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#Tip: Use these smartphone search shortcuts

January 22nd, 2014 | No Comments | Posted by in Mobile, Top tips for journalists
Image by  Nit Soto on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Image by Nit Soto on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Finding information quickly is imperative for journalists. Here at, we regularly use site search tool Alfred, the subject of a previous tip, to quickly search computers, websites, and the wider internet with a few keystrokes.

On his Digital Inspiration, Amit Argawal has put together a guide on creating shortcuts for your smartphone that will sit on your home screen like apps. Shortcuts for Twitter, YouTube, Google, Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia and others are included among others, as well as a guide to making your own shortcuts for any other site.

search shortcuts

From there you can collect your new search shortcuts together to make regular searches just two taps away when using mobile. It may not seem like much, but sometimes the little things can make all the difference.

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#Tip of the day for journalists: mobile reporting pointers

December 12th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Mobile, Top tips for journalists

Copyright: By Das Fotoimaginariumn on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

The 10,000 Words blog has a post which offers some tips for getting video footage with a smartphone. See the post here.

At’s recent news:rewired event speakers on a mobile reporting session also shared tips on using mobile devices to report. Here is a liveblog of the session which featured lots of practical tips and apps for journalists.

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at email us using this link.

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#jpod in depth: The past, present and future of mobile reporting

December 16th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Mobile, Podcast

The past year has been a big year for mobile reporting, bringing readers to the heart of stories both at home, such as the London riots, as well as abroad, such as the Arab Spring.

The year is also ending with handing down of new guidance of the use of text-based devices, including mobiles, when reporting from court, which has given greater powers to journalists when wishing to report live and tweet on proceedings.

In this week’s #jpod, news editor Rachel McAthy speaks to journalists about the key events in recent years which have demonstrated some of the best of mobile reporting and what the future holds in this area. Interviewees include special projects editor for the Guardian Paul Lewis, special correspondent for the Times Alexi Mostrous, music editor at the Guardian Caspar Llewellyn Smith and reporter for Washington DC’s news station WTOP Neal Augenstein.

We also find out more about the technology available from SoundCloud’s audio content manager Ben Fawkes.’s next news:rewired event will feature a session on mobile reporting.

You can hear all our podcasts by signing up to the iTunes podcast feed.

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Ofcom report: 30 stats on smartphones and internet use

August 4th, 2011 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Advertising, Mobile

Ofcom today (4 August) released its TV, radio, broadband, telecoms and mobile industries report, noting significant changes over the “digital decade” since 2001.

Here is the 341 page Communications Market Report boiled down to a list of 30 facts and figures that are relevant to publishers.


1. More than a quarter of adults (27 per cent) own a smartphone;

2. Almost half of teenagers (47 per cent) own a smartphone;

3. Nine out of 10 people (91 per cent) own a mobile phone;

4. Three in 10 mobile phones are smartphones;

5. Most people with smartphones (59 per cent) acquired their device in the past year.

Internet use

6. More than a quarter of people use their mobile phones for internet access. In the first quarter (Q1) of 2011, 28 per cent of UK adults claimed to do so;

7. Those aged 16-24 are more than 10 times more likely to go online via a mobile than those aged 55+;

8. More than three quarters (76 per cent) of homes are now connected to the internet;

9. For the first time household internet take-up (78 per cent) exceeded computer ownership (77 per cent) as a small proportion of households went online using mobile phones only;

10. More than two-thirds (67 per cent) of households have a fixed broadband connection and 17 per cent have a mobile broadband (dongle) connection. In Q1 2011, 26 per cent of over-75s had home internet access, as did 55 per cent of 64-74 year-olds;

11. Consumers use a wide range of devices to access the internet at home. In 2010, 69 per cent said they accessed the internet at home via a laptop or PC, 31 per cent via a mobile phone;

12. Wifi routers were used by 75 per cent of broadband using households in Q1 2011;

13. More than half of all UK households are passed by super-fast broadband;

14. Google has more than three times the user base of any other search engine;

15. The leading blogging site is Google’s Blogger, which reached 8.2 million users in April 2011.

Facebook and other social networking

16. Social networking accounts for more than a fifth of all time spent on the internet;

17. People spend more than five times as much time on Facebook than on any other site;

18. More than 90 per cent of social networking time is spent on Facebook;

19. The most popular claimed use of the internet on mobile phones was social networking services (used by 57 per cent of mobile phone internet users);

20. Mobile users of Facebook spent an average of 5.6 hours on the site in December 2010 (11 minutes a day);

21. In Q1 2011, 46 per cent of UK adults claimed to use social networking services on a home internet connection. There are signs that the growth of social networking may be reaching saturation point: total time spent on social networking sites was just 1.3 per cent higher in April 2011 than in April 2010.

