Third Screen is the Future of Journalism

Chip Mahaney spoke about mobile journalism

This wasn’t some hot-shot Internet entrepreneur talking about the importance of mobile journalism. Chip Mahaney has made a career in television news, and he was telling about three dozen people at a talk organized by the Society of Professional Journalists that mobile is the main driver of local journalism, that he pushed reporters to adopt a mobile first strategy and that, get this, competition to be first is no longer a driver in his business.

Mahaney, director of Digital Content for Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Company, pointed out some shocking truths about the way people consume news.

The third screen, in the industry, is the mobile device. Television and computers are the first two screens. Just as history saw the world adapt when other media have come along, he says the TV industry is adapting to a third-screen world.

“The number one source is Facebook, because you want to see what your friends are doing,” he said, explaining that for most people, checking a mobile device is the first thing done in the morning and the last thing at bedtime.

That’s why the practice of holding a story for a newscast is yesterday’s way of doing things, at least as far as consumers are concerned.

“The competitive issue has gone away for the consumer,” he said. “The audience is over it. There’s no holding back on news. There are very few scoops. That ship has sailed, The reality is we don’t control the news cycle.”

This may have been hard to fathom for old-school journalists. Mahaney told a story about how he held a newsroom contest among on-air personalities to see which one could get the more “Likes” on Facebook. He said participating in social media is an expected part of the duties of on-air talent.

He said that during the next 18 months, the biggest changes are coming with the inclusion of Internet on televisions, and the pricing coming down on devices. He said the Amazon Kindle, at $199, will change the way people consume media.

“We have to understand the power of mobile as a platform and think about mobile first.”

He said most people consume media differently, managing as many as 100 mobile applications that bring the news to them. Rather than news organizations focusing on having news, he said that the number of alerts we receive will continue to grow and that news will find us.

Lastly, he mentioned the app Instagram as one of the coolest ideas on the Internet. So I downloaded it. Cool.