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Experts weigh-in on future of media, impact of mobile devices Special

By Chris Hogg     Aug 18, 2010 in Business
Toronto - Twitter, Facebook and real-time apps have changed how news outlets cover today's stories. Next in line to revamp media are mobile platforms. Will the smartphone become the next-gen newspaper?
According to market analysts Gartner, smartphones now make up nearly 20 percent of all phones sold.
The marketplace is also changing, with Google and Apple emerging as dominant players in the smartphone industry.
On the whole, sales of mobile phones rose 13.8 percent to 326 million units in the second quarter, Reuters reports. Sales of smartphones rose by 50 percent.
With such major growth in mobile, news organizations now find themselves with a big opportunity to reach readers in new places. According to industry experts, mobile handsets also provide media organizations with the opportunity to engage audiences in new ways.
Kunal Gupta  CEO  Polar Mobile
Kunal Gupta, CEO, Polar Mobile
Courtesy Polar Mobile
"Media organizations know mobile platforms are inherently social platforms that are used for consumption but also for contribution and re-syndication of their content," Kunal Gupta, CEO of Polar Mobile said in an interview with "This is a good thing. It means media companies are paying close attention to what happens after their stories are published and to how people consume and share their content. They recognize that publishing is only the first step in the lifeline of a story."
As the head of Polar Mobile, Gupta is plugged into the mobile world, especially where it intersects with media. He leads a growing business that develops applications for news organizations to grow audiences and open new revenue streams.
"In the most recent years, news organizations have recognized the growing trend in mobile news consumption and have seen these results in the quickly growing proportion of visits to their digital destinations from mobile devices," said Gupta. "However, as we are still in the early phase of mobile, the profits to be made from mobile do not yet seriously rival the profits from their primary website and so most organizations are not paying attention to the opportunities that a mobile presence can offer."
As a mobile expert, Gupta is often invited to speak at conferences and consult businesses on mobile strategies. His next big appearance will fall on Sept. 8 in Toronto: Gupta is one of five industry leaders invited to speak at the Future of Media. The free event, hosted by Digital Journal, invites leading companies to take to the stage to discuss and debate the future of media as part of a panel and Q&A session with audience members. Now in its second year, the Future of Media event is widely attended by media executives, entrepreneurs, mobile and social media experts, as well as journalists, PR reps and bloggers.
The mobile handset industry has perhaps had its biggest impact on social media; with Internet-enabled devices that can be carried everywhere, more people are turning to their social networks to engage and create content.
According to comScore, almost 75 percent of global Web users access social media sites every month.
The world's largest social network, Facebook, has seen its numbers climb dramatically. The site says it has more than 500 million members, half of whom log in daily.
In 2010 Facebook launched a site called  Facebook Stories
In 2010 Facebook launched a site called "Facebook Stories"
Photo courtesy Facebook
"There will always be certain domains of news media that will be long-form, deliberate and out of reach of the publishing masses," said Gupta. "However, even for these news stories, discovery and distribution will count on social networks where people trust their connections to surface content worth seeing."
From a mobile standpoint, Facebook has more than 150 million active users who use the site on a mobile device. Mobile users are also twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users.
"Social media and news media have effectively merged into one continuum," said Gupta. "In a world where the likes of Twitter, Facebook, email and mobile messaging services such as SMS connect people in real-time, most people can’t imagine having to wait more than a day or so to receive their updates. The advent of social media broke the monopoly news media held on story-telling and has turned every consumer into a potential publisher offering much more timely access to certain types of stories."
Twitter has also had a tremendous impact on media. According to eWeek, 93 million Web users went to from work or home computers in June and the company's Latin American user base grew by 305 percent to 15.4 million users. That doesn't include the millions of people who access Twitter through third-party software such as Tweetdeck or mobile apps.
Mark Evans
Mark Evans
Courtesy Mark Evans
"Twitter has probably had the biggest impact on the news because it has made it easy for anyone to not become a reporter but do it quickly and in real-time," marketing and social media strategist Mark Evans said in an interview with " This has changed the dynamic of news reporting, and the definition of the content of news given Twitter 'reports' are 140 characters or less."
Evans is an award-winning journalist who went on to found three Internet start-ups and a digital marketing, communications and social media consulting firm called ME Consulting. He's also a co-founder of the MESH conference.
"It's important to explore the intersection of social media and traditional media because because of the major structural changes that have happened over the past five years," said Evans. "Social media has democratized the creation and distribution of news, destroying the tight grip that traditional media had for decades. At the same time, social media has hammered the financial underpinnings of traditional media, forcing the major players to restructure to compete and remain viable."
A familiar face at all start-up, digital media and Web conferences, Evans will also be speaking at the Future of Media in Toronto on Sept. 8.
"It has taken time but news organizations are finally embracing social media rather than fighting it," said Evans. "Many reporters are now using social media tool to report and gather information, and news organizations are using Twitter, blogs and video to publish and distribute content."
Evans says the biggest challenge facing news organizations in using social media is how the tone and approach is different compared to traditional workflow. He says social media is "fast, furious and not as formal or objective as traditional news."
When it comes to harnessing the power of mobile platforms and social news, Gupta offers this advice: "No single organization has the secret code to dominating the mobile market, but publishers need to make their content available to mobile users cross-platform. So far, the best experiences are delivered by native applications, but with each generation of innovation, entirely new opportunities will present themselves to create value for content consumers.
For more info on social media and mobile platforms don't miss the Future of Media event in Toronto on Sept. 8. It's free to attend but space is limited. More info on the event can be found here, and interviews with other panelists about social media is online here. RSVP to the Future of Media below:

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