Mobile Journalism: Information Flung Far & Wide

The third installment in my series on how mobility and the Internet are up-ending traditional commercial models focuses on journalism. (see earlier posts on Online Education and Mobile Banking) Here, we track affordable mobile telephony that informs citizenry in sparsely populated, under-educated, and under-developed communities worldwide, in lieu of print news; and video-enabled community volunteers who are the voice of education, news, and community outreach. The focus of today’s post is how these shifting models also yield marketing and sales opportunities.

Low-cost mobile phone services inform and connect

A team of community-based citizen reporters with access to low-cost SMS, texting and mobile Web access ensures the success of such emerging news projects as South Africa’s Lindaba Ziyafika (“The News Is Coming”). Here, citizen journalists create content that makes its way into community newspapers… reversing the model of “print-to-pixels” that we’ve all come to expect (i.e., reading your daily paper online, featured content first written for its printed version) What does this mean for news reporters and how their work is digested? That the art of writing in almost haiku-like brevity will be a highly-sought after talent. How about advertisers? The formula for success looks to be in limited-time, QVC-like, text-based specials for businesses within a few blocks of where the news originates (“Now- Bananas 50% off @ Corner Store”). Read more about this intriguing work here and here.

In even the poorest of communities, we see influencers and trend-setters. When equipped with the means to digitally create and share news via mobile telephony or the Internet. these go-getters transmit news that neighbors listen to, and convey the neighborhood’s voices of concern back out to wider-access news outlets. In India, we find a community video unit called Hamari Aawaz (“Our Voice”) that trains young people from poor and marginalized backgrounds to report on their communities and then teach people how to take action.

As reported in an excellent article , citizens equipped with basic video film and editing equipment convey messages that inform, educate or influence. Video Volunteers have already found a Channel on YouTube. The structure and reach of a YouTube-enabled news outlet for Video Volunteers and similar organizations allows immediate access to viewers by promoters of goods and services, non-profit social agencies and government offices.

As we’ve observed in the banking and education sectors, free or low-cost access to the basics of modern technology spark incremental growth in literacy and social awareness that counters prejudices and mistrust… and we see our global playing field leveling out even more.

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