Why everybody in the newsroom should do all their work on their phones

“Everybody in the newsroom should work exclusively on their phones all the time.” – Me. This morning. Sort of.

I was on a panel this morning at the BBC/New York Times Social Media Summit, and in the course of it I said a much retweeted thing, that I’d make everybody in newsrooms work on their phones all the time.

Obviously, I didn’t say that. But that’s how it boiled down when truncated to 140 characters.

Here’s what happened. Aron Pilhofer asked Laura Oliver what one change she’d make to the Guardian newsroom and processes, and then he asked me what one change I’d make to the New York Times offices. Which was ace, because I’ve never even visited them, and now I’m doing their change management for them ;-)

Laura said her thing, and then I said “The most radical change I’d make to newsrooms is to make everybody work on their phones”

And it would be radical. And preposterous. And unworkable.

But this is the reasoning behind it.

Most media companies produce their content on big glossy monitors and at the desktop scale. Most of the time their users are now consuming that content on mobile and tablet. There is a massive disconnect there, and it’s one of the things that I think holds legacy media companies back. It’s akin to making your programmes in colour in 1971, but not checking how the greyscale contrast works for the vast majority of the audience who still had black and white sets.

I went on to point out that music producers like Stock-Aitken-Waterman and various other pop luminaries always in the studio listened to how their track was going to sound on AM radio, not how it was going to sound in the luxurious environment of studio playback.

I bet most media companies have put out content thinking it’s fine that it doesn’t work quite OK on mobile. I’d always rather put out something that worked on mobile that was a bit sqwonky on desktop. You should be treating desktop as the second-class citizen now.

So, do I think everybody should do all their work on their phones?

Of course not.

But, and this was my point, imagine the culture shift in design, writing and story-telling you could force by banning the desktop computer from the newsroom. And making everybody think about the dominant consumption medium all the time.