Jared Felkins' Column: There may just be an app out there for everything

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” — Bill Gates Friday morning, ...
Apr 19, 2013

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” — Bill Gates

Friday morning, I awoke to the unfamiliar voice of Winston. For those not in the know, such as I was before Thursday, Winston is an iPhone app that briefs his user on the news of the day.

In a voice that could best be described as a British robot, Winston begins with a local weather forecast and then moves into updates from several predetermined categories, such as Facebook, Twitter, national news, world news, technology and cuisine.

No where in the Winston app is the ability to get local news beyond what might show up on individual Facebook or Twitter feeds at the time it’s activated. It’s reassuring to know in this business of providing hyper-local news in print and online, there’s no reason for alarm…at least not today.

I found out about Winston and several other apps and accessories Thursday at the Smartphones, Smart Journalism seminar at the First Amendment Center in Nashville. Val Hoeppner, digital, social and multi-platform media and training specialist, led a group of about 20 journalists through a whirlwind of new storytelling strategies and techniques centered on smartphone and tablet use.

The seminar gave a great review of many of the apps I was already familiar with, as well as tune me into some new to me – like Winston. Many of these apps gave me some great ideas, and you should see the results soon.

Through the seminar, I found out some interesting statistics, though I don’t have specific sources. Rest assured they were sourced, alas I didn’t write them down.

Sixty percent of all people own a smartphone. In terms of smartphone use, studies show they are used in 10-minute windows. It can be assumed those windows include waiting on meetings, flights, doctor visits, etc. On average, each person spends five hours a week reading news on mobile devices.

Tablets, studies show, are used during more lean-back times of 30 minutes or more throughout the day. Sixty-seven percent of tablet users read news.

I found the most interesting stat about tablets is that people 25-34 read more newspapers and magazines than any other age group, and they do it on a tablet. News consumption is one of the top uses for tablets, according to a University of Missouri study. People 18-34 spend 7.3 hours a week on average reading the news on a tablet.

These statistics are not surprising, but they give us a clear indication as to where our industry is moving. But if you’re worried The Lebanon Democrat in its original print form for the past 124 years will go away, don’t, because we have many readers who prefer to get the news in print. For many, holding that paper in hand and reading it the old fashioned way has no substitute.

But this column is about technology, and the following are some of the apps highlighted. Though they were marketed in this specific seminar to journalists, I can think of many real-world uses in any personal, social or business setting.

• Evernote – This note-taking app is not new to many, but has many uses, including syncing text, photos and audio files across several platforms. It’s free and available on iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Nokia platforms.

• Dropbox – Again, it’s nothing new, but can be a valuable file-storing device across multiple platforms, including online anywhere. You can download files for offline viewing, sync photos and videos and share links to files in a personal Dropbox. It’s free and available on iPhone, Android and Blackberry platforms.

• Google Translate – This app lets you translate words and phrases between more than 50 languages. Simply type in the phrase or speak into it to get the translation. It’s importante en todo el mundo and free on iPhone, Android and Windows platforms.

• TwitPic – It allows you to easily share photos via Twitter. It’s $1.99 and available on iPhone. Android has a free version called Picture Tweeter.

• UStream – It’s a video app that allows you to stream live video from your mobile device, and UStream channels on the web make it easy for your audience to watch your broadcasts. It’s free and available on iPhone, Android and Windows platforms.

• Pano – An app that helps you take panoramic photographs to share on blogs, emails, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. It’s $1.99 and available on iPhone and Android.

• iTimelapse – Allows you to create time-lapse video from your device to be shared on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and Twitter. It’s $1.99 and available on iPhone. Android has a version called Timelapse with free and paid versions.

• Splice – Allows you to splice together HD photos and videos simply. Music tracks, sound effects, transitions, borders, effects and more can be added. It’s $3.99 and available on iPhone.

• 360 – Allows you to make 360-degree panoramas by panning your device. The app will automatically stitch together the image. It’s 99 cents and available on iPhone.

• Been Verified – This free app allows you to do one free instant background check per month right from your smartphone. It’s available on iPhone.

Those are just some of the many apps I’m checking out right now. Let me know what you’re checking out. I might even include it in an upcoming column.

Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.

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