Making links work for news: Mobile

As part of my research on mobile strategies for news, I subscribe to text alerts from several news organizations around the country. I do this from a cheap little Samsung Freeform candybar-style feature phone, so I can get a feel for what this experience is like for the vast majority of mobile users.

In general, this has been a pretty mixed experience…

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Exploding some common myths about the role of feature phones in the mobile media market

Yesterday I noted that on Poynter.org, Damon Kiesow picked up on my call for news organizations to pay more attention to feature phones in their mobile strategies.

See: News publishers need to reach the 74% of Americans on feature phones

But some of comments from journalists who read that story indicate some pretty common misunderstandings that people in the media business often have concerning feature phones.

I’m not faulting my colleagues for these misunderstandings. It’s understandable — they’re as drenched in smartphone/tablet hype as anyone who gets tech news. So I hope no one takes this post as disrespect.

However, since news orgs ostensibly have a mission to serve their entire communities (not just the people who can afford high-end mobile devices), and since advertising and similar revenue models generally work better when you reach more people., I thought I’d point out and clear up some of these feature phone fallacies…

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Facebook “likes” on your pages? Don’t count on them.

If your site includes Facebook “like” buttons to encourage people to share your content, be careful about how you use those numbers — or how seriously you take them.

Clint Watson writes in  Facebook Like Button Count Inaccuracies:

The Facebook “like” buttons you see embedded on websites incorrectly report the number of “people” who “like” something. Specifically, the button can inflate the displayed count of people.  While this is fine when all you want to do is track some general level of “engagement” with a particular item, it was not accurate for the use I needed – counting each “like” as a vote in our BoldBrush Online painting competition.

What I needed is a way to get the number of actual people who “like” something.  And there is a way to retreive that information from Facebook, but it is often a different number from what is shown on the “like” button itself.

If you are a geek – here’s the bottom line of this post:

If you’re using the Facebook “Like” Button Social Plugin and you need an accurate count of the actual number of people who have clicked the “like” button, you can’t rely on the number reported by the button itself.  You need to retrieve your URL’s “fan count” number via Facebook’s Open Graph API.

Hat tip to Zach Seward for bringing this to my attention.

Yet another reason to make your site mobile-friendly: disability access

I just wrote this post for the Knight Digital Media Center at USC:

Got accessibility? Mobile-friendly sites also help disabled users

It was sparked by a new Pew report on problems that people with disabilities have with accessing the net. I found a couple of interesting twists.

1st: US DOJ has proposed new ADA regs for web sites, including “public accommodations” (hm, could include news sites?)

2nd: Making a site mobile-friendly goes a long way toward making it more accessible.

This subject is near and dear to my heart since one of my best friends, who is mostly blind, has faced significant struggles in getting access to services, information, education, and opportunities online and elsewhere. That has definitely hurt not only his quality of life, but his health. And he’s fairly tech-savvy! This is a problem that needs to be solved, and going mobile-friendly is one main way to start.

How missing links hurt online news, part 1 | Knight Digital Media Center

My latest post to the News Leadership 3.0 blog of the Knight Digital Media Center at USC.

For nearly 15 years, the internet has been popular with the general public. So it amazes me that so many online news stories still routinely lack the kind of links that online and mobile users find helpful—and that also enhance the transparency, credibility, and shareability of news.

In a blog post this week, the Google-newsroom conspiracy theory Kevin Sablan of the Orange County Register nailed exactly how bad missing obvious links make news organizations look…

Full story: How missing links hurt online news, part 1 | Knight Digital Media Center.

How the NY Times turns topic pages into link spam

Topic pages can be a great for news venues and audiences. In my post yesterday to the Knight Digital Media Center’s News Leadership 3.0 blog, I sang the praises of topic pages as a tool news orgs can use to engage communities over time around issues.

Of course, news topic pages can be abused, too.

Today the New York Times (which in many ways pioneered the use of news-related topic pages) offers a classic bad example of spammy links to its own topic pages… Continue reading

AT&T: Way to spin a mobile data plan backstep! (OR: Why I’m going Android)

You may have heard that yesterday AT&T stopped offering unlimited mobile data plans.

Their spin, according to this press release: New Lower-Priced Wireless Data Plans to Make Mobile Internet More Affordable to More People

Hah! That’s smooth! But now, the real point: AT&T now offers only these pay-as-you-go data plan options for new or renewing mobile contracts:

  • 200 MB/month: $15/month, plus an extra $15 for each additional 200 MB
  • 2G/month: $25/month, plus an extra $10 for each additional 1G
  • Tethering service: $20 month

No more all you can eat. Which makes sense! AT&T’s network can’t really handle unlimited mobile broadband for a large swath of its smartphone and tablet users. No US mobile carrier can. That’s just begging for network congestion — which annoys everyone and is bad for business… Continue reading

Alexa web traffic stats: Display varies by browser

Earlier today I was editing a post by Susan Mernit on Oakland Local (the community news & views site I’ve been working on lately). She was using the popular service Alexa.com to compare traffic statistics for three other Oakland-based web sites, for her post today: Can you gentrify the local web?

I got pretty confused when I couldn’t immediately replicate on Alexa the results of the searches Susan linked to there. Alexa appeared to be displaying some very different types of information from what Susan’s story described.

Finally, I realized that, at least on a Mac, the information that Alexa displays for site statistics can vary by browser.

Here’s an example…

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