartphones, tablet computers and beyond. His award-winning designs have helped organizations including FrontlineSMS, Ushahidi, World Vision, and Refugees United, as well as business leaders like Google, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Sandisk and Kodak deliver innovative, next-generation products and services. Gabe continues to work on new features and designs for FrontlineSMS.

Amy joined FrontlineSMS at the beginning of 2011 and is coordinating the FrontlineSMS:Radio project. This is a tailored version of FrontlineSMS's free and open-source software which is customized for radio DJs to help them interact with their audiences via text message. The project has involved offering user support to the growing community of radio users who are interested in solutions for the management of SMS and translating their needs into the software development process. Previously, Amy has worked for the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, Amnesty International and Action Against Hunger.

A version of this post originally appeared on the FrontlineSMS blog.

August 08 2012

19:58

Creating a Mobile Marketing Strategy for Your Nonprofit Organization

The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that, as of early 2012, 88% of American adults had a cell phone. Three out of five of those were smartphones. Yes, that’s right. The majority of cell phone users now own smartphones, and by 2013, experts predict mobile phones will replace PCs as the tool most used to access the web.

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16:50

Smartphone owners are avid local biz searchers: Social media 76pc, news 75pc

MarketingCharts :: Smartphone owners are more likely than tablet owners to access local information (88% vs. 75%) and find local services (74% vs. 55%) on their devices, according to [pdf] August 2012 survey results from Keynote Services. In fact, among a range of activities identified, accessing local information appeared as the most common smartphone activity, ahead of searching for information (82%), participating in social media and networking sites (76%), and reading news and entertainment (75%).

A report by www.marketingcharts.com

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14:00

How the Knight Lab's Babl App Helped Lollapaloozans Deal with Storms

This post was written by Jordan Young of the Knight News Innovation Lab.

IMG_2597.jpg

This past weekend marked the annual music carnival known as Lollapalooza" held in Chicago's Grant Park. As you'd expect, close to 100,000 people attending a large event can generate a lot of hot conversations on social media outlets.

The Knight News Innovation Lab recently released a mobile application, Babl, which gives users a unique way to share and discover news. This iPhone app offers a visual alternative to reading through a scrolling list of tweets. Babl users can create their own conversation topics by entering a title and keywords. The app uses the terms entered to create and display a collage of tweeters' photographs that can then be tapped to reveal their individual tweet.

behind the scenes

Prior to Lollapalooza, we set up a featured topic for the opening day of the fest allowing any user to sample the news, conversation and entertainment as it happened. We thought it might be fun to see the app in action during a lively event -- and apparently Mother Nature agreed by bringing severe thunderstorms to the Chicago area and forcing an evacuation of the park.

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Through Babl, we were able to participate in Twitter conversations about Lollapalooza throughout the weekend, starting on Friday as people filed into Grant Park to see their favorite artists and dance like neon-clad wild animals. On the afternoon of Day 2, tweets brought us the first news of the show being suspended due to an incoming tempest. Babl users were able to view reports like official news tweets, tweets from artists, and tweets from the herd of people as they were being evacuated into the streets of downtown and parking garage shelters -- most attendees opted for bars.

A few hours later, all the weather drama subsided and Babl displayed tweets of people re-entering the gates and enjoying the rest of the evening through Sunday's closing. Babl enabled us to easily view the local and global tweeters participating in a conversation topic, and gave us a rich media experience of an event in real time.

Jordan Young has been part of the Knight News Innovation Lab since its launch in August of 2011. She is a freelance blogger, contributing writer for Illinois Meetings + Events Magazine, and aspiring publisher. You can reach her at knightlab@northwestern.edu and on Twitter: @knightnewslab.

KnightLogo.jpgEstablished in 2011 with a $4.2 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Knight News Innovation Lab is a joint initiative of Northwestern University's Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Medill School of Journalism. In partnerships built across the Chicagoland region -- from neighborhood bloggers to large media companies -- the Lab invents, improves and distributes technology that help build and sustain a better informed citizenry and a more innovative publishing environment.

