Introduction to MoJo — Mobile Journalism in 2019

We’re kicking off 2019 with an ebook because it seemed like the best way to concentrate all our learning and experiences from the last couple of years. And a constant theme has been video. We’ve dabbled in data, infographics, social, YT, stories… But we always leaned heavily on MoJo. We don’t even have a desktop. We’re always on the go.

There are dozens of places to find the history or trajectory of the MoJo after newsrooms started replacing broadcast cameras with mobile phones to cut costs and increase convenience. But after I made my first video on the phone, I was convinced it was about much more than that.

This was the first video I was ever a part of:

This is the first MoJo video I made

(with a lot of help of then Mobile Editor, Yusuf Omar)

Manon and Mohit have similar stories of having shot on DSLRs before starting to shoot on phones. And once went mobile, there was no going back. Phones have been our preferred camera for years now. And a lot of stories we’ve covered might not have been the same if it hadn’t been for MoJo.  

We picked up our phones to shoot, edit and publish videos straight from the phone and eventually pickuped more conventional production skills. MoJo was the gateway skill that helped us learn quickly and expanded our possibilities.

Now we’ve done videos involving all kinds of cameras, drones, 360 camera and even Snap Spectacles. And heading into 2019, it is the skill we use most. We use our phones for everything — writing, photography, videography, editing, podcasting and even publishing.

And we’re not alone. Leading Indian TV channels, newspaper, photographers are making phones a bigger part of their content creation. Phones are even becoming the most convenient means of livestreaming to millions of followers on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and dozens of popular platforms.

But that doesn’t mean desktops devices and workflows are redundant. They’re getting better too.

How to get started with MoJo

  1. Get you phone out of the pocket and start shooting.
  2. Download an app and start editing
  3. Share your video
  4. Repeat
  5. Experiment
  6. Find some inspiration
  7. Upgrade your gear
  8. Keep repeating
  9. Never stop experimenting

While you experiment, take not of the gear and apps you’re comfortable with. Make your own workflow. We keep mixing it up, but over the course of a few years, we’ve developed a sense for picking the workflow based on the story.

Is mobile storytelling for the mobile or by the mobile?

Generally mobile storytelling is for the phone, by the phone. Why? Because if you’re making content that people are going to be watching on their phones, you’ll do a better job if you understand those constraints as you create the content. For example, if you’re editing a video on the phone, you’ll make sure the text appears large enough to be read on mobile devices.

The thing is, you won’t always be doing mobile storytelling for the phone by the phone, for a variety of reasons.

One very valid reason is that video editing apps on phones have many constraints. Often, people editing a video on the phone will use multiple editing apps before their final product. For example, Quik is a great app for making photo and video montages, but it’s terrible for cutting bites. So you might cut bites in another app like iMovie or PowerDirector, and then import those bites into a Quik timeline. In other cases, you might opt for a desktop editor like FCP or Adobe Premiere for more complex edits with more layers. That’s totally fine, as long as you keep your audience’s interests in mind. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of different editing apps, and we’ll talk about how to decide when to edit on the phone and when to take it to desktop.

Another reason mobile storytelling isn’t alway for the phone, by the phone is that your target audience may not be primarily using their phones to consume your content, but reporting on or shooting from the phone might make the most sense for you. For example, if you’re doing a video in a really crowded place, or where journalism is restricted, you may find it easier to shoot on your phone.

At the end of the day, what matters most is that you’re thinking about the best way to reach as many people as possible through your storytelling. That means making your stories easy to read or watch on the phone or on desktop, adding subtitles for people who are hard of hearing to follow along, adding detailed image descriptions for people who are hard of sight and using assistive technologies to ‘read’ pages and a whole bunch of other small but important tidbits we’ll mention in other parts of this ebook.