The Mobile News Story

Our group used this exercise to discuss how we consume news on our phones, what kind of mood we are in when we read news on our phones, and what we do before and afterward. One of the surprising takeaways is that many of us check our phones for news when we are bored or waiting for something… in other words, often in a negative state of mind. As an antidote, we thought that more humorous short stories might be in order!

What follows are the raw, unedited notes I took during our discussion….

1. Method of attraction – how does the form attract and sustain attention in an attention scarce world? Last minute updating. Push notifications. Convenient. Newness.

2. How did you find this news? Did you subscribe, link from a friend, turn on the TV, etc Subscription. Sharing. Feedly. Pocket. Passive. You grab your phone because you’re bored, and it pops out.

3. Did you have to choose it (by searching, clicking)? Or did it find you (like radio, push notification)? Often you receive it passively through push.

4. When do you experience news in this way (time of day, during what types of activities)? What were you doing immediately before and immediately after experiencing the news in this way? First thing in the morning. Smartphone as alarm clock. And when you’re waiting. Before and after, you are likely doing something completely non-news related. Or you’re on your email.

5. Are you doing other things while experiencing the news in this way? Maybe lying in bed or walking down the street.

6. Who else was experiencing the same news? Was it co-present, remote, asynchronous Mostly individual. There are some Facebook links that you might follow to news but these are the minority.

7. How did you feel while experiencing the news like this? e.g. Intellectually stimulated, guilty pleasure, obligated to read it, riveted until the end, interrupted but kept coming back, bored, occasionally annoyed, took you out of everyday life, etc. Bored. Distracted. Guilty for not clicking on all of the follow-through links!

8. Did you “do anything” based on the news – for example, share it, talk about it with someone, log it somewhere, remember it later, cite it? Share it. Tweet it. Save it to pocket.

1. What kinds of values are embedded in this news experience? Values: quick and dirty

2. What is this experience’s “theory of the user”? Who do they imagine you are? Does the experience also have a “theory of change”? Theory of user: limited time, limited attention Value: using time efficiently. Always staying connected and up to date. Efficiency. Theory of change: informing people. But not necessarily giving them time to take action.

3. What is this experience’s end goal? Virality & eyeballs? Deep listening? Exposé for action? End goal: eyeballs. Entertainment. Get subscriptions. Get user data.

4. How are you empowered through this experience? Disempowered? Disempowering because people read headlines only. Counterargument: Can also be empowering… If something big happens, you can get on your phone right away and take action and get up to date.

5. What kinds of stories is this method good for? bad for? underutilized for? Good for: breaking news stories. Short stories. Sports news. Segmentation. Bad for: long stories. Historica analysis. Non-urgent stories.  Infographic. Underutilized for: advocacy stories

6. What other form could you mash up with this for to create a new product that delivers the news?

Split screen on the mobile phone. Shopping while doing that.

Or combine humor with short phone stories. For more appealing and mood improving content

Combine short radio story with a mobile news story. So you can listen while you are walking. Like a short news podcast.



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Leslie’s four-hour project: Meet the musicians on the Boston subway

For my project, I wanted to explore a new multimedia tool and see how quickly (or slowly!) I could create a simple presentation. I chose Meograph, which is free and online–and turned out to be nice and easy to use. The hardest part of the whole process was figuring out how to trim audio files in iTunes (the answer: use QuickTime instead). I spent just over two hours reporting, and about two hours editing, trimming, and learning Meograph. Here’s the result:

(Tip: If you don’t want to listen to the entire clip for each musician, click on the forward button in the lower left hand corner.)

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Leslie’s Media Diary


What would your life look like if you didn’t have a smartphone? Or an iPad? Would you consume less news? Or just get it in a different way?

This week I tried to answer some of these questions by logging my activities online and offline. I recently stopped using my iPhone (on purpose) and my iPad (not on purpose–it got dropped), and our assignment this week allowed me track how I do—and don’t—consume media in my current low-tech environment. My tools at hand were a MacBook Pro, a Kindle, and good ol’ pencil and paper.

Even before I began, I knew that I was consuming less media that I used to back in the days when I carried an iPhone and a Blackberry at all times and immersed myself in a constant news stream, day and night.

But it really surprised me to quantify exactly how little news I read this week. I hardly consumed any breaking news media–just 114 minutes. I barely wrote any emails, averaging 46 minutes a day on gmail. And I spent only three minutes on Facebook.

Partly, this was due to circumstances—I happened to spent a lot of time travelling and a lot of time trying to write code during this period. Over a five-day period, my activity chart looked something like this. I tracked my hours using RescueTime for computer-based activities and a notebook for everything else, and compiled the results in Excel:

Chart One

My most frequent activities were programming (369 mins), attending class (255 mins), and writing emails (231 mins). In fourth place was reading long-form journalism, which brings me to my next chart: media consumption. I’ve defined media in three categories—books, long-form and news.  This week I spent time reading long-form journalism for my narrative nonfiction class, which was my top category in terms of hours spent:

Chart Two

The news that I read was a bit of a jumble. Here are my top news sites by time spent (for short news stories):

Chart Three

I also tracked what devices I used to consume media, and the result surprised me: I read a lot more on my kindle than on my computer.

Here is the breakdown for what devices I used when reading books, news and long form, by minutes spent. I suspect this would have been pretty different if I was using an iPhone or an iPad:

Chart Four

By comparison when I did the same breakdown for my activities overall, my computer was dominant, accounting for 81% of my time logged. It seems like life without a smartphone has me spending more time on my kindle, and more time reading long-form journalism instead of news stories.

So is it worth living without an iPhone or an iPad? For the time being, absolutely.


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