Mobile is eating journalism.

(Or: mobile-ize your newsroom
with this simple, easy-to-follow recipe)

Matt Frehner | @mattfrehner | Reading

Source: @HistoricalPics    

No, really.

Here are some charts.

Phones: bigger than PCs


Going mobile-only

Among Canadian newspaper consumers, 3 in 10 have completely stopped checking the news on their computer.

Source: eMarketer

The desktop is sinking

Source: Nielsen    

Source: @asymco

When a big story breaks, readers expect it on their phone first.

If smartphones and tablets aren't accounting for 40 per cent of your readership, it's not them.

It's you.

Mobile-first in 5 easy steps 

  1. Know your reader
  2. Social is mobile, mobile is social
  3. Focus on the One Thing
  4. Mobile-first from the beginning
  5. Try, measure, learn

Know your reader

So, cool, you want to build a website.

Stop. Answer this first:

  1. Who is your reader?
  2. What are they reading the most?
  3. Where are they coming from?
  4. When are they reading?
  5. Why are they coming to you at all?
  6. How are they reading?

Be obsessed with data.

Who is your target reader?

They are probably:
  • 18-25 years old
  • Undergraduate
  • Slightly more likely to be female
  • Arts or Science major
  • Own an iPhone and a laptop
  • Less likely to own a tablet
  • Lives in residence or a crappy basement

Think about how that reader consumes content – the devices and social networks they use, their reading patters, etc.

What are they reading?

Look at your analytics. 
What categories on your site do the best?

Where are they coming from?

(Or, if 50-80% of your readers are coming to your articles via social media, why are you so obsessed with your homepage design?)

When are they reading?

Why are they coming to you?

Are they a hard-core Apple fan who wants up-to-the-second info?
Are they looking for a quick way of getting a handle on what's new?

How are they reading?

What devices are your readers actually using?
Make sure you test for that above all else.

Social is mobile.

Mobile is social.

Go where your readers are

Focus on the One Thing

Source: Photo by @KarenWorkman, from #ona13 talk by @zseward

The list.

The explainer.

The chart.

The guide.

The breaking story.

Sometimes, all you need is a headline.

(As long as you're sure it's right.)

Others doing it right.


Think of your headline
as a contract with your reader.
Deliver what they expect.

A good headline is:
  • Clear.
  • Concise.
  • Stands alone.
  • 70-90 characters.

How BlackBerry Blew it: The inside story


Explainer: How does the wildly popular BBM
differ from regular text messaging?

Mobile-first from the beginning

If it doesn't work on mobile, it doesn't work.
- Brian Boyer, editor NPR visuals team

More than 70 per cent of the cellphones in Canada are smartphones.
9.4 million Canadians use Facebook on their phone every single day.

Permission to start over

When you consider the amount of useless navigation, content fluff, and irrelevant promotions that litter a typical web experience, you realize why the mobile diet can be good for both business and customers.
- Mobile First by Luke Wroblewski

Make mobile a part
of your planning process

Always ask: "How should this story be presented on mobile?"

Go mobile-only

Last year, Facebook turned off their desktop website.

It forced us to say, 'Hey, we have these features that exist in one place but not in another, and we have to remedy.'

- Josh Williams, Facebook product manager

Mobile gives you focus

If you design for mobile first, you can create agreement on what matters up front.
- Mobile First     by Luke Wroblewski

Try, measure, learn

Paper prototyping

Early concepts for The Globe's Android app

It is okay to fail.

Fail lots.


(Or, Yes, but what have you done?)

Enough talk. Do something.

  • Chose one story a week to cover in a mobile-first way
  • Make one person responsible for mobile performance
  • For one day, work without looking at your site on a desktop
  • Report and file a story using only your phone
  • Learn to code:

Some light reading

20 tips to turbo-charge your mobile efforts - advice from top mobile minds
9 ways to become mobile first - tips from the team at BreakingNews
Nieman Journalism Lab's predictions for 2014 - Read all of these. Seriously
How phones are making cash obsolete in Africa - Feature article on shifting tech
If it doesn't work on mobile, it doesn't work - Presentation from NPR's digital guru
Digital journalism and 'touchable' stories - A look at innovation and interactivity
Principles for making awesome things on the web - The rules to follow
Why mobile is about 'time saved' not 'time spent' - A different way to think metrics
Lessons on being awesome at Twitter, from the New York Times - Good practical advice

Mobile First - Great book on mobile design
Content Strategy for Mobile - Why you should care, and how to make it work

The end.


Matt Frehner | @mattfrehner