Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Announcing Knight News Challenge: Mobile

Aug. 14, 2012, 12:06 p.m., Posted by John Bracken

mobile

Photo Credit: Flickr user girl_onthe_les

Update: News Challenge Office Hours: Get your questions answered at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 7.

Related: A deeper look at the News Challenge application questions and How to make your News Challenge: Mobile application stand out

We’re excited to announce the theme for the third Knight News Challenge of 2012: mobile. We hope to learn about new approaches for using mobile to inform and engage communities, and build the foundation for others to do more in the future.

We will open the contest on Aug. 29 and will close at noon EDT Sept. 10, on newschallenge.org. We plan to announce the winners early next year. As with the two prior News Challenge contests this year, on networks and data, we will keep the application light, limited to 500 words and a few questions.

Why mobile? With 6 billion devices worldwide, according to the World Bank, the world will soon have more mobile phones than people.  The mobile device is so much more than a “phone”-- Jeff  Jarvis, among others, has argued that we need a better term for the device. “Mobile is my personal bubble. It is enhanced convenience, putting the device and the world in my hand,” he says. We saw this personal tinge to tech last week in the NASA Curiosity Command Center where staff, while landing a robot on Mars, were updating their friends and family via their phones (according to an interview with Bobak Ferdowsi.)  

Despite these trends, and the presence of several mobile projects in our own portfolio  (including winners from Knight News Challenge on Networks PeepolTV, Behavio and Watchup), we realized how much we have to learn about this fundamental shift.  For many of us around the world, mobile has become an important tool for learning what’s going on around us, and for sharing details about our lives with friends, neighbors and strangers. We know that we (and our kids) have grown attached to our mobile devices, but we have less clarity about the ways people are using them, or might use them, as citizens, content producers and consumers to tell, share and receive stories.

We’ve focused the News Challenge this year on big opportunities in news and information - networks, data and now mobile. In some ways, mobile represents both the greatest need and greatest potential for individual citizens and news organizations.

Last week, we saw social media companies (Zynga and Facebook) and fast food franchises (Chipotle)  struggling to make sense of mobile. Despite the opportunities, news publishers like Huffington Post and News Corp are learning, according to Ad Week, that “the tablet publishing market isn't the runaway success many envisioned.” On the other hand, a police shooting in New York’s Times Square on Saturday was widely covered by passersby using their phones.

So, send us your ideas for harnessing mobile to improve news, information, communities and democracy. For more details about the application and the questions that will be asked, check back in when the challenge officially launches on Aug. 29. On Sept. 20, we’ll announce the winners of the previous News Challenge, on data, at the Online News Association convention in San Francisco, Calif.

You can contact us anytime at newschallenge@knightfoundation.org or on Twitter at @knightfdn using #newschallenge.

By Knight’s John S. Bracken, director journalism/media innovation and Christopher Sopher, journalism program associate