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Making a big impression on a tiny screen

Photo courtesy of psd via Flickr

Last month, research firm Gartner turned some heads when it predicted that by 2013, smartphones and other Web-enabled mobile devices will outnumber PCs globally. In three years, 1.82 billion people will access the Web on their phones, Gartner says.

Of course, that has major implications for news organizations looking to deliver content to those devices (and hopefully get paid for it). What it means for public relations professionals seeking brand impressions in that news coverage is less clear.

This much we know: the move toward mobile platforms will probably expedite the trend in news coverage toward shorter stories. I find it hard to imagine myself reading a 5,000-word magazine feature on a 3-inch screen. After all, long form writing on the Web struggles to hold our attention even on desktop machines. If only we had a roadmap for the steps the news industry will take to adapt to the mobile Web, perhaps it would be easier to see how our news might fit in.

Clyde Bentley, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Missouri, recently took a stab at that kind of roadmap in a blog post. Expanding on the Gartner predictions, he created a timeline of how news outlets might make the leap to mobile.

One theme in the steps Bentley outlines is the importance of multimedia content in this shift. To compete for attention on those tiny mobile screens, reporters and editors will perhaps need to offer more video. Could that usher in a new era of the video news release? VNRs arguably had their heyday in the 90s but have found a new venue on YouTube and other video sites.  Now they could be poised for an even bigger comeback.

Early last year, Cisco predicted that mobile video will account for 64 percent of mobile Web traffic by 2013, and that by 2015 mobile Web users could be averaging a “mobile data footprint” that will have grown 10-fold in the preceding decade, thanks in large part to the predicted growth in mobile video.

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