From 'information nuggets' to 'glance journalism' MobileMe&You explored how to think differently to reach the audience of today and tomorrow

By Gary Kebbel                                                                                                        

Speakers at the MobileMe&You Conference at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in October 2015 agreed that mobile media are the way to reach the audience of the future. They also showed there’s no right way to do that. The conference explored how mobile media, wearable media, virtual reality, news applications and drone journalism are revolutionizing communication today, just as the Gutenberg press did in the mid-1400s.

Mobile media’s potential is still so new that communicators are just starting to learn smart ways to create short messages, long stories, games or video that use the unique capabilities of mobile media to reach today's audience.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation funded MobileMe&You to bring together leading experts and researchers to talk with professors, students and workers about how to inform and engage new audiences in the mobile era.

We’re becoming a world feasting on constant information snacks, not meals.
— Aaron Smith, Pew Research Center

Mobile and social media are changing our lives by creating a new lifeline of constant information that reaches us wherever we are, whenever we want and on whatever device we’re using, said Aaron Smith, associate director of research at the PEW Research Center’s Internet Project. He said we’re becoming a world feasting on constant information snacks, not meals.

Our phones are becoming our information-seeking tool of choice, he said, with 62 percent of people using their smartphones to research health conditions, 57 percent doing their online banking, 43 percent looking up information about jobs and 18 percent using their smartphones to submit job applications.

The story is no different around the world. Joseph Adah, information resource specialist at the U.S. Mission in Nigeria, told the conference that although the use of mobile phones in Africa is nowhere near critical mass, there still are more mobile phone users in Africa than in the United States and Europe combined. Mobile media in Africa are the new lifelines for health information and education.

Clint! Runge, managing creative director of youth marketing agency Archrival, said that although the platform on which to reach youth is mobile media, the message has to be tailored to the independence that digital media have given Gen Y and Gen Z.

José Zamora, vice president of news strategic communications at Univision, said the way to reach the Hispanic audience is through mobile media. He said Hispanics use mobile media at an even higher rate than the black or white populations do.From wearables to drones to virtual reality today and who knows what tomorrow, mobile media are expanding what we think of as media and what we think of as information.

From wearables to drones to virtual reality today and who knows what tomorrow, mobile media are expanding what we think of as media and what we think of as information.

Victor Hernandez, a fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, sees a future in which wearable mobile media create the need for “glance journalism,” with short information nuggets. Those nuggets could be life-saving health data transmitted to a doctor across the country.

Those doctors could be training in virtual worlds created by 360-degree video shot with mobile gear and studied on portable viewers. Virtual reality is the new reality for Dan Pacheco, Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications innovation chair.  He teaches how virtual reality watched with a headset or cell-phone viewer give such new perspectives that they can put the audience inside a cell to see how medicine works or in a valley to see how it was formed during the Ice Age.

Matt Waite, founder of UNL’s Drone Journalism Lab, told the audience at MobileMe&You how drones can be used to shoot video and photos in places too dangerous for a videographer, like the edge of a waterfall or the middle of a pride of lions.

Teaching with mobile media was the focus of other speakers. They want to help universities partner with industries to teach students to become the new leaders integrating emerging technology into newsrooms, ad agencies and businesses around the world.

Nicole Kraft, assistant professor of journalism at The Ohio State University School of Communication, described her experiment teaching a reporting class in which students’ only tool was what they could do with their iPads. She said the iPad is the journalist’s one-stop tool.

Retha Hill, director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, said she is teaching students to take risks as they experiment with adapting new technologies for the changing news ecosystem.

“There has to be a symbiotic relationship between journalism schools and industry. They need us, we need them,” she said.

Other speakers and their topics at MobileMe&You were:

  • Andy Boyle, web developer for NBC News Digital Group's Breaking News, discussed how to plan and design new mobile products. Boyle is an alumnus of the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

  • Jim Brady, CEO & founder of BillyPenn.com, talked about using a mobile-first news site to reach the youth audience.

  • David Cohn, senior director, Alpha Unit, Advance Digital and former executive producer, Al Jazeera+, discussed how to improve the mobile product experience and attract a new audience.

  • Sally Ann Cruikshank, assistant professor of journalism in the School of Communication and Journalism at Auburn University, reported the results of her paper, “Mobile Learning: Rethinking the Future of Journalism Practice and Pedagogy.”

  • Andrew Haeg, founder of the mobile engagement platform, GroundSource, and teacher of human-centered design, talked about how GroundSource can be used to increase mobile engagement in communities.

  • Brant Houston, Knight Chair in investigative reporting at the University of Illinois, discussed how to use mobile devices when gathering news.

  • Emily Ingram, mobile product manager at The Washington Post, discussed how to plan and design new mobile products. Ingram is an alumna of the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

  • Julie Jones, associate professor at the Gaylord College at the University of Oklahoma, reported on her research, “Covering #SAE: A Mobile Reporting Class’s Changing Patterns of Interactionon Twitter Over Time.”

  • Damon Kiesow, head of mobile initiatives for McClatchy Co., discussed how newspapers' culture and content management systems work to make it difficult to produce "mobile-first" content.

  • Yusuf Kalyango Jr., associate professor and director of the Institute for International Journalism in the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, reported the results of his paper, “Mobile Learning: Rethinking the Future of Journalism Practice and Pedagogy.”

  • Alan Knitowski, CEO of Phunware, Inc.; USA Today Money's 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, talked about all the data mobile devices gather about their users and how companies use that data.

  • Susan Poulton, the first chief digital officer at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, said she disagrees with many museum administrators who think mobile media distract from the museum experience. She wants to create a museum app that is used as an education app outside the museum, too.

  • Allissa Richardson, mobile media professor at Bowie State University, demonstrated products that enhance the photo and video capabilities of mobile media.

  • Natalee Seely, doctoral student in the School of Media and Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hills, worked with Nicole Kraft, who reported on their research, “Making Mojos: How iPads Are Enhancing Mobile Journalism Education.”

  • Judd Slivka, assistant professor of convergence journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, demonstrated products that enhance the photo and video capabilities of mobile media. 

  •  Ben Vankat, online editor at the Omaha World Herald,  discussed how newspapers' culture and content management systems work to make it difficult to produce "mobile-first" content.

  • Pamela Walck, assistant professor in the Journalism & Multimedia Arts Department in the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts at Duquesne University, reported the results of her paper, “Mobile Learning: Rethinking the Future of Journalism Practice and Pedagogy.”



This conference was free to participants because of a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.