The Knight News Challenge Information Blog

Where Innovative Ideas Get Funded at NewsChallenge.org

Posts Tagged ‘Web’

Taking the Web On the Road – Mobile Novels

Posted by Jacqueline on September 27, 2007

Not that long ago, the concept of having the web on your cell phone was nothing but a faint glimmer of a future possibility.  Now, with smart phones becoming ubiquitous and the mobile web exploding in popularity, developers and engineers are having to contend with building sites that work for users on all sorts of interfaces.

There are plenty of obvious sorts of websites that should definitely go mobile; for instance, having access to things like Mapquest for directions (for those of us without GPS in our cars, and for when you’re not in a car to begin with – walking, biking, etc.) and review sites like Yelp (so you can find a good restaurant no matter where you are).  Being able to log in to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter could be convenient to if you want to send a quick, easy message to a group of friends.  And of course, we probably all want to email people with our phones or pdas. 

However, the Japanese have taken the mobile to a whole new level.  Not surprisingly, they’re pretty advanced when it comes to actual technology, but people there are using mobile phones to pen entire novels!   Yes, you read that correctly – novels.  Talk about pushing the limits of things like mo-blogging, or mobile blogging.  Granted, Japan is far from the only place where people are using cell phones to publish web content (in fact, this is especially prevalent in developing nations where people might not have access to computers, but they do have phones), but who else has created this kind of rich, deep mobile web?

From the Wall Street Journal:

“Mobile novels first appeared about seven years ago when the community-based Web site, Maho i-Land, made it possible for budding writers to turn out stories with a cover page and chapters like a real book. About three years ago, phone companies began offering high-speed mobile Internet and affordable flat-rate plans for transmitting data. Users could then access the Internet as much as they wanted to for less than $50 a month.”

Today, the site has over six million members, and the number of mobile novels on the site is growing rapidly.  What’s interesting is how the authors and readers have a much stronger connection than traditional novelists – after all, the readers can provide immediate feedback and criticism (much like blogging), and since the novels are published in a serial fashion, the authors can even adapt their story lines to the whims of the readers, a definite departure from the past.

To quote Peter Brantley, who wrote about the WSJ article on the O’Reilly Radar:

“New creative practices sometimes awkwardly explore new market niches until they discover and establish a means of exploiting the advantages (and avoiding the disadvantages) imposed by the social and economic variables that make the new opportunity available in the first place. Then they may explode in a sudden flowering that breathes into life a new form of expression.”

So what can we learn from these articles?  Many developers and entreprenuers are very focused on applications, websites, and content that really only work on a regular computer, and really, with the current amazing growth in the smart phone/mobile web market, it’s time to think outside of the typical computing box.  Maybe you’ve got a plan to set up some kind of community news group diary or blog?  Or can you adapt your current ideas to the mobile market?  If so, you should enter the news challenge – you could be that much closer to making your dreams a reality.

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Post-Media Journalism? In the Information Age, We Are All Journalists

Posted by Jacqueline on September 27, 2007

Yesterday, Jeff Jarvis (of Buzz Machine) wrote about a new term used to describe the current media climate: post-media journalism.  Instead of the over-used phrase “social media” (which has really grown meaningless, thanks to the fact that it is used to describe everything from Flickr to blogging), post-media journalism does do a fairly decent job of encapsulating the fact that the current state of the media is definitely in flux.

However, does the use of the word “post” also imply the end of traditional journalism?  Clearly, traditional media is not going roll over and die any time soon, if ever, but no one can deny that both the online and print media spheres are struggling to establish how they can interact with each other, and with the rest of the world.   Thanks to the net, the line between reader and producer is irrevocably blurred; and of course, it is becoming easier to create your own content, your own channel, your own lifestream every day.  Due to the growth of the web and the advent of the Information Age, every person with an internet connection and something to say can be a journalist.