04:59

Square partners with Starbucks, raises $25m

TechCrunch :: Mobile payment provider Square will begin processing all US credit and debit card transactions for Starbucks across their 7,000 locations this fall. Pay with Square users will be able to find a nearby Starbucks in the Square Directory from their iPhone or Android smartphone.

A report by Peter Ha, techcrunch.com

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August 07 2012

09:30

Social? These are the mobile Olympic games

paidContent :: Half of searches and video streams are coming from mobiles and tablets during the Olympic games. Has the mobile internet reached a tipping point? New Google data would seem to suggest as much.

Facts & Figures - A report by Robert Andrews, paidcontent.org

July 30 2012

16:25

Japanese mobile video channel, NotTV, surpasses 100,000 subscribers

Tech In Asia :: Mmbi Inc.’s NotTV mobile television service has surpassed 100,000 subscribers on July 28, just 119 days after the service began in April. The mobile channel costs 420 yen (or $5.37) per month.

A report by Rick Martin, www.techinasia.com

14:00

One year since she was hired, Vivian Schiller’s “wild ride” at NBC is just beginning

If you ever find yourself awake past the witching hour, sleeplessly scrolling Twitter, take comfort in knowing that NBC News chief digital strategist Vivian Schiller is right there with you.

“I’m up for two or three hours in the middle of the night,” Schiller told me. “But my saving grace is Twitter.”

Schiller has been with the network for just over a year now. If it’s her job that keeps her up at night, she says it’s not for lack of satisfaction with it. After a difficult resignation as CEO of NPR, she’s happy at NBC — “incredibly happy,” actually — and excited about the changes that are taking place there.

The big one happened earlier this month when NBC bought back control of the MSNBC.com website and rebranded it NBCNews.com. (MSNBC — the cable television channel — will launch its own site in 2013.) Of course on a larger scale, it’s the industry itself that’s changing.

In Schiller’s words: “If you don’t disrupt yourself, someone’s going to disrupt you.”

And disruption is built into her job, which focuses on change, experimentation, and recalibration. That means embracing a try-anything-but-fail-fast mentality, taking the best of what works and hopefully turning it into something even better.

With #NBCFail trending in recent days, the Internet has been busy complaining about the network’s coverage of the Olympics thus far. Schiller said that she has nothing to do with the Olympics, but she’s also taken to Twitter to defend the coverage.

+1 @jonathanwald the medal for most Olympic whining goes to everyone complaining about what happens every 4 yrs, tape delay @brianstelter

— Vivian Schiller (@VivianSchiller) July 29, 2012

I spoke with Schiller last week before the games got under way. Here’s our conversation, lightly edited and compressed.

Adrienne LaFrance: A little over one year in, how’s it going? What’s your prevailing mood? Update me.
Vivian Schiller: My prevailing mood is incredibly happy — I feel like I’m suddenly talking to a psychiatrist — but I’m generally a very happy person anyway. I went through some unhappy times, as you know. But I just love it here. I know that makes me sound like I’m being sort of a corporate goody two-shoes but I seriously love it here. I’ve now worked at five big media companies, and I can tell you that this has been spectacularly great.
LaFrance: What’s something you expected — or didn’t expect — coming in that you’ve since learned about NBC?
Schiller: Well it’s funny because — and I certainly didn’t plan it this way — but as it’s turned out in my career, I’ve worked for a company that is in every platform, and the one hole was broadcast television. I was in cable television, I was in newspapers, digital, radio. So coming into a broadcast news organization, I knew that the culture would be different than cable television, no question. And I knew that NBC News has this very storied legacy.

I maybe had just the slightest concern — before I actually started to meet with people — because NBC News is so successful, and because of the unusual relationship we had with our website, how would digital be embraced? How would I be embraced? But I will tell you that vanished instantly, as soon as I started working here. I’ve seen just about every corporate culture there is. One of the things I love about it here is it’s very collaborative. People are rewarded for sharing and being nice to each other, as opposed to in some places that’s not the case.

