Changing technology and the mobile journalist

{I’ve been asked to speak at the annual conference of the National Council for the Training of Journalists in Belfast on 30 November. The subject is ‘Digital skills and technology in journalism’. I’m working out a few ideas – in no particular order – here. Comments and suggestions welcome.}

The Post PC Era is dawning. Gartner predicts that sales of Smart Phones and Tablets will overtake the sales of PCs and Laptops this year.

But that is to put laptops and PCs in the same category. By their very nature Laptops can be fixed but are more likely to be mobile. So it can be argued that Mobile Computing has already overtaken fixed home and office computing. The opportunities for mobile journalism are already with us. Delivering the story from the scene of the action as it happens rather than reporting post-fact is no longer the preserve of the TV or radio outside broadcast. With Twitter in particular but also Facebook, a journalist can report the Meta-Story – reporting on the reporting of the story. A lot of journalists time is spent waiting. But that story – if told well in 140 characters – can be as add perspective to the main story.

Ubiquity
While in a recession it might not feel like it – but spending power is rising,

The costs of personal and mobile computing continues to fall. In the USA you can buy a high spec. smart phone for less that $100 – you can probably get one free with the right package. In the UK and Europe and many other places a Blackberry is low or no cost. Broadband speeds are increasing – 4G is on its way.
And in developing countries the mobile is becoming ubiquitous.

In October 2011 The Economist reported that HTC shipped more than 22 million phones in the first half of this year more than twice as many as the first half of 2010. Gartner estimate that 1 billion will be sold in 2015.

Chips continue to half in price each year. Storage costs are negligible.

So – the means of distribution of ideas, comments and Breaking News (and as the definition of News continues to change) becomes simpler and more wide spread, the opportunities for journalism or the curation of information supporting journalism also becomes simpler and more wide spread.

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