Smartphone brands

22. The Apple iPhone is the most popular brand of smartphone, but BlackBerry handsets are a favourite choice among younger consumers;

23. Apple’s iPhone has a 32 per cent share among adults. This is the brand of choice among ABC1s (37 per cent) and is even higher among ABs alone (44 per cent). But BlackBerry handsets have also taken a significant share of the market (24 per cent) and are particularly popular among younger adults and teens (37 per cent each).

Advertising and commercial

24. More than a quarter of all UK advertising spend is on the internet. Advertising spend on the internet grew by 16 per cent in 2010, to more than £4 billion, accounting for 26 per cent of total advertising spend in the UK, marginally ahead of television;

25. Mobile advertising increased by 121 per cent in 2010 to reach £83 million;

26. In 2010, the mobile advertising market was only 2 per cent the size of the internet ad market. However, driven by increasing use of internet services on mobile phones, together with more sophisticated business models (for example, fully or partially advertising-funded mobile applications), mobile advertising revenue more than doubled during 2010. Search-based advertising increased by the greatest amount (172 per cent) and increased its share of mobile advertising from 54 per cent to 66 per cent;

27. Nearly three-quarters of internet users shop online. Visitors to coupon and reward sites increased by 25 per cent in the year to April 2011, when nearly 40 per cent of internet users visited at least one such site.


28. Just under half (47 per cent) of adult smartphone users have ever downloaded an app, with one in five (20 per cent) doing so regularly;

29. Regular apps downloaders are skewed male and age 25-34. Just over half (54 per cent) of apps downloaders have paid for an app – with their mean average maximum spend on a single app being £3 – £3.99;

30. Apps downloading is higher among teens than adults; around two-thirds (63 per cent) of teen smartphone users have ever downloaded an app, with one in four (28 per cent) doing so regularly. Six in ten (60 per cent) have paid for an app. The average maximum amount of spend among teens is £3.70 and the median is £3 – £3.99.

See a further 10 facts on mobile media.

All graphs taken from the Ofcom report.

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Web apps v native apps v mobile sites: a guide

In two year’s time mobile phones will overtake computers as the most popular device for web browsing, John Barnes, managing director of digital and tech at Incisive Media, told delegates at the Mobile Media Strategies day.

Users expect a seamless experience whether they are accessing websites on a Android device, a BlackBerry, iPhone, tablet, laptop or desktop.

It is therefore essential that news sites understand the future of mobile and work out whether to spend money developing a range of native apps: for iPhone, iPad and Android, for example; a web-based app such as the much-discussed web app launched by the Financial Times less than a fortnight ago; spend time building an or opt for a mobile-friendly site.

Bear in mind the following facts:

  • The smartphone market is 25 per cent of the mobile market in the UK;
  • The UK is Europe’s leading market for smartphones;
  • There are 18 million smartphones in the UK. By 2015 there will be 42.9 million;
  • In 2015 there will be more Android smartphones in Europe than the total number of smartphones in Europe today;
  • Apple has a 82.5 per cent market share of apps;
  • Android’s Market will take a increased market share and dominate the market;
  • BlackBerry will (probably) switch to Android within 18 months, according to Dominic Jacquesson who has written a report on mobile. Indeed the BlackBerry PlayBook, a small tablet, which went on sale this week, can display some Android apps.

And consider your traffic drivers: with social media playing an increasingly important role in directing readers to stories – and with one in every six minutes online spent on social media sites in the US – it is worth noting the use of Facebook is already 40 per cent mobile with 250 million users worldwide, according to Jacquesson. Indeed, Facebook appears to be building an HTML5 web-based app to reach even more people, according to this article posted on TechCrunch.

What is clear from all of the facts is that you need to do something.

“I honestly cannot believe there are still people in publishing who don’t at least have some way of looking at their content on a mobile device that doesn’t mean looking at the full site itself,” said Ilicco Elia, who until last week worked for Reuters, told

There is no one size fits all, according to Mark Kirby, lead developer for Ribot, an award-winning mobile specialist, so his first piece of advice is do your homework.

If your title is B2B then most of your readers will probably be using a BlackBerry device. If you produce an art magazine, your audience is most likely to be one with iPhones and iPads. Do your research and don’t expect just because your readers have, say, Nokia handsets, that they download apps.

If you already have a mobile site you will be able to work out which devices your readers have by using data from Google Analytics and Webtrends.

