How to set up a mobile first newsroom

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Credit: Courtesy of Jamil Khan (left) and Sabbir Ahmed (right)

The Reuters Digital News Report 2021 showed that in the UK 68% of readers consume news through their smartphones. If you think it’s high, in Africa all three countries surveyed (Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa) scored over 80%. In Asia, smartphone news audiences in Indonesia and Malaysia were among the highest in the report, at 85%.

It is countries like UK, US, Canada, Japan, Netherlands, Germany and France that are at the bottom of the scale and score in the 60s and less. Nonetheless, wherever you look, mobile consumption is increasing among news audiences.

That’s why journalists need to create content suitable for screens where news is most wanted, according to mobile journalism specialist Abdul Kabil Khan – better known as Jamil Khan – who is also an assistant professor in the department of media studies and journalism at the Bangladesh Liberal Arts University.

In a podcast with Journalism.co.uk, Khan said: “Newsrooms are now realizing that they need to change their workflow so that content can be personalized for mobile phones. This is happening in all media outlets. information in Bangladesh. “

But journalists in Bangladesh don’t have many resources to familiarize themselves with the practice. So he co-authored a mobile journalism handbook written in Bengali, the Bangladeshi language, with Sabbir Ahmed, the YouTuber behind the 150,000-strong Sabbir Live channel and the leading mobile journalist of Bangladesh Time. Although it is aimed at local journalists, there are lessons to be learned by newsrooms around the world.

Reports from the field, not from the office

Bangladesh times is a mobile newsroom – or, as Ahmed puts it, a “studio newsroom”. This means it runs entirely on smartphone hardware and software from start to finish: mobile tripods, portable tripods or pods, Rode wireless microphones, and the KineMaster app for video editing. He even uses a drone for his YouTube channel which showcases much of his work.

“The tools and equipment of old-fashioned journalism are no longer used here,” he says, adding that journalists like him spend almost all of their time in the field, filming, editing and publishing where they are. When clips need to be rechecked, they are sent to a central team, via Whatsapp normally, to prioritize posting speed.

“It doesn’t take long for me to post a video after the shoot. It’s because the footage stays on my phone and I’m editing and posting from the same device. It speeds up the process because it’s hard for others to do. same [traditionally]. “

For this reason, live video is a powerful tool for the team and Ahmed will often be streamed live on Facebook or YouTube. Since Bangladesh has many mega construction projects going on right now, Bangladesh times opts for a live format to document these visual events, as well as stories about local crises, politics and crime.

Public engagement and citizen journalism

The public also uses their smartphones to be part of the news creation process and, by extension, the news agenda.

When you go live, for example, it’s a great opportunity to include questions that come to you from your followers. There are three rules to remember: consistent and authentic interactions, an informal yet professional tone, and openness and responsiveness to public comment.

British journalists also use Clubhouse, for example, to find new sources. But social media like Hashtag Our stories were born with a mission of citizen journalism powered by smartphone. Co-founder Yusuf Omar, who was interviewed for the MoJo book, said it was a question of resources.

“Bangladesh now has a wealth of user-generated content. If newsrooms can publish selected content from this huge amount of content, a whole new trend will begin. I don’t think many media have reached this point yet. You haven’t done it yet. created enough manpower to edit videos on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or create a separate team for such work. “

When possible, therefore, organizations should think more broadly about the differences between platforms and have teams focused on engaging and verifying each. This is not a one size fits all case.

Develop a mobile mindset

But all the gadgets and gadgets in the world will ultimately fail without a dedicated mindset, Khan said. Building a mobile-focused newsroom means you’re constantly creating social content, not just around specific stories or campaigns, or when the mood takes you.

In other words, social media content is the priority and the creation for the website is secondary. To do this successfully, you need to understand which features are worth investing in, as there are many clone products of the same feature. Find out where your audiences are and what trends persist.

“People are moving from click experiences to swipe experiences,” Khan adds, adding that the popularity of platforms like TikTok, YouTube and Instagram also means journalists need to think more carefully about short vertical content like stories.

“The contents should be easy to snack on and bite size. People who use social media want to know more in less time, and it needs to be presented in a concise format. “

But news is not only read or watched on cell phones. With the introduction of Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and now Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms, along with the good old podcasts, news is also being listened to via cell phones.

With a cell phone, you’re just a few clicks away from the broadcast, after you’ve named your show and invited people to join.

“It’s all about the storytelling, who’s telling and how she explores that story through her eyes,” Khan concludes.

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