On the Horizon: Journalism by App


The BBC has published a timely analysis of the state of journalism today that paints a telling picture of how the profession has changed. Journalists are forced to bounce around the current events to cover what people want to hear, and often lose the scope of the story at hand because of the need to move on to the next, often totally unrelated, story. Then there is the lack of profitability in media due to how the public is now consuming news, painted quite clearly in the article:

But downstairs, in the coffee bar, everyone seemed to [sic] reading on iPads and phones. Getting into the lift and returning to street level felt like time-travelling, from the Age of the Press, to tablet-world.

The expected explosion of the tablet will have a big impact on the consumption of information by the mainstream consumer. The iPad kicked off  this form of media consumption, and it is going to become commonplace as tablets rise in popularity. Where journalists and publications can best leverage this new vehicle for the news is through tight focus on specific topics. This could be better served by making an app for that.

Media organizations experimenting with putting up a paywall to capture subscribers are not dealing with the basic problem affecting all such organizations. The explosion of web usage by consumers has them faced with the difficult proposition of finding the narrow topic coverage they desire. Putting an entire publication behind a paywall doesn’t address the paying customer’s inability to find the information they desire, so no value add is perceived. Those paywall-protected subscription fees are going to be fleeting at best due to this lack of focus.

The consumer is already getting accustomed to buying apps for the devices they use to consume media, a behavior that should be leveraged by the press. Focus tight coverage on a narrow topic of interest, follow up the top stories in that sector with the full continued story, and package it in an app for the major device platforms that make the news easy to find and use. Journalism by app, in other words. If you build it, they will come, and pay reasonable fees for it.

Related content on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d): Can Anyone Compete With the iPad?




What the analysis above suggests is that news cycle should be driven by the delivery method, not the inherent value of the news itself.

If I need a “focused” slice of information, I know where to get it, delivery method be damned. Of course, if that’s all I was interested in I’d miss a lot; “focused” after all just means I have the blinders on.

The value of those paywalls is the garden behind: news, real news, the stuff that takes dedication and professionalism (and yes, money) to produce, the stuff I didn’t know about but should, the stuff I needed to take the blinders off to see.

If we’re not willing to pay for the kind of journalism that lives behind the paywalls what we are left with are endlessly referential blogs with little or no original content. I think it’s fitting that this post is based on the work of others.


Online media may take a bite out of print, but I don’t think it will ever replace it completely. Technology is just so much more volatile than physical media. Besides, when was the last time you saw a guy sleeping on a park bench with an iPad on his face?


I completely agree. Now give meh mai JkOnTheRun, Web Worker Daily, and New Tee Vee app and I’ll be all set. :) I hope this article is a sign that the apps are coming.

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