Spread The News
By Mike Masnick, Mon Sep 27 21:00:00 GMT 2004

News organizations are struggling to figure out where they fit in a modern telecommunications system. A news story in the Netherlands suggests how mobile phones may play a part: by helping to spread the news.


Traditionally, news was delivered in an organized fashion. There were newspapers delivered every day, TV and radio news that came on at scheduled times. If something was especially important, a TV or radio station might cut in with "breaking news" or a newspaper (in extraordinary circumstances) might print an "Extra" edition. The Internet and mobile phones have helped to change this. News travels in an instant, and fewer and fewer people wait for the headlines in tomorrow's paper about what happened yesterday.

While this has scared some news organizations, it is a new reality which they need to deal with -- and looking at just how news is "used" suggests some ideas how. Last week, in the Netherlands, popular Dutch singer Andre Hazes died. The news was released right before noon, and KPN reports that mobile phone calls jumped 10%, but that text messages doubled at noon. In other words, people spread the news themselves. End readers/listeners/watchers are no longer just passive recipients of news, but active distributors of news, often with additional thoughts or commentary.

From a news organization's perspective, then, the opportunity is to package the news not in a way that simply attracts more readers, but to be easily disseminated outward by those readers. As the E-Media Tidbits article notes, for the news of Hazes death, a news organization could have sent: "Here is a message to forward, a picture, and part of a Hazes song attached," and then just let the power of social distribution take over. This goes beyond just news, of course. People use mobile phones to communicate. The services that are more compelling aren't just ones that broadcast content to a phone, but which allow the subscriber to better communicate a message to his or her friends, relatives and colleagues.