Tablets: Evolution of the News

Ever since the printing press, news has constantly evolved in its delivery method. The use of tablets for news is the natural progression in this evolution. Coined the ‘platform to save the news industry’, tablets and mobile are viewed by some as a chance to start over. Media companies have the chance to attempt to re-configure their system to benefit from tablet users. When the free online version of the papers debuted, media companies have had a difficult time constructing a pay structure that not only retained consumers but was profitable as well. Mobile is giving them a second chance.

For there to be a future in journalism on mobile devices, media companies need to establish a pay structure from the beginning. While pay structures can present the same problems as on traditional media, a balance needs to be achieved. Niche and specialty papers such as the Wall Street Journal have never had a problem with hard pay walls, but general news gets trickier. One benefit of tablets is the perception by the consumer. They are more willing to pay for content and value the applications differently. Media companies need to utilize this to the fullest and charge for content from the start.

Tablets offer a new form of revenue from advertising and charging for application downloads as well. Applications as well as mobile sites are crucial to news outlets to attract users to not only create brand loyalty but make money from the mobile advertising as well.

Media companies need to adapt to the changes or perish. In this environment where technology is reinventing and moving forward, there is no other choice. The numbers have been rising since the inception of the tablet and this gives the media companies a chance to build back their business.

This may not ‘save’ the publishing industries but it is the next step in the news cycle. Traditional companies need to embrace the reality and configure a pay and overall structure that will not only retain consumers but be lucrative as well. This can only help the media companies if they understand the growing need for this shift.

It comes down to not whether media companies will adapt but if it will work in the long-term. The way information is disseminated is constantly shifting and to stay relevant companies need to assimilate to embrace the changes.

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Managing Comments on News Sites

Managing website comments can be a difficult minefield to maneuver. Patrick Thornton gives some suggestions on how to promote good user comments on news sites. The point is made that most people aren’t racist, vulgar or actively looking to start a fight but when left to flourish, those users can take over.

Most of the guidelines given are well thought out, common sense solutions to managing comments. Becoming an active participant is necessary to show interest in the comments and commentators themselves. By reading and responding to the comments, this doesn’t leave much room for trolling or offensive content. Eric Berger, science reporter and beatblogger for the Houston Chronicle said that, “If people know that someone is going to read what they’re writing and perhaps judge them, they’ll be more careful with what they write.” It’s hard to agree with the statement, since most offensive commentators do it for a reaction. Some even revel in the destructive nature of their comments. Just being a participant in the conversation is not enough to encourage other readers to participate in constructive dialogue.

One has to moderate the site closely and ban repeat offenders. While moderating takes time, it is still manageable for a newsroom. If reporters include moderating and active participation in their stories, they can cut back dramatically on offensive content.

Two other suggestions Thornton gives refers to ‘hoisting’ comments and using blog backs. Both undoubtedly encourage participation but neither really prevent trolling. Hoisting a comment acknowledges when a user posts a great comment and gives it more prominence. This would be a great tool for a newsroom by implementing “Comment(s) of the Week”. Creating a blog back takes more time, but it elevates strong comments, clarifies points and acknowledges mistakes. Both of these practices would benefit a newsroom and creating a larger, stronger user comment community but doesn’t necessarily prevent trolling.

Many news organizations have started requiring users to sign up before they can comment which has cut back on the amount of trolling, spam and negative comments. The idea is that if one isn’t anonymous anymore, one is less likely to spout off racist or offensive language. This is an easier way to control the comments and requires less moderation or even participation by the reporter.

For successful comment management, one has to stay actively involved. Moderating, hoisting comments, using advice to compile other stories and eliminating negative content are all necessary. One has to find a balance between all of these factors. If one does a “Comment of the Week” then perhaps a blog back isn’t necessary. One could do a user comment generated story one week and actively comment on posts throughout the next week. The idea is not every tip is crucial to upholding a positive comment environment, but each should be explored to see what works either in the newsroom or for a personal blog.