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Mobile 2011: We’re doing it wrong, Courtney says

October 10, 2011

By Doug T. Graham
Eastern Illinois University

A panel of three experts on the process of mobile news app development discussed what they’ve learned about tablet and mobile news thus far.

Their conclusions: There should be more to news apps than just news, the majority of mobile and tablet apps never should have been made and most publications do not have the right people to create apps efficiently.

The experts on the panel were Steve Yelvington of Morris Digital Works, Chris Courtney of the Tribune Media Group and Ray Marcano of Cox Media Group who spoke at a panel at the Tablet/Mobile Strategies and Visions for News Organizations workshop at the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel in St. Louis on Saturday, Sept. 30.

Although the panel was titled “One (+) Year Out: What We’ve Learned So Far About Mobile and Tablet News,” Courtney began his presentation by suggesting names he felt to be more appropriate including “Mobile 2011: We’re doing it wrong.”

Courtney said 90 percent of news apps are merely modified versions of what the app maker should have on their mobile website and are therefore “completely useless.”

Courtney said the reason why there are so many useless apps is because a few years ago there was a rush to make them.

“Everyone needed an app but no one knew why,” Courtney said.

He suggested to the audience of industry professionals that instead of spending resources making a new app for mobile devices to simply improve the mobile web sites they have already.

Yelvington also talked about the importance of mobile web and mobile devices, saying that currently “mobile web is where the traffic is.”

He said one of the reasons for that is because younger users are using smart phones over tablets. He said this is critical because studies have shown life media habits start when you are young. He said it is important to see if the twenty-somethings who use their smart phones will continue to do so and never use tablets.

Marcano focused on the nuts and bolts side of mobile news app development. He said if a company is considering making a mobile app, they need to get someone on their team who “knows it all.” He said often companies will have their knowledge about the app making process spread between several people, rather than just one well-versed person.

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