Can Mobile Apps Save Professional Journalism?
In 2008 Jonathan Zittrain, in his powerful book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It , envisioned the 'appification' of the Internet. Instead of using our web browsers to visit different websites to perform various tasks, we are switching to apps to do these things.
Everything from downloading music to booking flights, from reading news to connecting with friends, it's all being appified. Users are abandoning the clunky and difficult experience of websites and replacing it with smooth easy-to-use applications on our mobile phones and tablet PCs.
A few weeks ago Wired authors Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff chimed in on this issue as well in their article The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.
As Anderson states, "over the past few years, one of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semiclosed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display."
Where Zittrain sees this trend away from open web standards to closed apps as a bad thing - stifling innovation and handing control of the Internet to the corporate giants that control the app platforms - Anderson isn't so negative about it. He sees great opportunities for businesses to monetise the appified Internet, where many struggle making money off of the open world wide web.
Especially for media companies an appified Internet seems to be a Godsend. Wired magazine itself eagerly embraced the iPad with a very good paid app, enabling them to make money off of their content online where previously their wired.com website was (and still is) essentially a loss-making enterprise.
For newspapers the rise of apps is perhaps a true lifeline, a beacon of hope for the future where previously all forecasts were naught but doom and gloom.
By selling news apps with advanced features a newspaper can distinguish itself from news websites, be it their own site or that of their rivals. Especially for regional newspapers such as the Belfast Telegraph tapping in to the geo-location functionality inherent in smartphones and tablet PCs can open up a whole new way for readers to interact with the news, and can become a cornerstone of a digital revenue model.
Apps present a business model with much greater revenue potential than a website. An appified Internet, for all its drawbacks, may just present the salvation of professional journalism.
Barry Adams is senior digital marketer at Pierce Communications in Belfast. He’s never bought an Apple product in his life (and probably never will).