— Knight Foundation (@knightfdn) August 15, 2012
Shortly after recently announcing the theme of this year’s third News Challenge installment – “mobile” — the Knight Foundation tweeted an impressive stat backing up reasoning for its choice: there are 6 billion mobile devices worldwide.
Billion. With a “B.”
The number may be an eye-opener — like anything with the word “billion,” let alone six — but discussion on how to best use mobile to further the goals of journalism of course isn’t new. The goal of the challenge, however, is to fund some great ideas and get discussed and un-disccussed approaches actually going. Just like this year’s previous challenges on themes of networks and data, a crop of folks are going to get substantial financial backing.
(Your budget needs approval, of course, but in the words of the last installment’s FAQ, the foundation pays for “what it takes” to design, develop and implement the project, as well as marketing and travel.)
Consider entering. The contest opens Aug. 29, and the first stage of the application process closes at noon EDT Sept. 10.
In case @KnightFdn’s stat isn’t enough to get your startup-build-something-awesome juices going, here are a few others that may provide you or your group a jumping off point for your entry. And even if you don’t plan to submit a project, they may be worth noting in any conversation about how you engage with an increasingly mobile audience.
I’ve also included some talking aloud – err, typing aloud? – of possible opportunities those stats produce, and the bigger questions that lay behind them. Hope it’s helpful.
- 75 percent of the world has access to a mobile phone
- 61 percent of American ‘almost always’ use a phone while watching TV
- 13 years is the average age a kid gets a mobile phone
- 29 percent of Americans say their phone is the first and last thing they look at every day
- 29 percent say too much emphasis on technology
There aren’t just billions of mobile devices in the developed world—the developing countries may be more mobile. According to that same study Knight Foundation cites about the billions, 75 percent of the entire world has access to a mobile phone. The spread is wide. Most phones, it says, are in the hands of folks in low-income regions.
Possible opportunity: Simple services for those developing countries, maybe text-based. Mobile doesn’t always mean fancy, and while app access is growing worldwide (check the rise in photo and video usage), the numbers may still be in your favor to explore something that doesn’t use a smartphone. Perhaps that’s more admirable or simpler, too, with many ways to distribute info or gather info from or about users for an admirable end, all without a shiny app. What’s the next Ushahidi?
Bigger question: How does mobile mesh with geography?
You’re far from the only one who’s checking Twitter during a sports game, Glee, or cable news. Discussion about the “second-screen” isn’t new journalism circles either, but it’s nice to take comfort in an idea you may have when 61 percent of Americas “almost always” use a phone while watching TV.
That stat comes from Qualcomm, sure, but even if it was inflated, it’s still pretty high to not recognize some level of truth (or at least a trend).
Possible opportunity: Social TV in your hand. Pairing a more immersive experience on a phone with something people are already watching. I could offer neat examples, but to get your thoughts going on this one, I suggest checking the brilliant coverage over at our new Mediabistro family member, Lost Remote.
Bigger question: How does mobile mesh with other media consumption? Where does it currently clash?
You may have never had a cellphone ‘til college — or never at all then because they didn’t exist — but the fact is your kids probably will, or already do. Discussion about how teenagers are using mobile devices may not be as popular in journalism circles, but hey, that’s your future audience (or perhaps could be the current audience, too).
This comes from the same Qualcomm report.
Possible opportunity: Audience development or news literacy development. Adults aren’t the only one with a phone– why restrict your ideas to the older age bracket? Why not develop something like the Washington Post Kids section as a mobile app?
Bigger question: How does mobile mesh with age?
Whether or not it’s good for your eyes, people are checking their hones right away in the morning or right before bed. Twenty-nine percent of Americans say their phone is the first and last thing they look at every day. To add to that, an even higher number – 84 percent – keep the phone in their bedroom overnight. It’s in the room you rest and awake, possibly ready to deliver your news to your audience.
Source: Qualcomm again.
Possible opportunity: Relevant news delivery based on time of access. If 68 percent of Americans keep their phone next to their bed, why not play to that? What’s a way to capitalize on the activities people already engage in with phones, and in particular, something they do every day?
Bigger question: How does mobile mesh (or clash) with daily habits?
You may love technology unceasingly, but there’s still a good chunk of the population that’s hesitant about jumping into everything, or downright fatigued. The Qualcomm report on Time’s site shows 29 percent of Americans as fearful that society puts too much emphasis on technology, but you don’t need an infographic to tell you that. People more eagerly engage with technological advances than 10 years ago, but some still tread softly, and for some, it just wears them out. You probably know at least one such person.
Possible opportunity: Human-centered design. Is there a way to appeal to both heavy mobile users and ones that want to award you for putting your phone away? Why not dig into your audiences current opinions not just about news, but how and why they engage with it, too? Can you learn from your audience — or maybe even biology — a better way of building a better mobile product?
Bigger question: How does mobile access mesh (or clash) with human needs or desires?
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