More and more readers using mobile apps to read news

According to an article from Poynter, Pew Research Center has found that 37% of cell phone users are using their phones to get news.  The study surveyed over 2200 men and women.  The rates were individually far higher for certain groups, including those with household salaries of over $75,000, college students and also the 18-29 age group.

After our recent class visit to USA Today in which we learned about the redesign of their website, the results of this study go to show how important app design and mobile website layout are for news organizations.  USA Today changed their website to match the interactive experience and lateral navigation, given the high usage they discovered on the tablet and phone apps.

With the popularity of smartphones and tablets still growing, it will be interesting to see if other news organizations also revamp their websites to match their apps.  USA Today seems to be quite unique when it comes to the lateral navigation element.  Popular news sites like The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post and The Washington Post each have similar layouts with more traditional navigation, while their apps are less cluttered and allow for quicker navigation.  It would be interesting to see what their motivation is for a different web versus mobile experience and perhaps it is intentional.  Still, I would be surprised if other news organizations do not follow suit in coming years.


Newsroom Social Media Policies

After reviewing the Associated Press' social media guidelines and the guidelines of at least several other major news organizations (see links on class schedule to those of The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Reuters and NPR), please comment below on 1.) at least one policy point that you strongly disagree with and believe should be removed from the guidelines; 2.) a policy point that you think should be added to one of the newsroom guidelines. A few strong paragraphs defending your comment should suffice.


Twitter's Future as a Defender of Free Speech

Now that Twitter has become a massive global company, it is facing increasing pressure from governments that are not happy with its lack of restrictions on what users are allowed to post. A recent article from The Financial Times highlights the difficulties that Twitter is running into when dealing with issues of free speech.

In October, the social media company succumbed to pressure from the German government, after they demanded that Twitter remove all postings by a neo-nazi group. Despite being legal in the United States where Twitter is based, the postings were in violation of German law and Germany was able to pressure Twitter executives into removing them. This situation raises the question of how far Twitter is willing to go to protect the free speech of its users.

In January, Twitter announced that it would begin to censor tweets in countries that have, “different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression.” Despite the change in policy, the company hopes to maintain transparency in its censorship process, posting all legal requests to remove content to ChillingEffects.org.

Twitter maintains that it continues to stand by its founding philosophy that, “the tweets must flow.” The company continues to fight for free speech and has been resistant to remove content despite increased pressure from other nations. In May Pakistan attempted to force Twitter to remove postings that it deemed blasphemous, but Twitter held strong and refused to do so.

As Twitter’s global popularity and influence grows, it is forced to deal with an increasingly complex balance between preventing groups of users from being offended and protecting the free speech of all its users. Most users can continue to post anything they want on Twitter without concern for censorship, but as difficult new situations present themselves and force Twitter to choose between its customers and its principles, it becomes clear that Twitter’s future as a medium for free speech may have its limitations.


Reminder: Tomorrow We Travel to USA Today in Virginia

A brief reminder that our class will meet tomorrow (Nov. 27) from 10:40 a.m. to noon at USA Today's headquarters in Northern Virginia. The address is: 7950 Jones Branch Road McLean, Va. 221021 (really close to Tysons Mall II). We will be carpooling; I can take three students in my car; I'll be leaving Knight Hall at 9 a.m. (to make sure I'm not trapped in a traffic jam); anyone needing a ride with me should sign up on the comments thread below this post, and meet me in the lobby at 9 sharp. Others willing to drive friends in class should post that offer below, so students can ask to join you. I'd recommend leaving College Park no later than 9:15, to arrive there by 10:30 in traffic. We'll be meeting in the USA Today lobby at 10:30; alum Desair Brown Shaw, a reader advocate for the site, will be down to meet us at 10:40. Here are google map directions from the Capital Beltway: *Merge onto I-495 W toward Northern Virginia Entering Virginia (16.4 mi) * Take exit 46A to merge onto VA-123 S/Chain Bridge Rd toward Chain Bridge Road/Tysons Corner Vlenna (.4 mi) * Turn right (almost immediately) onto Tysons Blvd (.1 mi) * Turn right onto Galleria Dr (.2 mi) * Continue onto Westpark Drive (.2 mi) * Turn right onto Jones Branch Drive; ask guard at guard shack where to park in lot/garage. Parking is free. We'll be meeting in the lobby of the building at 10:30; the guard at the front desk will have a name tag for you. Please review USA Today's website today/tonight, so you can ask informed questions about the redesign this year; election coverage; and more. Best, Chris