Honey, I Shrunk the Internet

Last Updated Aug 22, 2008 7:06 PM EDT

One more bit of gloomy newspaper news -- the nation's largest chain, Gannett, released its July earnings. Ad revenue was off 16.7 percent; classified ads fell 25.2 percent; and real estate ad revenue tumbled 37.9 percent.

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In the battle to go mobile via iPhone, LinkedIn released its app this week, joining Facebook, which promises an upgrade next month. Building a decent app for mobile platforms is difficult. You have to be able to streamline your product, choosing which features and functionalities to provide for the tiny interface. The app needs to facilitate user access to enough of what you provide on your website to stay consistent with their expectations and preserve the integrity of your brand.

Many media sites have been introducing mobile "readers" lately -- the Wall Street Journal joined that party this week. Although I'm sympathetic with the concept, I doubt mobile devices will be used for reading any time soon.

A better service would to create a news ticker that users can scroll, stop, click, and read an abstract. Another idea would be to allow the user to check a longer item and have it emailed to his/her email account, presumably for reading later.

Alerts, news bulletins, updates -- all sorts of mini-content is appropriate. Sports scores, stock prices, and other numerical data is already easily portable, but it's important for users to be able to localize relevant data on their mobiles.

Obviously, GPS and mapping apps port over perfectly to the mobile platform, and competitive products are emerging quickly. Media can provide local information as well as anyone in this context.

My concern is that newspapers will continue to think of themselves in a static manner, as opposed to the bundle of hypertext links, searchable databases, and update services that is their core identity in the digital age.

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Parting thought for the week: Those who still doubt that Google is a full-fledged media company should check out the company's "booth" at the upcoming political conventions. Google is providing a two-story facility with room for 500 bloggers to operate, including a kiosk for uploading videos to YouTube.

Marshall McLuhan must be grinning from the grave. Yes, at Google, the medium is the message, and that's a thing of beauty.

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.