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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Experts discuss the latest trends in mobile technologies at 13th International Symposium on Online Journalism



The news content on phones and tablets should be treated differently because of their different functions and uses, according to speakers of the panel From desk (lap) top computers and smartphones to tablets: How Journalists are Responding to the mobile revolution? during the 13th International Symposium on Online Journalism.

An exclusive daily iPad edition of the Brazilian newspaper O Globo is launched every day at 6 p.m., said Pedro Doria, editor of digital platforms for Rio de Janeiro’s flagship newspaper O Globo. While the majority of web users consult the newspaper website during office hours (from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.), tablet users consult the iPad paid edition between 6 and 11 p.m. They usually are at home and sitting in an armchair reading this edition. The result of creating a specific edition for iPad is that users spend more time reading on the iPad edition, an average of one hour and 17 minutes, Doria said.

Due to these characteristics, the tablet edition of the weekly magazine New Yorker has become one of the most popular iPad applications. "The New Yorker has a content that is focused, complete, unilateral, weekly, authoritative, offers high quality, and costs," said Blake Eskin, former editor of the web edition of The New Yorker. However, all these features clashed with the functions of a regular website, which has many distractions, is democratic, focuses more on quantity than quality, it has a constant flow of information, is free and mutable. The tablet edition has allowed users to save articles to read when they have time for it. "In the past, the solution was to print the articles that were published on the web," said Eskin.

"Not everyone needs a mobile app or tablet," said William Hurley, or "Whurley," co-founder of Chaotic Moon, a company that develops mobile applications. "Check your website logs to see what devices people are using, and develop content for those devices," Hurley said.

"The content for each platform is different," emphasized Louis Gump, vice president of CNN Mobile. "For smartphones we show photographs and bites of information, while on iPad, we have a lot of videos," he said.

More simple technologies also drive innovation on mobile journalism. In the Philippines, readers can choose to receive free alerts programmed with relevant news and announcements, or pay to receive alerts in real time without ads that contain useful information such as rising of gas prices, said JV Rufino, director mobile platform Inquirer newspaper in Manila.

Rufino said that the Inquirer is the only newspaper in the Philippines available on e-reader, directed mostly to people from Philippines living abroad, but also for those who enjoy a good read on the weekends or on holiday.

This newspaper also sells e-books with transcripts of official government speeches, since the Philippines does not have a Freedom of Information Access law. They also sell e-Books with a compilation of a weekly romantic column turned into a digital edition of a romantic novel.

SMS also serves mobile journalism. Most of the 450 million mobile phones in Africa are not smartphones and have simple functions. Because of that, users demand last-minute headlines and useful information on where to locate fresh drinking water stations, said Harry Dugmore, a professor at Rhodes University in South Africa.

Hugmore noted that high rates of telecommunications in Africa limit access to internet and cell phone use, and therefore, most Africans use text messages. This has been the success of free apps like Facebook Zero and Wikipedia, which show no pictures but do have their other functions. "Facebook Zero is a game changer and it is the most significant technological story in Africa," he said.

The increasing use of technology in Africa has contributed to the democratization of this continent and the proof is that YouTube had the highest viewership in Egypt in 2011.

The symposium, which continues April 20-21, at the University of Texas at Austin, has attracted nearly 300 journalists, media executives, and scholars from around the globe for the conference, which blends academic research panels with practitioners’ insights and perspectives. The full conference program is available here. The conference is being streamed online here, and can be followed online via Twitter at #ISOJ12.

The International Symposium on Online Journalism has been organized since 1999 by Professor Rosental C. Alves, the Knight Chair in Journalism & UNESCO Chair in Communication, and director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at UT Austin. The annual event is possible thanks to generous support from the Knight Foundation, the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and The Dallas Morning News.

The International Symposium on Online Journalism is a program of the Knight Chair in Journalism, the UNESCO Chair in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the College of Communication and School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.



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