Student journalist/entrepreneurs look at mobile tablet strategies for newspapers

Editor’s note: In the Annenberg-Marshall-Viterbi News Entrepreneur Fellowship Program students from three USC colleges collaborated to invent the future of news. Last month, three teams (each including students from USC Annenberg School of Journalism, USC Marshall School of Business, and USC Viterbi School of Engineering) devised and pitched economically viable mobile news ideas to executives from Los Angeles-area news organizations.

This week and next, the teams will present a summary of their recommendations here on OJR.

USC Annenberg journalism student Rebecca Lett was part of a team of AMVmobile fellowship students tasked with devising mobile tablet strategies for the Orange County Register. Other students on this team: Kevin Lu (USC Annenberg), Drew Prickett (USC Marshall school of business), and Saravanan Rangaraju (USC Viterbi school of engineering).

The Orange County Register hadn’t foreseen the downfall of print journalism with the rise of the Internet. Ian Hamilton, the Register’s technology reporter, Sonya Smith, social and mobile leader, and Claus Enevoldsen, director of interactive marketing, had anxiously explained the Register’s position as a print news organization in hopes that we, two Annenberg students, one Marshall student and one Viterbi student, could develop a new strategy that potentially could save their business.

We put ourselves in their shoes. Print journalism, the path they had passionately chosen for themselves years ago, would never be the primary source of news again. Online publications, being free with cheap advertising, could not become a substantial source of revenue as they are.

After a decade of canceled print subscriptions in favor of reading more up to date content for free on the Internet, would people be willing to pay for online content? And more specifically, would people pay for mobile news applications on their phones and tablets (e.g. the iPad)?

In our presentation, we reconfirmed what the Register had been silently telling themselves all along – mobile is here to stay. We encouraged the Register to be early adopters and to incorporate advanced tablet strategy into their working mobile strategy.

According to our research, the tablet will be very popular in Orange County as early as next year, which means the hefty investment is likely to be worth it in the long run.

As a team, we first decided that the Register had four main sources of providing news content: print, online, mobile and tablet (in order from oldest to newest). We then determined the audience affected by these different sources to be readers, advertisers and the Register itself.

We researched, debated and consulted readers, advertisers and experts to confidently assert that journalism was moving from print towards the tablet.

From the Register’s perspective, the tablet holds the most potential for generating the most revenue. Readers are willing to pay for subscriptions because tablets deliver the most current and personalized content. Advertisements can be different sizes, different media, extremely high quality, QR coded and geo-location based, which will enable the Register to charge substantially more than they do online.

From the advertisers’ perspective, the tablet has the ability to direct ads to specific audiences, to receive and track responses to ads and to display high-quality, instantly effective ads. In other words, tablet advertising will be worth the price.

And from the readers’ perspective, the tablet will become the most convenient multimedia tool in the future. A reader can e-mail, watch TV shows and movies, listen to music, read and interact through social media in one place. It’s the improved webpage that people will pay for because it provides the intimacy of a traditional newspaper, modern sleekness, and the ability to interact with content and to share content through e-mail and social media.

The fact that there is proven future for news organizations in the tablet is a hard for print monopolies to digest, however it is a fact that must be accepted in order for news organizations to stay up to pace with technology.

I know I am speaking for my whole team when I say this experience was as eye opening to us as it was for the news organizations. And personally, my hesitations about the declining field of journalism were transformed into anticipation for the rise of an exciting, mobilized journalism.

About Rebecca Lett

Rebecca is a junior double-majoring in print journalism and economics. Journalism has been one of her many passions since she was in the eighth grade, and she sees the changing field of journalism today as very exciting.

She writes for the lifestyle section of the Daily Trojan, and is also an active member of her sorority, Pi Beta Phi. She loves to read, run, write, take pictures, learn and use her imagination.