Why mobile will dom­i­nate news media by 2020

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Industry Insight - ▶ by Caro­line Scot CONTRIBUTOR TO FORBE S.COM

Glen Mulc­ahy, head of in­no­va­tion, RTÉ Tech, ex­plains how ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy will change both the way jour­nal­ists work and au­di­ences con­sume con­tent.

"In the next three to four years we are go­ing to see an ex­po­nen­tial ex­plo­sion on sev­eral dif­fer­ent fronts that are go­ing to have mas­sive im­pact on both the smart­phone and your daily lives," said Glen Mulc­ahy, head of in­no­va­tion, RTÉ Tech, at the lat­est Mojo (mobile jour­nal­ism) Meetup in Lon­don on 16 Au­gust.

Warn­ing news or­gan­i­sa­tions not to see tech­nol­ogy as lin­ear, but as a quickly evolv­ing medium that will change work­flows and pro­duc­tion on a wider scale, he ex­plained why he thinks mobile will dom­i­nate news media in just three years' time. Pro­cess­ing power is get­ting faster "Pro­cess­ing power is get­ting faster, cheaper and a hell of a lot more pow­er­ful," Mulc­ahy said, re­mind­ing at­ten­dees that the smart­phone in their pocket is far more pow­er­ful than the com­puter NASA used to put a man on the moon.

"If all you do with it right now is tweet, send the oc­ca­sional email and take self­ies, you're driv­ing a Fer­rari in first gear," said Glen Mulc­ahy. Stor­age ca­pac­ity is grow­ing "One of the big­gest chal­lenges with mobile jour­nal­ism to date has been run­ning out of space," Mulc­ahy said, not­ing that re­porters us­ing their phones to shoot in HD and 4K have had prob­lems out in the field, of­ten hav­ing to spend a lot of time trans­fer­ring con­tent to larger hard drives mid-shoot.

"But that al­most be­comes a neg­li­gi­ble ar­gu­ment now."

In­deed, SanDisk has al­ready re­leased a mi­croSD card which can store 200GB on it.

"We will get to the point where we have trou­ble fill­ing the stor­age avail­able to us, whether it is lo­calised on your device or cloud-based." The ad­vance­ment of cam­era tech­nol­ogy Smart­phones are now able to shoot in 4K, a res­o­lu­tion four times higher than HD con­tent, and con­sumers are be­ing pushed to buy fu­ture-proofed 4K TV sets.

"But many broad­cast­ers are still stan­dard def­i­ni­tion, and yet, we can shoot, edit and share 4K con­tent from our smart­phones," he said.

Broad­cast­ers just aren't ready for it yet, he added – if they were to mi­grate to a 4K trans­mis­sion path, they would need a huge, costly amount of in­fra­struc­ture.

"Very quickly, you'll prob­a­bly see Ap­ple re­lease a 4K Ap­ple TV, so you can stream that con­tent to your su­per high-res­o­lu­tion tele­vi­sion in your home, without go­ing through the broad­cast chain – for me as a broad­caster, that is a very scary propo­si­tion."

Mulc­ahy ex­plained that brands are now pushing out their own short films, and more and more jour­nal­ists are pick­ing up their phones, jump­ing in at the deep end, shoot­ing and edit­ing their own sto­ries on mobile.

"You look at them on the screen and you don't won­der what it was shot on, you just think that the story is en­gag­ing, the sto­ry­teller is en­gag­ing."

Even 360-de­gree cam­eras have evolved tremen­dously in the past two years, with con­sumers now able to pur­chase self-stitch­ing soft­ware at a frac­tion of the cost, for both An­droid and Ap­ple users.

"4K is go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in the VR space, be­cause the prob­lem with vir­tual re­al­ity right now, if you're us­ing a smart­phone slapped into the viewer of a head-mounted dis­play, is that when you put the mag­ni­fy­ing glasses on, you're mag­ni­fy­ing the pix­els in the screen, so the qual­ity of your ex­pe­ri­ence is rel­a­tively low.

"When you pack a 4K res­o­lu­tion screen into the size of a smart­phone, you won't see the dots, it re­ally will feel truly im­mer­sive." Video cod­ing Ap­ple's key­note at the de­vel­oper con­fer­ence a few months ago an­nounced that all fu­ture iPhones will sup­port HEVC (H.265) – the codec which can com­press these large 4K files so they can be streamed in high qual­ity.

