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Summly deal highlights smartphone's impact

Craig Timberg (via SMH) | April 1, 2013
Many this week celebrated the latest tech wunderkind, a British teenager who made a fortune selling an app that boils down news reports, no matter how important or complex, to a pithy 400 characters.

The global community of smartphone users is fast growing, affluent and young - qualities coveted by news organisations whose audiences increasingly have skewed towards middle age and beyond as the popularity of print and broadcast news has declined. Younger audiences have moved online, often to free sites. News has long been shaped to fit popular - and profitable - methods of delivery. Newspaper writing typically was measured in column inches, with particular priority to getting the most important revelations on the front page. Television news broadcasts worked in the spaces between commercials. Radio reporters learnt to talk fast, and deliver headlines amid weather and traffic updates for commuters.

While Yahoo! is betting that Summly fits our mobile age, it's far from clear what services will win the enduring allegiances of customers. There could be several, with some short and to the point, others deep and nuanced.

"The two-minute [TV] update hasn't replaced 60 Minutes," said former CBS News executive Andrew Heyward, now a new industry consultant. "The person who's inclined to read a piece in The New Yorker isn't going to be satisfied with the Summly version."


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