Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Will the Touch Tablet Save Journalism?

Multimedia pioneer Colin Mulvany, of Spokane's Spokesman-Review, paints a rosy picture on his Mastering Multimedia blog of how professional journalism can be rescued by... the imminent arrival of the touch tablet.

His scenario may not be far-fetched, but first we have to share another funny scene he depicts that pretty much sums up today's precarious state of affairs, and the new demographically dictated digital divide in general. His former newspaper editor was the keynote speaker at one of those ubiquitous conferences dedicated to developing "real-world plans for new media organizations to fill the journalism gaps left by shrinking news staffs at legacy media organizations.”

As [he] was speaking about the need to save “professional” journalism, back in the corner of the room were a bunch of self-proclaimed snarky bloggers and citizen journalists who took offense to the notion professional journalism should be saved. Of course they twittered their opinions in real time.
Now on to Colin's touch-tablet vision, which starts out like this:

A new breed of touch tablet readers hits the market in 2010-2011. Newspaper publishers at first shun the devices. Then one gutsy newspaper chain embraces them. They form a partnership with the tablet maker to subsidize the cost for the consumer. The more publications a consumer subscribes to, the less they have to pay for the reader. Others soon follow…
Go to Colin's blog to follow the next logical steps. He's a content-oriented guy, and never loses sight of what ultimately matters:

Our journalism is what’s most important and will no doubt have to be upgraded. Words and multimedia will need to work better together. The strength in the touch tablet is in its multimedia capabilities. Visuals like photo galleries, graphics, and hi-def video, will add value. Like your current Web site, the front page of the digital newspaper will change as stories are updated throughout the day. The page design will slowly change to integrate new content features.

Once this happens, the true digital media revolution will begin to take place.
Personally, we're enamoured of our iPhone apps that provide virtual newsstands for dozens of publications and broadcast organizations. News Feed, News Fuse, News Addict, News Junkie -- we've deposited our 99 cents and downloaded them all. It's arguable whether we feel more plugged in by scanning dozens of essentially headline services that more or less echo each other. While waiting for a friend to meet us at a restaurant, we're more likely to tune in to an NPR podcast than try to read a lengthy NY Times article on an eye-straining 2x3 screen.

Amazon's Kindle 2 and Barnes & Noble's new Nook e-book readers offer e-newspapers and e-magazines, but unfortunately as text only, not multimedia. However we can readily see how a similarly sized touch tablet with smart-phone features, and standardized and optimized video platforms, would enable and exponentially improve a full-fledged multimedia journalism experience. The portable touch screen is what would differentiate it as a tactile experience from viewing a similar point-and-click Website on your desktop.

Agree? Disagree? We welcome your thoughts.

And be sure to check out Colin Mulvany's stellar videojournalism on the Spokesman Review channel of KobreGuide.com .

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