The idea for newspapers delivered to mobile devices goes back many years, long before the iPhone. Unfortunately, cell phones were designed more for fashion than information, and the newspaper industry had its head in the sand when it came to innovative new ways to deliver news other than print in the Age of the Internet.
Sadly, not much happened and what did was a horrible user experience.
So it’s great to see that The Associated Press, the top news service in the U.S., has teamed with 100 member newspapers to formally launch the Mobile News Network (apnews.com). Finally, it feels like newspaper news is being delivered to your cell phone, wherever you are, and without the messy ink on your fingers.
The Mobile News Network, announced in April with just 18 participating newspapers, is intended to run on the iPhone but will also work on other mobile phones. What differentiates it from similar services offered by Google and Yahoo is access to local news.
The Mobile News Network will deliver local news based on a user’s zip code from local participating news organizations such as The Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, and St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press. National and international news will come from The Associated Press.
The application itself is pure iPhone — well organized, easy to use, pleasant to look at, and customizable. It’s less crowded than using Google’s or Yahoo’s Web interfaces or mobile applications, and it gives users information they might not normally see in their mobile RSS news readers.
Of course, the Mobile News Network is not perfect. There are 107 newspapers currently participating, and the two largest newspaper companies in the U.S. — Gannett and Tribune — have not joined the Mobile News Network yet, although they are evaluating whether or not to sign on.
For it to be perfect, you as a reader will have to be confident that your local newspaper — no matter if it’s a large metropolitan daily or a small-town publication — is included in the Mobile News Network. So far that’s not happening.
But the idea is not so far fetched if the right business model can be worked out. The Mobile News Network is paid for with advertising dollars.
The AP, like Reuters in Europe, has tremendous reach. In the U.S. it boasts 1,700 member daily, weekly, non-English, and college newspapers, 5,000 member radio and television outlets, 850 news audio affiliates, and reports on the news 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The AP will “pick up” a story in a local publication or broadcast and send it around the country and the globe for use by other publications and news organizations.
Some day, the Mobile News Network might just look like your local paper, with news and information gathered from New York to Los Angeles and every little town in between.
Only you won’t have ink on your fingers and old unread newspapers in the driveway.