LaFrance: I always like to ask people about their news consumption habits, when you wake up, where you look first, that kind of thing.
Schiller: It’s a sore subject. The last few months, I’m up for two or three hours in the middle of the night. But my saving grace is Twitter. It’s quite sick. I wake up in the middle of the night. I don’t know why. You could say, ‘Oh, there’s a lot of stress at work,’ but there’s always stress at work. Maybe it’s age. I don’t know what it is. So what’s the first thing I look at in the morning? Really what I look at in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning is Twitter. It is my news feed. It’s a quick take on whatever’s going, including frankly NBC’s own news. So, Twitter. And I have a Breaking News app on my iPhone, and I look at that.

“The answer to everything is not always technology. It’s about technology married with trusted journalism…”

In my apartment in New York, I must admit I do not have like seven monitors set up in my apartment. I toggle back and forth between The Today Show and Morning Joe. I know this sounds rather old-fashioned but I get a bunch of email newsletters still. You know, paidContent, Mediabistro. Mind you, I was general manager of NYTimes.com, but I am still incredibly stuck to my habit of reading The New York Times in print. It doesn’t mean that I don’t also follow NYTimes.com on Twitter and look at the website, but I do read it in print. I just really like to read it in print.

LaFrance: If someone were trying to get a sense of the scope of NBC’s digital efforts, where would you first direct them?
Schiller: I mean I guess the one place would be NBCNews.com but I don’t want to create a false hierarchy by saying that. This is the way the digital world works, and it would be foolish of us not to serve various audiences. All of them adhere to the same journalistic standards. That’s the one immutable constant across everything we do: our journalistic standards. Whatever we do — hard news, soft news, breaking news — anything that we do, it all meets those same standards, regardless of what the coverage is. That’s the one constant.

From there, I want each property to have their own voice. The Grio has a voice. NBC Latino has a voice. Today has a voice. What was MSNBC.com and is now NBCNews.com, we’re going to evolve that site to have more of NBC News’s voice. NBC News on television has a voice. We’re looking to evolve the site — and when I say ‘the site’ I mean everything that we do: mobile, our social extensions — to have a little bit more of that voice. Of course when the new site for cable launches, certainly MSNBC cable has a voice, and you will see that reflected in the site.

LaFrance: In a conference call last week, you and [NBC News President] Steve Capus talked about how amid this transition to NBCNews.com, the thing that will continue will be a commitment to journalism. What recent hard news stories — or reporting packages, series, whatever it may be — come to mind for you as really exceptional demonstrations or that commitment?
Schiller: One of the more recent ones, we did a digital-only series called What the World Thinks of Us. It’s a series of videos from around the world, what people there think about the U.S., which is an incredibly timely issue, especially with a presidential campaign going on.

The web staff, the web journalists, do a tremendous amount. I think frankly we don’t do a good enough job, or haven’t done a good enough job, promoting or surfacing a lot of the extraordinary journalism that’s done that doesn’t appear on television. It’s certainly not just a companion to TV, and it’s not a commodity news site. It’s a place for exclusive, original, personal, in-depth content that — because time is a limited resource — can’t necessarily go on television.

We have reporters who are digital reporters — I mean, they are reporters, period, full stop — who are covering beats that heretofore NBC News hasn’t had desks for. Travel, for example. Consumer business. NBC News has not until now had dedicated reporters on some of these issues. We have now [through acquiring what was previously MSNBC.com] just gained desks and beats who are doing original reporting. There not just doing aggregating, not that there’s anything wrong with aggregating. We just expanded overnight our reporting ranks.

LaFrance: You said the digital side of things isn’t just a companion to television. But as we’ve been tracking tablet use and smartphone use, and as I’m sure you’re aware, people are watching TV while they engage with these devices. How do you factor that in?
Schiller: I’m really glad you asked that. ‘Second screen’ is the new buzzword. The whole concept of a more formalized approach to second screen is going to really explode over the next two years. You’ve seen the same statistics I have. While people are watching television, they’re engaging with a second and even a third screen. It’s astounding how many people have two screens. They might have their desktop or laptop and their mobile device or whatever it might be.