“Have a look at your site on all handsets used by your audience, test it out and get those less familiar with your site to see how the experience feels for them,” advises Kirby. “Don’t just spend one minute testing on each device, spend at least 10,” he said.

And that experience and journey is very important. “It’s not about what technology can do, it’s about how technology can make you feel,” Elia said at the conference organised by the Media Briefing.

One you have your data some of the results may surprise you. You may find people are reading lengthy articles on a mobile. Just because people are using a mobile for web browsing, do not assume they are on the move and in a hurry. “Some mobile web-browsing takes place at home, and in a study of users of a mobile app, most were using that at home,” Kirby explained.

Mobile sites

The most important thing to remember is “don’t break the web”, which is something of a mantra for Kirby. Social media is likely to be a big traffic driver for you and a link from Twitter, Facebook or email should send a viewer directly to a story and not to your home page.

Kirby also stresses the importance of ensuring all content is on every version of your site and recommends having a button on the home page and each article page to allow users to flip between sites. Some mobile users may want to see the full desktop view, readers with large screens may want to see the mobile version.

He favours a single column view for mobile and spending time thinking about the user’s journey through your site.

There are two ways of creating a mobile site, Kirby explained. You can either opt for a “responsive website”, which uses the same HTML as your main site and a system of different HTML templates to display different sets of data. “You’re simply using CSS Media Queries to reshape it on various different size screens, mobile being one of those,” he said.

The second option is to use device detection “to serve up a different template, a different HTML, to mobile devices”, he explained.

“There are pros and cons of each,” he said. “The second option is less flexible but the first has more pitfalls.”

Where media analyst Elia is a fan of m.sites, which use a different URL beginning with ‘m.’, Kirby feels they are unnecessary. “I can’t really think of any argument for an,” he said.

For those on a low budget Elia suggests taking a look at Instapaper and Readability and using one of them to format pages and suggests Mippin, which can take RSS feeds from your site and turn them into a mobile site or app.

Web apps

Web apps are hosted on a URL and are either made for a specific device or are hybrid apps made to be viewed on any device. The new FT app is currently available for the iPad and iPhone but built with the Android in mind and indeed based on the FT’s Android app.

“The hybrid is built by using HTML technology and a solution such as Phone Gap to package it. It’s much like a native app and some people wouldn’t realise it wasn’t. And then the code can be reused across multiple platforms: the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and so on,” Kirby explained.

A web app may sound like a perfect solution to a problem in that you pay for the development of one app, rather than two or three, and an in-house developer team may well have the skills to build it. The other big advantage for sites which charge a subscription is that a web-based app bypasses the App Store, so publishers avoid paying Apple a 30 per cent cut for selling their content.

As Elia said: “Most news sites use pretty simple text, pictures and video, so you don’t necessarily tax a device as much as a 3D game would, for example, so a HTML5 web-based app is perfectly acceptable and you will be able to get as much as the wow factor as you need.”

However, readers will need to know that your app exists as they will not find it by searching in the App Store and, unless you are a major player such as the FT so able to generate sufficient buzz to result in 100,000 hits in the first week, you could struggle to get people using it.

The user experience may not be as good as with a native app, although the FT is reporting initial feedback has been good with many users finding the web-based app experience better than the native. If you have an iPad it’s worth testing the FT’s native app against its web-based one.

Kirby said for him (using an iPad 1) the web-based app seemed sluggish. “I have experienced these problems myself when building hybrid apps. It does seem perhaps they’re not there yet but the platforms will improve,” he said.

Native apps

There are two points worth remembering. Firstly “an app should be the answer to a question and not the question itself,” according to Kirby. It needs to be a solution to a problem rather than simply built for the sake of having an app.

Barnes offers a suggestion of how to test your need for one. “Write the press release on the launch of an app before you build it. You’ll often realise it’s a crapp – or a crap app,” he said.

Secondly, there is no need to hurry. “You don’t have to be first when it comes to apps,” Elia said, suggesting it was better to spend more time researching and developing a better app.

And a good app will cost you. Expect to pay a minimum of £20,000 per app as decent developers charge around £1,000 a day and it is likely to be at least two month’s work, Kirby said, and suggested an app is more likely to be in the region of £100,000 to £200,000.

Kirby also pointed out that iPhone, Android and BlackBerry users all have different expectations and expect a certain design. Android readers expect an app that looks like an Android app, iPhone users expect a familiar style, feel and layout too. However, “you need a branded experience across platforms”, Elia said.

The iPad offers “big opportunities for publishers”, Staffan Eckholm, from Bonnier’s Moving Media+ said last week.