In this new climate, “the media doesn’t matter now.  The conversation does.  The connections do”, says Jeff.  And it is true – if a blogger or an amateur photographer has something important to say, or writes something that resonates with people, their work is going to get page-views and just make an impact regardless of their credentials.  Just look at my previous post about the situation in Myanmar – I’m pretty sure none of those people work for an accredited media source, but I don’t think anyone is discounting their efforts.  It’s the people on the front lines of the news, with their ears to the ground and their cameras poised to capture history, that are the real breaking news. 

Perhaps the reason the phrase post-media journalism works here is the media is no longer the arbiter of the news.  Instead of sitting passively and digesting the news that big journalism feeds to us in the form of newspapers, television, and radio, we’re going online and looking for the information we want (yes, people could write letters to the editor and such, but it has never been so easy to comment and respond to stories).  We can even tailor the type and flow of information we receive with RSS. 

The future belongs to the people and companies who can figure out how to combine the positive aspects of traditional journalism with the citizen reporting and anything-goes atmosphere on the web.  When someone builds a community (and therefore an audience) for their ideas, a place where people can interact and find the information they want easily (important word there – yes, we all know that whatever info we’re seeking is out there, but it’s definitely not always simple to locate or packaged nicely), that is the new media. 

The information is out there – journalists (the old school media types and the citizen bloggers armed with video cameras and laptops) are the ones who need to get it in front of our eyeballs by whatever means they have available.  And of course, if you happen to have an idea that relates to how journalists of all stripes can share and package their work, you should be checking out the Knight News Challenge.

Posted in Blogging, Digital Media, General, Innovation, Journalism, New Media, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Welcome to the Knight News Challenge

Posted by Jacqueline on September 26, 2007

Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?  Do you have a groundbreaking idea that could change the way that web journalism works?  Does this idea foster community in a specific region, or is it be limited to one locale?  Are a lack of funding and support the only things that are preventing your goals from reaching fruition?

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If the above paragraph feels like it applies to you, check out the Knight News Challenge.  The Knight Foundation is looking for cutting edge ideas from anyone, anywhere in the world, and their motto is “you invent it, we fund it!”.  With $5 million dollars earmarked for this year’s winners (individual entrants can get up to $500,000 each), it is music to entrepreneurial ears.  And if you have an idea that can inform, inspire, and engage a group of people, the Knight Foundation wants to hear from you.  One caveat – stick to one geographic region (you can always scale up later).  Although the web is indeed making the world smaller, the news challenge is focused on helping people who already live in the same community interact with each other.

At the most basic level, the goal of the Knight News Challenge is to bring people together in the real world through the use of digital technology (computers, cell phones, PDAs, and all those myriad other gadgets that we have).  By holding this contest (it’s a yearly thing, this year there is $5 million earmarked for the winning entries), they hope to give people with big, innovative ideas enough funding and support to make those ideas a reality. 

Unlike many contests and grants that are restricted to U.S. citizens, this contest is open to anyone, anywhere in the world – all you need is an amazing idea and an internet connection to send a proposal in with – there is even an under twenty-five category for all you wunderkinds out there; if you’re under eighteen, the award will be designated to an intermediary, but you can still enter (by the way, wouldn’t a winning entry look great on a college application?)

So what kinds of projects qualify?

It should go without saying that it needs to be groundbreaking and use digital technology, and your idea also needs to involve giving people access to breaking news or vital information in a timely manner.  It also needs to be local in the sense that helps foster community in a specific geographic area – so while you may have an idea that could scale nationally, but concentrate on your immediate surroundings for the moment.  The focus is on open-source creations that might not have enough profit potential for the venture capitalists, but are still exciting and can make a significant positive social impact.

Does all this sound like you or someone you know?  Go to www.newschallenge.org and apply.  You have nothing to lose by taking a shot- they even ask that you submit a short description of your idea before you compose a long proposal, so there’s not even a risk of sinking tons of time into something that might not pay off.

Best of luck to anyone who enters!

Posted in Entrepreneurship, General, Innovation, Journalism, New Media, Technology, Web | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »