David Ho: Mobile isn't the future, it's the now.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

David Ho

David Ho is the editor for mobile, tablets and emerging technology, The Wall Street Journal. This is a liveblog of his talk at news:rewired.

David is not an alien from the planet Tech – he’s a reporter, but he has a background in coding and page design. His job is about bringing technology and reporting together.

Why Mobile is a big deal

In the US, 60% of digital time is on mobile device. Many titles are reaching 50% of greater mobile consumption.

He has us hand our phones to the person on our right. The point? To illustrate how uncomfortable people feel as a result – our phones are intensely person devices. They’re intimate – and that’s why it’s so critical we get it right. We’re sending new straight into people’s lives.

The one platform world is sea. We live in a many platform world, and when you produce news it goes everywhere. No matter what journalism job you do, this matters a lot. How you tell a story is related to how people consume it.

Storytelling tips

  • Beware the words: “click here” is meaningless on mobile, and insults the readers – it tells them it wasn’t meant for them. Your text needs to be platform agnostic.
  • Everyone has seen a graphic that works really badly on a phone. Do you want more than half of everyone coming to your site having a bad experience? You, as a reporter, have a stake in this.
  • The legacies of WWI that the WSJ had done recently was designed with mobile in mind.
  • Feel, don’t show. Emotions are a factor in storytelling. The Daily did some great work on graphics for tablets. They did a submarine graphic that was really, really tall, so you had to swipe and swipe and swipe to get to the bottom. The physical interaction was very meaningful in that experience.
  • Our storytelling tends to two dimensions – paper or screens. It doesn’t not need to be that way – gestures, accelerometers, voice control, AR… Ponder that.

Future of mobile

David ho too

Mobile is not the future. Mobile is here. If you’re just now welcoming it into your journalism, you’re playing catch-up. This si not to depress us, but to convey urgency.

You keep hearing “mobile, social, video”, because it’s a safe answer. He’s a non-safe answer:

Newspapers will outlast websites.

Digital will win. The web is not dead. This is about how people consume information. Newspapers have been around for 400 years, and have a lot of staying power. People are beginning to understand something that the WSJ figured out four years ago – a finite, self-updating content set still matters. Even is a world of non-stop world. Especially in a world of non-stop news. The edition has value.

Does anyone have the nostalgia for websites that they do for papers? Did you ave nostalgia for CDs? Mobile traffic is shifting to apps – there’s no doubt about it. People skip home pages, and go straight to stories. The tech people are making that happen in apps, too. This is a profound change, an evolution, that’s happening sooner than you might expect.

Hologrphaic displays? Smart contact lenses? These are being explored.

Journalism Moonshots

Journalism needs its moonshots. We need the same boldness for our work in the style of tech we use. The WSJ did that with the iPad a few years ago – in six weeks. But we can do better.

There’s a lot of innovation in journalism – but we need to take five steps, not one at a time. When we surrender to the notion that the future is unknowable, and we are consigned to follow the innovation of others, then we fail. Why be at the tail end of change?

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.