But Kirby warns against trying to do too much. For him it is all about user experience – or UI – and he feels GQ’s iPad app is “confusing and stressful”, due to being so complicated it gives instructions on how to use it.

He points those considering a magazine iPad app in the direction of PixMax and to Zinio, an even better option in his opinion, which includes added functionality like links and hyperlinks within the contents pages of its products.

For several publishers initially the number of people using native apps is encouraging. This month the Guardian has reported 400,000 global downloads of its iPhone app, with more than 67,000 paying subscribers; the Economist has reported two million downloads of the iPad and iPhone app with 650,000 regular readers, most of them paying; the Times has not released app stats but in March said it had 79,000 paying digital subscribers; and although the Telegraph has not revealed figures it has said it is “hugely encouraged” by the number of people willing to pay to read news.

So it is worth remembering that it is barely a year since the first iPad hit shops in the UK and that the landscape for news consumption is constantly evolving.

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FT sees 150,000 uses of new web-app in first 10 days

The Financial Times’ new web-based app has been viewed 150,000 times since its launch 10 days ago, which includes 100,000 hits in the first week of launch, the FT said in a media release today.

The FT is the first major news publisher to launch this type of HTML5 hybrid app, which can be viewed across a number of different smartphone and tablet devices.

Steve Pinches, FT group product head, said the app has received very positive feedback.

“Comments include recognition of the technical capabilities of the app and being at the cutting edge of technology. Users have also expressed appreciation for the improved speed of the app and look and feel enhancements when using on the iPhone.”

He explained where the app is heading.

“We will take a two-fold approach to improvements to the app. Firstly we will focus on adding new content to the existing app, including special reports, newspaper graphics and the ability to save articles for later. Secondly we will develop the app for other devices including Honeycomb, Samsung and BlackBerry Playbook.

“Our next priority is releasing the app for Android devices, both large and small screen. Following that we will work on an FT web app for BlackBerry Playbook.”

Initial analysis shows the ‘Companies’ section of the web-app is the most popular, followed by the Life and Arts section, which makes up around 10 per cent of consumption overall. Other popular features include Markets Data, World, Markets and Lex.

“Interestingly, we are seeing much more leisure-type usage, with user peaks early morning, evening and around lunch time. This suggests that as well as a core tool for use during the business day, like on a desktop, the app is an accessory being used on the way to and from work and planning for the day ahead.”

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Mobile plans for London Evening Standard announced at Mobile World Congress

February 15th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Mobile

The Standard will launch an application for smartphones later this month, an announcement by developers Handmark to coincide with this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

According to the launch release, “content within the London Evening Standard mobile application will be refreshed automatically and available for offline reading”.

Handmark’s mobile publishing platform has already been used by Thomson Reuters, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.

There are no details about the cost of the app – the Standard’s print edition went free in October.

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WSJ confirms paid-for access to news on mobile

September 17th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Mobile, Online Journalism

News Corp’s Dow Jones has confirmed speculation from earlier this week and announced that the Wall Street Journal will now charge for full access to its content via Blackberry, iPhone and iPod touch devices.

According to a press release, the WSJ applications will remain free to download for each device and continue to offer a mixture of free and subscription content.

The new access model will be introduced from October 24 and hopes to expand the paying audience for Dow Jones’ content by highlighting the specialist, time-sensitive nature of its news.

“Our new mobile subscription model will enable us to continue to invest in the world’s most essential news content and deliver it to our subscribers wherever and whenever they want it,” said Gordon McLeod, president of the Wall Street Journal digital network, in the release.

“This transition also reinforces the value of our content on mobile, just as we’ve done online for more than a decade.”

Full access to the site from these applications will cost $2 per week for a mobile-only subscription. A subscription to mobile and the WSJ in print or online will cost $1 a week.

Print and online subscribers will have free access to content via the smartphone apps.

Full access to the site’s mobile site will only be granted to subscribers, the release added.

Today UK website the Spectator announced it would introduced a range of subscription packages for its website with immediate effect.

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Jon Bernstein: Why ITV’s micropayment plan is unlikely to make the Grade

July 15th, 2009 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Comment, Online Journalism

ITV management had better hope Ben Bradshaw’s deeds are as good as his words, because its faith in an another revenue-generating scheme looks misplaced.

Bradshaw, the recently appointed Culture Secretary, told the Financial Times earlier this week that the BBC’s refusal to relinquish licence fee money to aid other broadcasters with a public service remit was ‘wrong-headed’. He said the corporation’s hierarchy would have to come to its senses sooner or later.

While the BBC fights the good fight against ‘ideological’ forces such as these, part of the network gave airtime to a would-be recipient of top-slicing: ITV’s executive chairman, Michael Grade.

