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5 iPhone applications that can revolutionize mobile journalism

By now you’ve seen or heard about the growing number of iPhone applications available from mainstream news organizations, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Sky News. The mobile apps are a step in the right direction, but disappointingly most don’t offer much beyond the ability to read or share the news stories that are available elsewhere on the web.

The iPhone is a powerful tool that can elevate journalism beyond just reading stories, but also interacting with them in new and different ways. The following applications demonstrate that the possibilities for what can be done with the technology are limitless.


1. SpotCrime

For New York City iPhone owners, finding out what crimes have occurred in the neighborhood is as easy as launching the SpotCrime app and viewing crimes on a map. Users enter an address and the app plots recent crimes, including burglary, theft, assault, on a Google map. The information is also available in an easy to scan, text-based list.

SpotCrime is available online for neighborhoods all over the United States, and is similar to the many crime maps produced by news and independent organizations. Yet it is the unique mobile offering that is unrivaled by the media outlets who are often the gatekeepers of such data and statistics.


2. Kindle for iPhone

The popularity of the Kindle and its companion iPhone app are proof that users are more than willing to read long passages of text on handheld devices. This is good news for media outlets to looking make lengthy content available to mobile readers.

With hundreds of thousands of books available for reading on the iPhone and iPod Touch, there is hope for the 50,000-word news stories that have been ditched in favor of the quick, bite-sized information available on the web. The concept also introduces a possible revenue stream in which media outlets can charge for the subscription service or for the individual stories themselves, the incentive being the expanded stories/coverage are available for on-the-go reading.


3. Howcast

Several iPhone apps developed by mainstream media offer news video that has been repackaged from on-air or online broadcasts and made available for the iPhone. Howcast is no different, but instead of news stories, the site offers how to videos on a range of subjects — from how to make sushi to how to master online career networking.

It’s time for newspapers to stop looking at the front page as the only source of material for iPhone applications. Many papers offer content in other sections that can be transformed into handy iPhone apps. For example, the archived recipes from the food section could be made available to the cook on the go and the entertainment listings are perfect mobile material for the last-minute thrill seeker.


4. iheart radio

There are what seems like a million radio apps available in the iTunes store that offer a variety of ways to hear music or live radio stations. iheart radio, the free application from Clear Channel radio, is no different. What is remarkable is that the app has been downloaded by more than a million users and increased the Clear Channel Radio audience by 15 percent. Such a large percentage of new listeners is enviable by anyone’s standards and is all the more reason to pursue mobile applications.

iheart radio, which is also available online and for the Blackberry lets users pick a radio station by city or genre and listen directly from their mobile device.


5. HearPlanet

The HearPlanet app is a lot like having a tour guide in your pocket: audio clips that describe thousands of landmarks around the world or available with a tap of the finger. The application, which has both free and paid versions, includes interactive maps and a GPS-based function to find audio tours of nearby locations.

Like SpotCrime, there is a massive opportunity for journalism organizations to aggregate location-based/geotagged news and make it available in a mobile environment. Whereas SpotCrime is useful for time-based incidents, HearPlanet serves as a model for showcasing evergreen content that has been produced or written about a particular location. For example, if a user wanted to find out more about a park they were visiting, they could launch the figurative app and find news stories on the park’s dedication, its history, previous events that had been held there and yes, even the crimes that were committed there.

Many media organizations lack the funds or resources to produce iPhone apps, but it shouldn’t stop everyone from imagining or working toward the next best thing in mobile journalism. If resources are a problem, consider creating a mobile-friendly or iPhone-friendly site to capitalize on the growing crop of readers using mobile devices.


Also on 10,000 Words:

21 iPhone-friendly news sites and how to format your own
6 Ways to create a mobile version of your site
10 Essential iPhone apps for bloggers and reporters
10 Not-so-essential (but totally cool) iPhone apps

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