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Are Local News Apps Worth a Download?

Nearly every news outlet in South Florida, including, New Times, has a cell phone signup form where you can receive headlines and tidbits via text message. Most of the local news outlets in both television and print also have mobile versions of their sites that load automatically when you visit from your phone. The Sun-Sentinel has a good example of that in action.

 That's a good start, but I'd honestly like to see more. Especially in a technically sophisticated area like we live in here.

Most of the local apps don't go beyond simple text message alerts, although on some mobile networks you can stream video from CBS, ABC, Fox, and so forth - including some local broadcasts, though the selection is pretty limited.

Print or Web-only publications like the New Times really don't need to go beyond the headline alerts messages and having a good, mobile-accessible site. Exclusive content or other extras would be a bonus, maybe, but just providing good visual access is probably enough.

Probably the best example of what television news outlets really should be doing is the WPTV (channel 5) iPhone app, available for free from the iTunes App Store. This app has the usual message updates of headlines and breaking news, but goes a couple of steps further by including live VIPIR Radar and weather forecast access, the ability to see live traffic camera streams, exclusive blogs, and news streamed to your phone so you can watch the latest broadcasts. 

Basically, if the iPhone's technology can handle the data, WPTV is sending it. Very awesome. 

It would be great to see more of that across the other TV news sites here. NBC Miami has great mobile Web-access, but no smart phone apps for allowing access to other content beyond what cell network providers give (which isn't much). This weekend, however, they did do a good job of providing up-to-the-minute Super Bowl highlights and alerts via text messaging. Even WSVN (Fox 7) didn't have that on their site.

There's plenty of room for improvement in many of the local news outlets, especially in television. Some print publications could use a facelift on their mobile access sites as well. With all of the technology available and the strong tech community we have here, it would seem obvious that South Florida be a national leader in mobile news applications. It doesn't appear that we are.

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Craig Agranoff

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