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Coming to the small screen
If RSS and podcasting are the buzzwords of the moment, the next frontier is mobile. As mobile phone use continues to explode, newspapers and Web sites will need to create versions of their content that can be read on small screens.

Many large Internet companies are starting to let users read their RSS feeds on certain types of mobile phones. Google, for example, lets users conduct Web searches with their phones. To date, Knight Ridder hasn’t made the leap to mobile content. But if KRD’s Bromberger has her way, it’s coming.

“There is a lot of consideration of it,” she said. “I personally believe that everything should be mobile-enabled.”

In the end, it’s all about giving the consumer choices, Bromberger says. “We want to give them multiple options, if we can, and build things that are distributed through a lot of formats. Eventually, everything we build will be RSS-enabled, it will be ready for mobile, it will be full-featured.’’

Content from readers
While some newspapers are rethinking how they package and deliver content, others are experimenting with new ways to get content from readers.

The Mercury News now publishes staff restaurant reviews on its Web site ahead of the print edition and asks readers to append their own comments and reviews. Both sets of reviews – staff and readers – are then published in the Sunday print edition.

Cindi Ross Scoppe, associate editor of The State, oversaw the launch of theColumbiaRecord.com, a Web site that features content from readers, including information about community events, photos and other topics ranging from pets to finances.
Photo by GARY WARD/The (Columbia) State

The (Columbia) State in South Carolina is being more ambitious with efforts to engage readers. It has launched an entire Web site – TheColumbiaRecord.com – that lets citizens report on news and events they consider important. Citizens can post stories and photos and add events to the community calendar.

“We wanted to take advantage of this growing grassroots journalism movement and better connect with our community,” said Cindi Ross Scoppe, associate editor of The State. “We understand there are big differences between journalism as reported by journalists and grassroots journalism as contributed by the community. We think there’s room for both.”

The site was launched Sept. 1, and it’s not as active as Scoppe would like. But it’s growing, and she expects it to take a year to hit its stride.

Recent items contributed by readers included news that a local college professor was awarded a NASA Public Service Medal and another about a 5K charity run held by the Highway Patrol. Much of the content is calendar items, demonstrating that utility is as important to readers as news.

Scoppe said one of the goals was to create a forum where the paper could “collect knowledge from the community” in a way that might inform the paper’s reporters. The paper also tries to use the site as a forum for readers to discuss stories that have appeared in The State.

There was a financial incentive, as well. “We see readers going online and advertisers are following them,” Scoppe said. “Our regular site is successful, but there’s room for more. If we didn’t do it, others would.”

The paper has also corralled more than two dozen specialist bloggers from the community to write about topics such as personal finance, love and marriage, and diabetes.

One blog is penned by a guidance counselor at a local high school. She’s filing descriptive dispatches from Afghanistan, where she is stationed with the Army Reserve.

“This feels like a piece of the future,” said Scoppe, reflecting on the new Web site. “It will never supplant journalism. It’ll supplement it.” ><

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