Word on the Street

Personal essays from a young journalist in the Sunshine State.

Tag: Technology

Getting used to the iPad reading experience

I’m now officially an iPad owner. My boyfriend unexpectedly bought me one for my birthday after seeing how much I enjoyed using his whenever we went on road trips or were lounging around. It’s one of those gifts that I wouldn’t buy for myself, but that I’ve secretly wanted for a while.

I’m still getting used to it. The iPad isn’t the most conducive device for writing blog posts or sending emails, but I’m finding other uses for it. For starters, the iPad gives me an opportunity to limit the number of emails I send after hours. I’ve been trying to view it as more of a leisure device. I set up my personal email on it so I wouldn’t feel as tempted to check my work email after hours. (Ok, who am I kidding? I still keep my work email open in Safari, but I try not to look at it too often.)

I’m slowly starting to download some news apps, and today I downloaded Zite — an app that analyzes the types of stories you read and creates a personalized magazine with content that’s likely to interest to you.

So far, my favorite iPad feature is iBooks. Most recently, I downloaded “The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding” by Sarah Burns. I got the urge to read it one night and was able to purchase it right away rather than having to find time to go to the bookstore and spend more money on it there.

I don’t go to the bookstore nearly as much as I used to. It’s not because I don’t want to keep buying books; it’s that I’m trying to save money and I don’t have room for them in my apartment. The built-in bookshelves in my room are full, and the gigantic bookcase in my guest room is overflowing with books. (I’ve always dreamed of having a house with a room reserved just for books — a mini library of sorts. Then I’d never have to say “I don’t have room for more books.”)

I still love going to bookstores, and I love holding books in my hands and marking them up with notes. But I’m starting to really like the iPad book-reading experience, in part because it feels more interactive. I like swiping the screen to turn the pages, and I like that the screen tells you how many more pages you have left in a given chapter.

iBooks make it easier and more fun to read books at night. I would have loved the brightness of the iPad screen as a little girl. Instead of “borrowing” my dad’s flashlight so I could use it to read under the covers when I should have been fast asleep, I could have read books on my iPad. Prior to getting the iPad, I always had to get out of bed to turn off the lights after reading. Now, I can read and simply close my iPad when I’m done — without getting up. I’m probably making myself sound really lazy right now, but reading relaxes me so much that the last thing I want to do is get out of bed when I’m done, especially when my cat is cuddled up next to me.

I still use my laptop a decent amount at night, but I’m trying to use my iPad more instead — not just to read books but to surf the Web. I think I just have to make a habit of using it consistently.

If you have an iPad, what do you like to use it for? Have any recommendations for apps I should download? 

News Sites Find Ways to Engage Users, Lower Bounce Rates

Today Poynter Online published a story I’ve been working on about bounce rates. In the course of my reporting, I came across a variety of news sites that have found creative ways to increase user engagement and lower their bounce rates. You can find out more about what they’re doing here:

“There are lots of ways to draw users to news sites. The trick is figuring out how to keep them engaged enough to stay on your site once they land there.

“Some news sites, including Forbes.com, The Huffington Post and DailyMe, have developed strategies to increase engagement and decrease bounce rates — a metric used to describe the percentage of single-page site visits, often traffic referred by search engines.

“Here are a few examples of their strategies, along with some additional tips that could help keep people on your site. I hope you’ll share your ideas, too.”

[READ MORE …]

What tips do you have for lowering bounce rates? If you have more questions about this topic, please let me know.

Recent Poynter Online Stories, Chats

Here’s a latest sampling of my recent Poynter Online stories.

Angier: Newspaper Science Reporting Is ‘Basically Going out of Existence’ (This story has generated some interesting discussions …)

Help-Portrait Founder: ‘Photography is a Chance to Feel a Sense of Dignity’

Public TV, Radio Stations to Increase Local Investigative Coverage

I’ve also gotten to moderate some live chats, including one about whether journalists are giving up on newspapers and pursuing other opportunities that will enable them to be more innovative.

Archived Chat: Are Journalists Giving Up on Newspapers?

Archived Chat: Tips for Teaching Students How to Write for the Ear

Archived Chat: How Can I Polish My Online Presence?

Got an iPhone, Now in Need of Some Apps

This weekend I familiarized myself my new iPhone and started downloading some apps. Up until last week, I owned a pretty straightforward LG phone that didn’t have Smartphone capabilities.

Now I’ve converted to the Jesus phone. And yes, it’s heavenly.

I feared that I’d never put my iPhone down once I got one, simply because I’d always want to be Shazaming a song, fist-bumping another iPhone-owning friend, or pretending to drink beer — an “iBeer,” that is. But I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping myself from incessantly checking e-mail, breaking news updates and tweets.

I did, however, spend an hour this afternoon downloading apps after reading a New York Times story about the Apple store being a game changer for the cell phone industry. The story said there are more than 100,000 apps — a number that’s expected to triple throughout the next year. (By the way, check out the cool illustration that goes along with the story.)

Here are the apps I’ve downloaded so far: Bump; Shazam; Yelp; AP Mobile; CNN; NYTimes; AppGmail; Pandora: ESPN ScoreCenter; Fandango; Facebook and TweetDeck. All were free except for the CNN app.

Which other apps should I download?