I’ve been debating my phone strategy: I now have a two-generations-old iPhone on AT&T and a Nexus One on T-Mobile plus an AT&T laptop card.
Do I buy the new iPhone 4? Do I buy a new Android? Do I shift on Android from T-Mobile to Verizon? Do I move to one phone and platform? If so, which one? Do I get mifi? How do I convince my wife it’s not insane to buy new phones? (The last one’s the toughest because when she looks at me like I’m crazy, she’s right.) So here’s my rationale and rationalization:
I think I need to get the iPhone 4 to understand the impact of things like FaceTime and the things Jobs et al will invent (see my previous post). But I do think I need to see what develops on Android (see another previous post). T-Mobile just doesn’t work for me, though I love their unlimited month-to-month plan. So I’m thinking I may get the Droid X on Verizon and use it to tether as a mifi. I’d then cancel my T-Mobile account and my AT&T laptop card and end up almost even. Well, close enough for jazz and me.
TechCrunch says that Pandora is the killer app of the iPhone and I agree. It’s the fourth most popular free app (behind obvious choices: Apple’s remote, AIM, and weather). It’s adding a new listener every two seconds. That’s the killer stat that raises the key question:
How could others use apps like this to grow? Simply putting content up — a la the New York Times fine but not revolutionary app — is not enough.
I think winning apps for mobile will be, like Pandora, completely personal; my Pandora is nothing like yours. They will feel live and constantly connected — I can satisfy as much musical restlessness as I can imagine without having to download. I also think the killers will be geographical; newspapers should be thinking hard about that (how about rethinking and retagging all your content — especially your listings and sales and garage sales and open houses – around geography). I think some will be social; a few of the apps already let me find other users of the app near me but I’d rather find my friends, thank you. And I believe some apps will have link to the real world: leave a review about where you are right now (I’ll write more about this annotation later soon). Some winners will be two-way; I’ll be connected with a live world at other edges of the cloud.
So a newspaper app that lets me find out what my neighbors and friends are saying about any location near me — restaurant, school, house for sale, garage sale — would be great. A talk radio app that lets me interact with fellow listeners while listening would be cool. An advertising app that tells me about nearby sales is obvious and often promised but still not delivered.
My most striking realization since getting my iPhone (love it, thanks for asking) is that radio is doomed. Pandora is a wonder, creating my own radio station, live and on the fly without need for a broadcast tower. CBS is streaming all its stations over the cell network but when I told my wife this she kept asking, “Why would I want to listen to a CBS station?” That’s not the point, I huffed; we don’t need broadcast towers. OK, she said, but I still don’t want to listen to CBS stations. So count that as two strikes against radio. Digital radio? Heh. Satellite radio? I’m paying for it and I want Howard on my iPhone.
And then there’s TV. Comscore just said that Americans watched 12 billion videos in May, up 45 percent over last year. Say that again: 12 billion. It’s a mass medium, still: the mass of niches comes to life.
Some more video stats: Google has a 35 percent marketshare. Fox is a very distant second with 6.4 percent. Huli debuts at 10th place with 0.7 percent, but I’ll bet it will rise quickly. More:
* Nearly 142 million U.S. Internet users watched an average of 85 videos per viewer in May. Google sites also attracted the most viewers (83.8 million), who watched an average of 50 videos per person.
* 74 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
* The average online video viewer watched 228 minutes of video.
* 82.2 million viewers watched 4.1 billion videos on YouTube.com (50.4 videos per viewer).
* The duration of the average online video was 2.7 minutes.
I had a wonderful breakfast the other day with the Wall Street Journal’s Kara Swisher, talking about lots of things from Yahoo’s doom to entrepreneurial journalism. Her video over the omelet here.
Her colleague Walt Mossberg was having breakfast at the next table and as he wandered by he spotted my Treo on the table. Walt shoot his head. “You can do better than that,” he said.
I explained that I’m not allowed to have an iPhone yet. My son bought one with the proceeds of his Facebook app writing for a VC. And my wife said that if he teaches me to write apps, maybe I can get an iPhone, too.