"4K over HEVC will be smaller file sizes, so they can stream faster, but they'll be higher qual­ity – this is quite a big deal and part of Ap­ple's strat­egy go­ing for­ward. Google have their own plat­form sep­a­rate to HEVC for those on An­droid," ex­plained Mulc­ahy. More bat­tery life "If you're a mojo con­tent pro­ducer, you're prob­a­bly go­ing to re­alise that your phone is go­ing to last an hour and a half if you're shoot­ing HD video, and that of course is a real prob­lem," he said.

There are a lot of ac­ces­sories avail­able for smart­phones to help re­solve this is­sue, and Mulc­ahy pointed out there is also a huge race to im­prove bat­tery life, with car man­u­fac­tur­ers pledg­ing to have more elec­tric ve­hi­cle of­fer­ings by 2021, and graphene tech­nol­ogy emerg­ing as one of the most promis­ing op­tions in the fu­ture.

You have an ex­tremely pow­er­ful com­puter in your pocket – if all you do with it right now is use it to tweet, send the oc­ca­sional email and take self­ies, you're driv­ing a Fer­rari in first gear Glen Mulc­ahy 5G and the In­ter­net of Things "By 2020, it is fair to say that most of Europe will have the next-gen­er­a­tion mobile phone network – 5G is com­ing on hard and fast, and there are al­readypocket sites around Europe test­ing it," Mulc­ahy said.

"There are a whole series of benefits to it, the vol­ume, the speed, the lower la­tency and the fact it can ac­tu­ally have low power – all these things are go­ing to in­flu­ence mobile us­age."

Mulc­ahy ex­plained that 5G is the key en­abler for the In­ter­net of Things, with telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies hop­ing to see an ex­plo­sion in the num­ber of de­vices on their net­works, con­nected in real time. Mobile is where the au­di­ence is "Young peo­ple don't have tele­vi­sions, and don't give a damn about the broad­cast in­fra­struc­ture. The only thing they are in­ter­ested in is con­tent, and they are not fussed about how that con­tent is created, it comes down to an en­gag­ing story," he said.

"Mobile serves this au­di­ence re­ally well, and you can see by the met­rics from Face­book and YouTube, that they are ac­tively en­gaged in cre­at­ing con­tent." The big players are ready "There are big players who have bil­lions upon bil­lions to in­vest in re­search and devel­op­ment – Ap­ple spent 10 bil­lion on it last year, and I can prom­ise you that the en­tirety of the broad­cast­ers in Europe wouldn't scratch over 2 bil­lion," he said.

Face­book knows its users in­side out and is able to feed them with a stream of con­tent that will keep them hooked to the plat­form for hours on end. Smart­phone tech­nol­ogy is ad­vanc­ing Smart­phones are now able to give their own­ers the abil­ity to use aug­mented re­al­ity, a tech­nol­ogy that su­per­im­poses a com­puter-gen­er­ated image on a user's view of the real world, through their phone.

"I don't think the phone is the best way to con­sume this con­tent, be­cause you have to hold your phone to see things, you can't in­ter­act with it yet," said Mulc­ahy, adding that he be­lieves this tech­nol­ogy will be­come more suited to the mobile ex­pe­ri­ence within the next three years.

Ad­di­tion­ally, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is ad­vanc­ing, with even fa­cial recog­ni­tion soft­ware en­ter­ing into the news space. Vir­tual as­sis­tants, such as Siri or Alexa, are im­prov­ing, with al­go­rithms that drive them get­ting bet­ter and un­der­stand­ing more.

"If you haven't heard of it, check out SoundHound's Hound plat­form – it un­der­stands con­text, and you can have a con­ver­sa­tion as nat­u­rally as you would on the phone to some­one."

Wire­less charg­ing has been in­tro­duced into some smart­phones as well, and Mulc­ahy pre­dicted wire­less tech­nol­ogy in smart­phones will be a given within three years. But he hopes Ap­ple will not get rid of the Light­ning con­nec­tor, as that will be a huge step back for the mobile jour­nal­ism community.

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