Audiences have created their own ad-hoc experiences, and created their own second-screen experiences through Twitter and Facebook while they’re watching television. We’ve seen that happen.

Nobody ever went broke following audience behavior and audience desire. So that hasn’t been lost on us either. What is the opportunity? If we know that people are watching our programs and engaging with them on Twitter, well, that says to me, couldn’t we create a better experience for them that’s customized to simultaneously watching television and, say, engaging with a tablet? We’ve launched a couple of efforts, one of them an experiment with Dateline — that’s sort of a quasi second-screen experience. We do a lot on Twitter of course.

We are not ready to talk about the details, but we are actively looking at the opportunities to tie more closely what you see on television to what you’re experiencing on your second screen so that we can close the circle of being able to tap into your community, to your social network. Frankly, look — we’re in an advertising-supported business. What are the opportunities for advertisers in terms of going back and forth between the second screen or the third screen? That’s a huge area of focus. Watch that space.

LaFrance: The Dateline experiment — was that the Chatline feature?
Schiller: Yes. I’m a big believer in test-and-learn model of innovation. We’re trying stuff. We’re trying lots and lots of stuff and you know going in some of it’s going to work, some of it isn’t going to work. Hey, if things don’t work, as long as you figure out quickly and stop doing them. The whole fail-fast philosophy. We want to try a lot of things.
LaFrance: So with Chatline, are you trying to appeal to people who maybe aren’t active on Twitter, so they want a narrower, pre-set experience? Or is it people who are so comfortable with Twitter that they’re willing to go all over the place? I’m not quite sure who would be the target audience.
Schiller: The ideal is you want to satisfy both. Anything that we do will involve people’s social networks: Twitter and Facebook. Nobody will tolerate being forced to choose between a dedicated experience that doesn’t include Twitter, and then having to go back and forth to Twitter. That’s not serving the audience very well. Everything we do will have an integrated experience.

People already have communities. I do not believe there is room for another player to come and say, ‘Create a new proprietary network of your friends on our site.’ I think that would be a complete waste of time, and a dead end, and a losing proposition. So we need to engage the social networks that people already have into our experiences.

LaFrance: You said something to the effect of ‘nobody goes broke following what the audience wants’ but people are still trying to figure out how to balance audience wants and advertising needs. Another way to ask this: Will I ever be able to livestream Meet the Press?
Schiller: It is challenging. We want to make sure that we don’t inadvertently hurt our affiliate partners but you raise a good question, and we’re all feeling our way through that. We’re experimenting a lot. I think the key to everything is to experiment.

A lot of times, I think sort of the history of digital media over the last decade and a half or two decades is unwarranted fear of cannibalization. People who think, ‘Oh, if we put something online, people will stop consuming X, whatever it is.” In some cases, yes, that’s true. But you can’t stop the tide. If you don’t disrupt yourself, someone’s going to disrupt you.

It’s not a zero-sum game in the sense that just because you put something online, I don’t think people look at it as a binary decision between ‘Do I consume it online or do I consume it on pick-your-legacy-business?’ What we’ve seen is more content is being consumed and both of those experiences can be equally valid to people.

LaFrance: I’m curious to hear how all of this will carry over to election coverage, and what you’re most excited about NBC trying in that spirit of experimentation that will distinguish 2012 coverage from 2008.
Schiller: We’re trying a lot of stuff. We had relationships with Facebook on the debates. We had relationships with foursquare, with Twitter. We still have some more things we’ll be rolling out. We launched our NBC Politics site and our NBC politics iPad app. We’ve created interactive experiences around delegate maps.

