Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
3 mins read

The rise of mobile journalism: Publishing’s new frontier?

Ever since the pivot to online publishing, journalism has been adapting its traditional methods of newsgathering and publishing to suit the digital era. The rapid evolution of technology and the consequent shift to online publishing has led to a rise of mobile journalism.

From publishing political new stories to covering village fairs, mobile journalism, otherwise known as ‘mojo’, is quickly becoming an essential tool for publishers. But what is mobile journalism?

Mobile journalism is a new workflow for digital storytelling where reporters are trained and equipped for being fully mobile and fully autonomous. A modern-day mobile device can be used for storytelling, as most phones have the ability to shoot, edit, and broadcast on a single device.

Even the BBC has developed its own app called Portable News Gathering (PNG) which can record, edit and send videos, audio, and photos straight into the newsroom production systems. Speaking to Shoulderpod, Marc Settle, a BBC trainer commented on the rise of mobile journalism, saying,

Mobile journalism is the biggest revolution in news in decades and it’s time everyone jumped on board.

Being the first to broadcast is essential to publishers, as they try to beat competitors to distribute the latest news and information. An advantage of mobile journalism is that it allows publishers to publish instantly. The easy accessibility of being able to shoot, edit and broadcast all in the one place removes the amount of time needed to distribute footage, speeding up the publication process.

It is also cost-effective for a publisher as set-up costs are far less than an entry-level TV camera, and makes multimedia storytelling affordable for publishers around the world. According to Torben Stephan, publisher of the Mobile Journalism Manual, mojo is becoming increasingly popular because it is so cheap.

With only a US$200 phone and a US$30 tripod and microphone kit, publishers can produce content easily. Mobile reporting is also portable, as most mobile journalists can fit their equipment in a backpack. The phone plus a lightweight tripod, clip-microphones and an external light can weigh under 3kg, making it easy to produce high-quality stories anywhere, anytime

Although mobile may seem daunting at first to publishers, the KAS Media Programme and a team of multimedia journalists led by Corinne Podger have recently launched an online manual focused on teaching publishers and newsrooms to produce quality reports using just their phones.

“The challenge was sharing the knowledge about mobile journalism with journalists that are ready to report and publish about local contexts,” said Stephan. The manual created by the team is free and open-sourced. The original version is in English, but the team is open to developing the manual for international publishers.

Accessible for all, for better or worse

The wide accessibility of mobile devices today means that it’s not just reputable publishers that can use mobile journalism as an effective tool for publishing. Citizen journalism is the collecting and reporting of information via social media or public platforms by members of the public. The rise of citizen journalism is a direct result of the evolution of technologies and the easy accessibility to publishing on social media platforms.

With the power of social media, citizen journalism has the potential to be a threat to traditional publishers, as news produced by them is likely to spread faster. The content produced can also be unprofessional which can taint the reputation of reputable publishers. However, whenever an industry is undergoing change, growth pangs are always there, before what’s new is assimilated and becomes the new normal.

Current affairs are benefiting from citizen journalism and video testimony from ordinary citizens. Speaking to the Guardian, Chris Shaw, editorial director of ITN productions said, “Social networks are opening up whole new vistas for documentary filmmakers, and publishers can make the most amazing films using content from social networks.”

Despite the wide accessibility that mobile journalism enables, publishers can benefit from its instant publishing capabilities and low running costs. Mobile journalism may seem complicated for traditional publishers to understand at first, and difficult to embrace, but initiatives such as the KAS Media Programme can teach publishers how to use and benefit from mobile reporting.