How the iPhone will revolutionize journalism

Friday’s launch of the iPhone 3G means that millions more people will change how they interact with their cell phones. The iPhone represents a growing opportunity for news organizations to take on the mobile web and to recoup tech savvy consumers who have shunned old forms of media.


Gone are the days of waiting for the evening paper or the 7 o’clock news to find out about the day’s events. The iPhone provides instant information at the tap of a finger which gives users the ability to pull up any factoid in a matter of seconds.

This means even shorter deadlines for reporters, and even quicker turn around on blurbs that can be posted to the web immediately. It also means consumers will be more receptive to mobile video which, on the iPhone’s predecessors, had to be viewed on a screen the size of a postage stamp. The phone currently has built-in YouTube access for those videos hosted on the video sharing site, but it puts a greater demand on Apple to create Flash compatibility on the phone so news sites can provide video in a central location.

If consumers continue to favor smartphones for newspapers, it spells the demise of the 100,000 word story that, let’s be honest, no one but the Pulitzer Prize committee is reading anyway. Flowery language and intro paragraphs will eventually give way to succinct stories that can be read and digested quickly.

The iPhone’s increasing popularity also means a definite increase in citizen journalism. Ordinary citizens can use the phone’s built-in camera to take photos of news as it happens and email it to their local or national news outlet. Or, as more users become familiar with the phone’s unique typing interface, they will post their own news in whatever manner they want.

Flickr is already seeing a rise in photographs submitted from iPhones, and several Twitter applications are making it easier to send news directly from the phone.

Many media companies, like the Los Angeles Times, CNN, and NPR have already acknowledged the technical capabilities of the phone by creating mobile-friendly sites. This is tame compared to the possibilities the iPhone holds.

The GPS-enabled phone is an untapped space for news organizations to provide extremely hyperlocal news directly to the reader by mapping news events happening directly around them. Imagine being able to access a map and know that a fire is happening right down the street from you.

The great barrier to mass adoption of new technology is often price. But now that the cost of the iPhone has dropped significantly (and perhaps even more in the future?), the number of iPhone and other smartphone users is likely to grow dramatically.

As technologically advanced as the iPhone is, it still lacks obvious features that still haven’t been addressed in its latest iteration. But as the phone and other similar technologies grow and develop, the opportunities for new and innovative journalism will arise.

One can only hope that these developments will occur in the near future, but, as has been shown in the past, the field of journalism is slow to catch up to available technology. Journalism shouldn’t be catching up to technology; it should be at the forefront of its creation.

For a list of iPhone development resources, visit Positive Space.