Look, I don’t want to say that other news organizations are not doing a lot of those same things. But we have so many trusted voices within NBC News on politics. What we’re doing is we’re saying, these are your guides that you’ve always trusted on television, so we’re going to make them available on every platform. That is really what is going to differentiate us. The answer to everything is not always technology. It’s about technology married with trusted journalism and the trusted voices who have been leading us through umpteen political races over many decades.

LaFrance: With some distance from NPR now, how are you looking some of the challenges that public radio faces as distinct from the challenges TV faces?
Schiller: Well, the obvious one is government funding, and I was chagrined to see recently that the calls to cut funding for public broadcasting are back in full force. I see my former colleagues going up to the Hill again to testify again. I feel for them. That’s a really tough position to be in. Frankly, I’m glad not to have to ask the government for money. It’s challenging on many fronts. It becomes very politically fraught. It is politically fraught. Nobody knows that better than I do, personally. It’s challenging — I want to phrase this carefully — I think it is complicated when an independent news organization takes money from federal, state, and local government. I think that’s challenging for an independent news organization which covers those entities.
LaFrance: From the TV side, what’s a challenge that’s more pronounced now?
Schiller: Well actually, the same challenge we had at NPR and cable TV, which was writing for the web — it’s not the same as writing for television and radio. We didn’t have that problem at The New York Times. But in all seriousness, that’s a surmountable challenge.
LaFrance: And since you mentioned The New York Times, I have to ask about your sense of how things are working there, specifically with the paywall.
Schiller: I will tell you as now an outsider but still a loyal reader of The New York Times. The newspaper has never been better. I don’t work there. They don’t pay me to say that. Even if they did pay me to say it, I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it was true. I think the news report has never been better. I find it really indispensable. I think the latest paywall — the porous, metered model — is really working well. I worry for them though. I’m not saying anything they don’t know, but all of the key indicators are going in a different direction. It’s a national treasure, so I’m sure they will find away.
LaFrance: Last question for you: What’s the most recent example of something you saw another news organization do that made you think, ‘Oh, I wish we did that,’ or that otherwise wowed you?
Schiller: Gosh, do I have to pick one?
LaFrance: Pick as many as you’d like.
Schiller: I love some of the news parodies that Slate is doing. I think those are really cool. The New York Times does spectacularly well with their interactive data-driven graphics. Some of the incredibly in-depth data-driven investigative reporting coming out of ProPublica is amazing. There’s a lot that I admire. I wish that we could do all of it, and I hope that we get to a point where we can. You’ll see a lot of change as well roll out some changes, as we launch the cable site. It will be a wild ride. It will be great.

July 26 2012

07:37

Sending Out Mass Text Messages

Mass text messages are most commonly used means of communication in today’s business world. The reason for this being, the ease in its use, varied options that it offers and the best part is that message reaches people anywhere who have got a mobile and we can expect replies instantly. Mass sms from tatango.com offers the very best of features that we can make use of. Some of the features of mass sms in tatango.com are

  • The number of recipients can be single or multiple.
  • Groups of contacts can be formed and a single message can be sent to all the contacts in the group in an instant.
  • A standard message can be personalised and sent for a particular recipient in the group.
  • A message can be typed out and saved to be sent on a particular date and time.
  • If somebody has replied to the message that we have sent, a receipt of that message can be sent to your inbox.

Generally mass text messages are used for sending reminder, to confirm and schedule candidates during an interview process, notifying customers for any offers that the company has got or to pass a message to all the employees.

Mass sms from tatango.com does more than just sending messages. It helps in billing operations if you have got financial software application by linking to that application and generating payment notifications. This way mass sms from tatango.com simplifies other work. Use mass sms from tatango.com and grow your business.

Tags: Mobile

July 25 2012

21:15

NYTimes Latest Push

The Data Universe team at The New York Times has over the past few months overhauled the company's push infrastructure. What had been accomplished using a vendor's push notification service is now managed through our new DU Push Mobile Center. It's a flexible system that's improved the speed we push news alerts out to millions of customers (4 minutes in most cases) and should enable plenty of future enhancements and new services.
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