Not to mention, of course, all the reporting that went on via Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, blogs. . . .
Two months ago, after the video of the Virginia Tech shooting went up online — more than an hour after the news occurred — I speculated that someday soon, we’d see that same video from a news event being fed live, directly to us on the internet.
Well, that didn’t take long.
As I said in that post, this necessarily changes the relationship of witnesses to news and news organizations. When it is live, producers don’t have time to edit, package, vet and all the things that news organizations have always done. They can’t intermediate. All that news organization can do is choose to link or not link to what we, the witnesses, are feeding, as the news happens.
The news is direct, from witness to the world.
The infrastructural challenge in this is that we, the audience, won’t necessarily know where to find what’s going on. For a time, there will be portals for live — UStream et al — but it’s already hard to find out what’s happening there. Portals don’t work. So I imagine that news organizations will need to devote people to combing all the live video to see what’s happening out in the world. The real value will then be alerting all the rest of us that something is going on now so we can watch on the internet . . . or perhaps on our iPhones.
And, of course, soon those iPhones will be the means of gathering and sharing that news, as soon as they have video cameras and as soon as AT&T gets its act together. Son Jake told me that iJustine, one of the Justin.TV lifevloggers, doesn’t need to carry a backpack; her small camera hooks up to a Vaio in her purse. So the gigantic ENG (electronic news gathering) and SNG (satellite news gathering) trucks with their dishes and expensive equipment and expert operators are replaced by . . . a purse, and soon a mere phone.
This also makes this transaction interactive: The audience can interact with the reporter. We can ask questions and share information and suggest they go shoot this instead of that.
Now add in GPS and SMS and the idea that people who happen to be near a news event can be alerted and assigned to open their phones and start shooting: Everybody at the Glasgow airport with a video phone gets an SMS suggesting that they start shooting and sharing whatever they see; a flaming car just rammed the front of the terminal. Others there can be warned to stay away from the door where the danger is. Live.
So imagine that Wolf Blitzer on CNN is standing in front of a wall of screens showing our video from the scenes of news. Imagine that MSNBC sends us alerts when news happens live so we can tune into the internet to watch. Imagine if the BBC can assign viewers near any news event to start shooting and sharing. Imagine if CBS News prepares for an event — a storm — by asking the public to all be streaming in their witness-eye views. Imagine also that we can go around these organizations and set up alert systems to tell each other, directly, what’s happening where and to show it happening, live; that is precisely what happened in the case of the iPhone lines.
Problems? Of course, there are. I never sit in a meeting with journalists without hearing them obsess about all the things that could go wrong; that is, sadly and inevitably, their starting point in any discussion about new opportunities. I blew my gasket Friday when I sat with a bunch of TV people doing just that. So, yes, someone could fake a news broadcast and, because it’s live, you don’t have the time to vet. But you can issue caveats and triangulate with others in the area or choose not to link to or show something you doubt. You can also set up systems to vet trusted contributors and ban fakester. We in the public will also doubt and it is the job of journalists and educators to help them doubt; that is the media literacy we need to strengthen already in the age of 24-hour cable news. Yes, nasty things could happen before our very eyes and ears. Someone who’s in grave danger in front of the Glasgow airport might actually say “oh, shit.” I would. And, yes, through each lens, we’ll see just one angle on the story; it is necessarily incomplete. But we can also get more people to show more angles on that story than we ever could with just one camera and one SNG truck — which usually arrived long after the news is over, leading to the tortured tense of TV news: “Police are this morning hunting for… Firemen are this morning sifting through… Neighbors are this morning wondering…”
Life becomes a 24-hour news channel. And we see news through the eyes of witnesses.
Even though the mass of iPhone lines in front of the Apple stores was a nonstory, it still was a story that changed news profoundly.
: LATER: Just read a very good related post at TechCrunch by Duncan Riley. He calls this eventstreaming: “Eventstreaming is the missing link in Web 2.0’s challenge to network television.”