Copied below, a Twitter “conversation” I had yesterday with one of my followers, personal-finance maestra Barbara Bryn Klare, who writes at Upside of Money. She asked a good question about Roscoe Labs, the “mobile first” news startup I’m working on with partners Lawrence Patrick and Katrina Miles.
For strategic reasons, the team has been keeping mum about most details of the company’s plan. But Barbara’s questions struck on a philosophical point that I do think is worth talking a bit about publicly. It’s one of those things that cuts right to the future of journalism as a public trust, in my opinion. One could write a much longer post about it, or maybe even a book, but I think the tweets and links from yesterday will suffice nicely for the moment:
First links in the tweet above refers to a Poynter Institute story on Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s speech at a journalism conference in April 2010. Second link refers to a column Schmidt wrote for the Wall Street Journal in December 2009.
Glad to see Alan Mutter writing at Reflections of a Newsosaur recently about newspapers “making the same self-defeating mistakes with their mobile initiatives that they did with the Internet.”
He goes on:
With few notable exceptions, the mobile apps released by newspapers to date do little more than faithfully reproduce the same content already carried in print and on their websites. In addition to typically being free for consumers, the apps carry little, if any, advertising.
Worst of all, the apps are doing nothing to attract the two-thirds of the people who do not happen to read a newspaper or visit its website. And a great number of those people are in the under-55 generation coveted most by advertisers.
I said essentially the same thing in a post here back in August. If anything, I was a little more unkind, writing in dissent after Wired’s controversial “The Web is Dead” cover story posited that Big Media would prosper in a post-browser world:
Why should we believe that the media organizations that thoroughly botched their Web strategies will get the app-powered Internet right? Yes, apps offer a lot of structural advantages to traditional orgs. But those orgs also had big advantages 15 or 20 years ago going into the era of the Web browser. They had big audiences. They had brand recognition. They had talent. They had cash. They still lost.
Fast forward to the present day and look at a lot of the traditional orgs’ apps for iPad, iPhone, and the like. How many are grossly mispriced or crippled in terms of their features? How many really give users the aggregation they want, like Pulse or Stitcher or Flipboard do? How many lack real integration with social networks or have screwy user interfaces? Maybe these are the early missteps signaling that the traditional media will lose the next battle too.
Not that I think Mutter — or much of anyone else, based on my traffic logs — noticed all this. But it’s good to get some independent validation of a premise I’ve been working from as a developer myself.
I love this recent Wired story on a much-overlooked issue: Whether and how tech companies stick up for their users’ rights, especially in the face of government demands.
Specifically, Wired gives Twitter props on its successful challenge of the feds’ recent request for user data they claim relates to their WikiLeaks investigation. The story also runs through the history of a few cases involving other biggies like Microsft, Yahoo, and AOL. (Sorry, no Facebook mentions, good or bad.)
Definitely worth a look if you’re interested in protecting your online privacy, as we all should be. I don’t advocate paranoia on this sort of stuff, but I do believe people should at least be aware of their favorite sites’ ground rules, both explicit and implicit.
If we’ve all been using the wrong zodiac signs all this time, as this story suggests, does that mean the astrologers who made supposedly accurate predictions based on the old signs will admit they were wrong?
I blogged a little while back about an initial round of app testing for Roscoe Labs, a mobile news startup I’m working on. At the time, we were looking for volunteer subjects for some very specific dates.
Well, we still need you. If you live in the New York area, own an iPhone or iPod Touch, have downloaded at least one third-party app for it, and are willing to participate, please drop me an email. Each test takes just 10-15 minutes and utilizes a method called “paper prototyping.”
I’m not announcing any dates this time because our testing process is now open-ended, with ongoing iterations to our design as feedback dictates. If you’re willing to participate, we’ll get to you eventually. The important thing for now is that we know of your interest.
As I mentioned, we’re asking for volunteers at this point, perhaps folks in it purely for the thrill of helping in the development of some spanking new technology to advance journalism. We can also very liberally dole out our thanks and shout-outs on your favorite social network.