On BBC Five Live last Thursday, Simon Mayo asked Grade about the YouTube Susan Boyle affair (some 200 million video views to date).

After describing YouTube’s proposed revenue-share for the Boyle clips as ‘derisory’, Grade insisted ITV wouldn’t get caught out again:

“We are working on it and watch this space, but we’re all going to crack it, either when the advertising market recovers or a combination of advertising and micropayments which is 50p a time or 25p a time to watch it.

“We may move in time, in the medium term, to micropayments, the same way you pay for stuff on your mobile phone. I think we can make that work extremely well.”

(You can listen to the interview on the iPlayer until midnight Wednesday 15 July. Grade interviews starts around 1 hour, 22 minutes.)

Despite Grade’s confidence there are grave doubts that paying per clip is going to work. Here are four reasons to worry:

1. Micropayments don’t work for perishable goods
It’s an argument that has been made against charging for news stories, but it is equally applicable when you are talking about clips from a reality TV programme.

Quality drama may have a shelf-life and an audience willing to pay for it, but a water cooler moment from reality TV? Not likely.

The Susan Boyle phenomenon still feels vaguely current, but it is a passing fad.

If you’re unconvinced take this quick, highly unscientific test: would you pay 50p to watch the machinations of ‘Nasty’ Nick Bateman from the first series of Big Brother?

The correct answer: who’s ‘Nasty’ Nick Bateman?

2. Micropayments put people off
Writing back in 1996, social scientist Nick Szabo introduced the idea of mental transaction costs. He argued that no matter how small the payment, it still incurs effort on behalf of the potential buyer to work out if he or she is getting a good deal.

He wrote:

“The reason we don’t do the things is that they’re not worth the brain cycles: we have reached the mental accounting barrier.”

And that in a nutshell is why micropayments are doomed to failure.

It’s a theme Chris Anderson touched on in his recently released book ‘Free: The Future of a Radical Price‘. He wrote:

“It’s the worst of both worlds – the mental tax of a larger price without the commensurate cash. (Szabo was right: Micropayments have largerly failed to take off.)”

Unsurprisingly, Anderson advocates free as a preferable alternative to micro, but he’s not alone. New York professor Clay Shirky is with him.

In fact Shirky has been saying much the same thing since the beginning of the decade and his 2003 essay ‘Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content‘ has become something of a set text.

3. Micropayments only work if you control distribution
ITV’s Grade rightly cites mobile phones as a great platform for micropayments.

The network operator controls what is available via the handset, limiting availability and ensuring prices won’t be undercut.

Further, the operator offers a simple and largely pain-free way of paying for goods by adding the cost to a monthly bill or subtracting it from a top-up on a pay-as-you-go phone.

But the web is different – it’s anarchic, open, a free-for-all.

Nobody controls distribution and despite efforts to chase down copyright abusers, there will always be someone ready to undercut your micropayment with an even smaller charge – free.

Opponents of this reading cite Apple’s iTunes Music Store as proof that micropayments can work on the net. But, as Shirky argued earlier this year, the fee-per-track model works because this is a rare example where no alternative exists.

“Everything from Napster to online radio has been crippled or killed by fiat; small payments survive in the absence of a market for other legal options.”

Further, Apple does control part of the distribution, successfully creating a market for the must-have iPod.

So despite Grade’s assertion, it’s unlikely any micropayment system on the internet will turn out ‘the same way you pay for stuff on mobile phones’.

Incidentally, it will be worth watching to see how the smartphone redefines this divide between the largely ordered phone network and the web.

4. YouTube clips drive traffic first, revenues second
If you think about a clip on YouTube as a direct money maker, you’ve got your priorities wrong.

It’s about reach, exposure and promotion. It’s about creating a buzz and driving traffic back to the core.

Did the Susan Boyle clip achieve this? No question.

For starters, video views at were up 528 per cent year-on-year and advertising slots for the duration of the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ season sold out.

Meanwhile, such was the interest around the show, the final was seen by 19.2 million people – ITV’s highest audience since England vs. Sweden in the 2006 World Cup. More eyeballs this year promises high advertising yields next.

In short YouTube kept its part of the bargain.

Would all that have happened had ITV charged 25p a clip? Would 200 million people have checked it out? Will a pay-per-clip Britain’s Got Talent be a winner?

The twist in the tale is that Grade, who steps down as executive chairman at the end of the year, won’t be around to find out.

Jon Bernstein is former multimedia editor of Channel 4 News. This is part of a series of regular columns for You can read his personal blog at this link.

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