Newser’s iPhone App: Are We Nuts?

Oct 23, 09 | 9:02 AM   byMichael Wolff
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The most popular news medium became, over the last 10 years, the computer, effectively putting newspapers out of business and changing the nature of television news. Over the past year, it has become clear that the next news medium of choice will be your phone.

The latest iPhone version of Newser launched this week. I think it's great, but we know as little about how miniaturization and portability changes the nature of the news consumer’s behavior as anybody else.

In a way, hand-held news might be more like a newspaper than television or the computer screen has ever been. Television can’t be consumed in fits and starts; the computer screen version of news assumes you have more browsing time and interest than you’re likely to have looking at your phone.

Phone news, like an old-fashioned newspaper, will best be served in quick headlines. Maybe. On the other hand, it seems obvious that your phone should also be talking to you. So perhaps it’s more like radio news. (There was a moment when early adapters had an ear piece and transistor radio.) Or it may be, I suppose, telegraph-like: We’ll text you the news.

Anyway, the phone will be, it’s a fair bet, most everyone’s first contact with what’s happened, an object of intense focus (as well as fetishized design), an instrument of ever-shorter attention spans. This will change not just the form of news, but the nature of it, that is, it will change, as dramatically as television did, events—how reality is stage and perceived.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Because such a revolution in distribution and form and content will only happen if we can make money off of it, and how we do that is even less clear than how we make the phone into an efficient and compelling medium.

In the move to the computer screen, news providers lost the wherewithal to charge for content, but still had, albeit with greatly reduced margins, the opportunity to collect fees for advertising. In the move to the phone, we have not improved the likelihood of charging for content and we seem now to have also lost the wherewithal to sell advertising.

I’ll be frank, I look at Newser’s iPhone app—I have been offering my comments and suggested revisions and wish list to product developers, who are occasionally responsive, for months now—and have no idea how it will ever produce a penny of income.

But it’s cool! And that’s what revolutions are about.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at You can also follow him on Twitter:
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