Just hours after wrapping up a very successful #rjimobilefirst event, the discussion continues, even passionately, among its many participants. Where, as journalists, are we on the path of mobile migration, and where should we be?

Mobile first. Mobile only. Mobile ubiquity.

Just hours after wrapping up a very successful #rjimobilefirst event, the discussion continues, even passionately, among its many participants. Where, as journalists, are we on the path of mobile migration, and where should we be?

Are we chasing shiny pots of gold at the ends of mythical rainbows, or are we truly engaging in the present and future of journalism? And what does that look like? Is it found in second-screen interactive experiences? Is it best achieved in a codified social media experience where journalists are trained and imbued in best practices? How many resources do we deploy within our organization to multi-platform content, or is that merged-platform content? These are just a few of the many questions our panelists, presenters and participants sought to address and answer at #rjimobilefirst.

Backdrops and backbones

31 presenters. 12 hours. Seven topics. A ticking 20-minute clock.

That was the framework we established in setting up #rjimobilefirst. We had both ambitious and modest goals. Ambitious, in that we were going to tackle mobile migration from every possible viewpoint: Innovation, infrastructure, workflow and mindset, content creation, audience, analytics, monetization and the future.

Really? In 12 hours? C’mon.

Which brought us to modesty. We knew we wouldn’t answer all the questions and the roadmap would be far from complete. But somehow, with so many smart participants in the room, we believed we could mark a beginning, or a midpoint, or at least set a standard for our individual organizations.

Lots of smart organizations and people signed up for #rjimobilefirst. Leaders from established players like Google, CNN, ESPN, Major League Baseball, Hearst, Scripps and Raycom. And we had a legion of startup CEOs from Circa, Storify, Storyful, Watchup, Newsy, InfoActive and Meograph.

Participants traveled from Africa, Ireland and France and joined us remotely from Belgium, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.

What resulted was a learning experience, a well-rounded discussion and a sowing of seeds for further discussion and work ahead, the backbone of which centers on embracing positive and strategic change and evolution while eliminating a seemingly pervasive segregation of thought and execution inside news organizations.

Silos, statistics and precision strikes

While each 20-minute presentation took on topics across a broad spectrum, themes emerged. Among them:

  • “Silo thinking” and structures within newsrooms are anathema to making progress in mobile and multi- or merged-platform execution. Legacy divisions limit progress on this front.
  • Nowhere is this more true than in the understanding of audience through analytics. The user/consumer/audience has not yet taken precedence in the news process, and because of this, consumers flock to other sources of news.
  • News consumers, particularly younger users, don’t need to seek out news, because it finds them. As a result, news organizations need to resonate with precision strikes of content that hit a precise mark, whether that be mobile, social or core content, delivering the most relevant content to the most appropriate channels.
  • Best practices must be established and adhered to in social media execution. Common standards and ways of delivering news content will help with greater consistency and understanding.
  • Opportunities to engage and listen to consumers abound, and journalists should understand their evolving role as gatekeeper in this discussion.
  • In fact, endless opportunities exist on all fronts, from content creation to emerging platforms, for those news organizations willing to undertake the task of self-transformation. Change is good, even necessary, for most if not all news organizations.
  • Our participants also tackled the very real issues with regards to difficult and costly measures, such as upgrading infrastructure to make it more mobile and merged- or multi-platform friendly. Modifying content management systems, storage needs, dashboards and OVPs to address multiple platform content creation can seem daunting, but these changes are achievable.

We also witnessed the way organizations are rebuilding themselves from within, such as Major League Baseball, which has blown up its own internal silos to create a responsive, constantly evolving content ecosystem. As a result, MLB has taken complete vertical control of its content creation and deployment engines, rebuilding them from within to optimize their performance.

We heard from ESPN, which is building an entire SEC Network in cooperation with member university schools. And Neil Katz from the Weather Company delighted the audience with the many long-form and other visual endeavors being witnessed inside his organization, which seeks to become nothing less than the official voice and platform of Mother Nature.

Lost in migration?

The #rjimobilefirst symposium taught us there are many paths of migration being adopted by media organizations. And, for those who have yet to undertake a full mobile initiative, there are many questions yet to be answered.

Who and what will be our guides? Are we truly listening to audience? Do we really understand the messages they are sending us? And to that end, how much do we seek to please and how much do we re-dedicate ourselves to our original mission. Understanding our end goal is of utmost importance as we map out our path.

These questions are being resolved in media organizations large and small, established and emerging, legacy and startup. The takeaway from our gathering? Certain successful attributes within these organizations seem to resonate: An eagerness to create new, non-traditional and compelling content; a willingness to listen to and engage the audience in creative and groundbreaking ways; a reinvention of media through the development of new products; an acceptance that the game has changed; and an understanding that established players not only continue to have value, the audience is looking to these players to master these challenges.

Jim Flink  


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