Overview of mobile journalism worldwide

Reporters who carry nothing but a mobile phone, known as mojos or mobile journalists, are operating in Scandinavia, the UK, Europe, the US and even Africa. Stephen Quinn explores. This appeared on the OhMyNews.com web site.

In Norway, Frank Barth-Nilsen trains mojos for NRK, the national broadcaster. “A lot of other broadcasters and newspapers are interested in our findings,” he said. Barth-Nilsen said NRK’s various departments planned to use mojo content for mainstream platforms like televison.

“We’re building a toolkit for our journalists, focusing on speed and usability. We’re also looking into how the new technology will change today’s way of storytelling.” He has established a blog for sharing ideas, called Mojo Evolution (http://mojoevolution.com/).

In London, the Reuters news agency equipped its journalists with a mobile journalism toolkit about a year ago. Ilicco Elia, product manager of mobile and emerging media at Reuters, said this was the start of a future form of journalism and a new way to tell stories. Darren Waters, technology editor of the BBC, has been filing mojo reports from various parts of Europe since late last year.

“Mobile phones allow journalists to change their heavy camera equipment to a smaller device,” Elia said. Reuters’ journalists tested the mobile toolkit at the New York fashion week last year and on the US presidential campaign trail. The company plans to give the mobile devices to citizen journalists.

Over the next few years Nokia would produce mobile phones capable of taking images of the same quality as HD cameras, said Elia. “This will open huge possibilities for journalists.” The Reuters toolkit includes the Nokia N95/N82, a Bluetooth keyboard, a digital microphone and a phone-adapted tripod. [Memo Todd: pix available at http://www.reutersmojo.com%5D

Ruud Elmendorp, a Dutch mojo, operates out of Kenya in Africa. By mid July his web site offered 133 news video reports from 22 countries in Africa. Reporters at Inquirer.net, the online site of the Philippines Daily Inquirer in Manila, have been filing stories remotely via their Nokia mobiles for more than a year. Reporters at the German international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, plan to introduce the mojo concept later this year.

Robert Scoble, based in California, has been broadcasting live video from his cell phone using a service provided by Qik since last year. “I’m the top [Qik] user,” he wrote on his blog Scobleizer, noting he had produced more than 700 videos as of mid July.

“Qik has put a TV studio in my pocket. I can get live video onto the Internet faster than I can make a phone call,” he said. Audiences send text messages to his phone while he is filming. Scoble described this process as a kind of interactivity that the world had never seen before.

He has an unlimited data package for his mobile phones. Around the western world, citizen journalists are using their mobile phones on fast 3G networks to surf the Internet and transmit video and images. 3G phone users are charged not for time but for the data transmitted or received. What Scoble and citizen journalists do can only happens in countries that offer unlimited data charge monthly rates.

The potential for mobile journalism remains limited in some developed nations because of the high cost of data charges. None of Australia’s mobile companies offers an “all-you-can-eat” unlimited data package. People are reluctant to surf the Net with their phone because they fear high costs.

Oscar Westlund, a PhD student at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, researches mobile media adoption in Sweden. Most Swedes own a mobile phone with Internet access but few surf the web. He said nine in 10 Swedes make mobile phone calls each week but only 6 per cent accessed news on the web via their mobile. “One of the reasons Swedes don’t use mobile news is that the price for Internet access on mobiles is high.”

In the US, the fee for unlimited data is about $70 a month. It’s about the same in Europe and the UK, and cheaper in Africa. Australians pay about $67 a month for 250 Mb of data a month, or about 8Mb a day.

Web pages eat about 1Mb of data and a five-minute YouTube clip can gobble up about 3Mb. So a combination of web video and surfing several times a day easily takes Australians over the 8Mb limit. Once individuals exceed the monthly limit, they pay 12 to 35 cents for each extra megabit, depending on their plan. Costs easily escalate.

The growth of the mobile web has occurred around the world because of rising numbers of user-friendly handsets like the iPhone, high-speed networks and unlimited data packages. Studies have shown that people choose a smartphone because they want mobile Internet. Analysts Nielsen Mobile reported this month that almost 40 million Americans (about 16 per cent of mobile users) browsed the Internet while on the move, almost double the number in 2006. The UK and Italy came a close second and third in the Nielsen study of smartphone use.

A quarter of 18-25-year-olds in the UK use their mobile to check social networking sites such as FaceBook. Two in five UK mobile owners surf the Internet on their handsets, mainly via unlimited data plans.

For one in five mobile phone users in Japan, their handset has replaced the PC as the way they go online. Upwards of a third of university students access the Internet via their mobile.

Nielsen found that four in five iPhone owners accessed the mobile Internet.

Not only is the iPhone the most popular phone for browsing the Internet, it is also the preferred phone for uploading pictures. Flickr, the world’s largest gallery of online pictures, measures the number of pictures uploaded by each type of phone.

Over the past year the iPhone has steadily pulled ahead of multimedia Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones, despite the fact the iPhone represents a mere 2 per cent of smartphones worldwide, according to analysts IDC. Phones powered by the Symbian operating system such as Nokia and Sony Ericsson make up 63 per cent of the worldwide smartphone market.

Stephen Quinn maintains a blog about mobile journalism here.

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