Can Mobile Save your local Newspaper?

I’ve been thinking about Newsweek’s announcement last month – “Newsweek goes all digital” and the implications to newsprint, which has been struggling for many years. The New York Times has been providing both Digital and Printed material for some time, and has erected a paywall around much of their digital content. It seems that their paywall has been effective, even though I don’t have any insights on how profitable it may be.

We’ve had multiple examples of all digital content that has stumbled but I am not sure if that will be the same with local papers. There are two challenges that local papers are facing:

  1. Ad revenue – yup popular wisdom is that Craigslist has killed the local ad revenue – and I don’t have anything to disprove it.. Yard sales and swap meets no longer use the local paper. This has caused many local papers to be purchased by national media outlets. Those national companies can bring in national ad campaigns, thereby allowing local beat reporters to focus on local stories. And national stories from the national news bureaus. The challenge I see with this is that you get local reporters telling stories on national events. They don’t get the visibility and reach, to gain experience and move up in the media.
  2. Declining readership – more and more people are getting their news from social media and the Internet. We are all working longer days, due to global reach of businesses, and the time to sit in the morning, with a cup of coffee, reading the paper before work has basically disappeared for many. If we work in a traditional office, we may spend 20-45 minutes in a car rising to work, but reading a paper during the drive is dangerous at best (when I lived in Atlanta, I did see people doing it!!!).

So how do you fix this? Mobile apps! Apps that can stream audio of local stories, and with modern accessibility features in mobile phones, even read stories to us. While multitasking we can listen to the local news, and local reporters can be discovered via social media to share storeis which have a reach beyond the area code they were written in.

At a recent mobile developer meet up, I met a local developer whose company has developed a platform used by one of the local tv stations to provide their news feed via mobile devices. I have dug thru my notes and can’t find the name of the company, nor the local tv station, but as soon as I do, I will do a deeper review and see if it can be used for the local papers too. Perhaps they can help us save the local paper.

Windows Phone 8 Launch

After a week of work overload and ending up getting sick on top of it, I finally had a chance to watch the video stream of Monday’s Windows Phone 8 announcement – Thank you TWiT specials for hosting a stream I could watch after the fact.  I got to see Joe Belfiore  present via the stream, and I have to say he did a great job of presenting a very compelling vision of what Windows Phone 8 is all about.

(Hope that TWiT doesn’t mind that I grabbed my screen shots from the – they get all the credit for that – and I highly recommend you go watch them for the full feed).

The slogan that he used throughout the  presentation was “We didn’t make one Phone for all of us,  we made one for EACH of us.”  I thought that was a great way to differentiate the Windows Phone 8 experience from what Apple and Android are doing with their phones.

Let me start with my reaction to the lock screen – a great feature of Windows Phone 8 is that the tiles can show realtime information from your social feeds, like Twitter, Facebook, etc. ; however, the demo showed some of this personal data on the lock screen.  I hope this is VERY optional, as it could be a security issue for anyone who has ever lost their phone.

Joe did a great job of talking to the Apps that will ship with Windows Phone 8, he made multiple references to 46 of the current top 50 apps would be available for the platform.  That is a great statement, and I believe will allow the average consumer to feel confident that they can get good (or at least popular) apps for the device at launch. The larger question will be how many app developers will develop apps for the platform organically.  Nokia, Samsung, and HTC all were announced as having Windows Phone 8 devices at launch, which means that there will be a huge push for adoption, and hopefully allow for enough traction for developers to get new customers.

I did like that they announced a year of free Pandora when it comes out, however I was surprised that it was NOT available at launch.  It will be made available “early” in 2013.  I am wondering what is causing this delay?  Pandora is already available as a webbased app, and on most platforms (heck, my BluRay player from Samsung has a Pandora app on it).

A few interesting capabilities that should encourage uptake were DataSense, (when the carrier is enabled – and currently they only mentioned Verizon), will allow the phone to optimize your data usage thru compression, automatic adjustment of bandwidth consumption, and smart WiFi locating.  I would like to understand as a developer how to take advantage of this, and what the implications may be for my app. (Perhaps this is the delay of Pandora?).  Kids Corner was another feature that was gone thru in detail, where you can build a customized start screen for your kids.  I was amazed to see Joe bring kids on stage to demo (always risky… but was great to see it happen).  The funny part was that since he didn’t lock his device, the little girl by-passed the kids corner.

The other aspects that deserve mention is the integration with SkyDrive, Microsoft does seem to have the cloud done right.  Would be interesting to see if DropBox, Box, and other services are available on the device when they come out.  If you are like me, you have multiple different cloud based services that you use.

Overall this was a great presentation, and if you believe analysts, Microsoft may be able to make a major push with Windows Phone 8, providing both Android and Apple with a much needed additional competitor.  I just hope that they have not waited too long.