No Peril for Story Telling in Mobile Devices


Traditional long form story has survived in digital age when readers read more in-depth

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Many people are using smartphones and tablets to read news. They skim and scan the flat glass of their devices. Are they reading in-depth or just checking headlines?

Three years ago, Pew Research Center reported 61 percent of American adults get some kind of news online in a typical day. Although reading online was limited to consumer computers or laptops, now many people are using digital devices like mobile phones or tablets everywhere they want.

44 percent of U.S. adults owned a smart phone in fall of 2012 according to “Future of Mobile News” study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) in collaboration with The Economist Group. The reports also state almost 25 percent of American adults have a digital tablet and another 22 percent intended to have one in next six months.


Although the use of digital devices has increased, it seems that people wouldn’t like to spend enough time to read news on their devices even when they aimlessly check their smart phones in metro or on the streets. Now the question is that whether or not the traditional story-telling will survive in the today’s digital age.

Thriving in Digital Age

The Traditional form of news story survived even when the radio and TV dominated the market. For example, the inverted pyramid was popular news style in print. It survived after years but what about now?

Tiffany Campbell, who is a managing editor “WBUR”, Boston’s NPR news station, says that although more formats are going to proliferate in story-telling, the innovation around platforms hasn’t changed the concept of the story.

“Reading a great long form story always going to be around but I think that there can be other ways for people to consume it.” She said in a Skype video interview.

The Pew Research Center reports that mobile users read longer news stories. “73 percent of adults who consume news on their tablets read in-depth articles at least sometimes, including 19 percent who do so daily.”

A decade ago, when the use of computers became popular for reading news, many experts were worried that the readers’ taste was changing and they thought there was a peril for the traditional long form story.

AllissiaNow the fear has disappeared, “Digital journalists can pack lots of information into a tiny smartphone screen if they think in more than one dimension,” Allissa Richardson, director of Mobile Learning in MOJO Media Works, LLC says in an email interview.

Richardson is a journalist and college professor who teaches her students about creating narrated photo-essays, and short audio and video documentaries with their smart phones and tablets.

She said in her email that “If digital journalists focus on making the reader feel as if he or she has a front-row seat, we can still provide informative content.”

Some adventures make Digital devices more convenience to use and every day more people join to use it.

Bunch of Adventures

Receiving “A lots of Information” as Richardson stated is not the only benefit of using digital devices for reading news.

HongIn a Skype interview, Hong Qu, a digital toolmaker who works in Keepr – a data mining tool for journalists- says, “Compare a tablet or smart phone with a book or newspaper. You can move, carry and use it easily,” A former student in UC Berkeley’s School of Information, Qu said that mobile or tablet users can be a deep-in reader too: “Maybe there are some technical issues, but many readers can use several article and news in their device. They also can save to read later,”

Qu also said, “I don’t feel that it is a problem. It is an opportunity, maybe challenging for producer of content, in end of the day, the consumer will benefit for more these events.”

Hong Qu, digital toolmaker

These adventures encourage people to use their digital devices to go in-depth. According to report of the Pew Research Center in “Future of Mobile News”, now reading magazines on devices is small part of people’s consuming.

News Magazines: Embracing Their Digital Future
For now at least, magazine reading is a relatively small part of how people use these devices. Some 11% of smartphone owners read magazines on their phone weekly, as do 22% of tablet owners, according to Pew Research Center data from the fall of 2012. But news in general ranks near the top of their mobile activity with 64% getting news on their tablet at least weekly and 62% on their smartphones. here

Even more promising for magazines is the type of reading and news consumption that is occurring. Fully 78% of tablet news users read in-depth articles at least sometimes on their device. Moreover, most of those consumers, 61%, said they read two to three articles in a sitting, while 17% read four or more. A vast majority, 72%,- said they often read in-depth articles they did not set out to read, or what is known in the media as serendipity. here

This spending more time is not limited to magazine, the report states “78 percent of tablet news users read in-depth articles at least sometimes on their device.  Moreover, most of those consumers, 61 percent said they read two to three articles in a sitting, while 17 percent read four or more.”

Perspective of Better Story Telling

Some experts believe that spending less time reading only headlines on mobile devices is not a threat.  On the contrary, they think this new trend can be an opportunity to tell the stories in an attractive shorter way.

Allissa Richardson says, “Traditional journalists have faced an uphill battle for the American reader’s attention span since news began to migrate from print formats to the Web,”

The director of Mobile Learning said the time limitation is not a big deal: “Journalists will have to become even better at telling a good story much faster. This does not mean that stories have to lack context or layers. Journalists now have the chance to incorporate multimedia elements like never before.”

To become a better online story teller needs some technics: “If they aim to integrate audio, video and photographs to round out print pieces, I believe audiences will stay on news pages much longer. I think people want a more immersive news experience now,” Richardson said.

On the other hand, Tiffany Campbell, managing editor for digital at WBUR, thinks information overload is a big problem but, “The variety and speed of which people are consuming things, is not a bad thing.”

Campbell also said “Journalists and media professionalisms should figure out how to get the information in front of their audience.”

The combination of technology and journalism makes reading easier on digital devices especially when every single story can offer several new related stories which the reader had not intended to read.


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