Mobile predictions by award-winning mobile journalist Yusuf Omar - Reuters News Agency

Mobile predictions by award-winning mobile journalist Yusuf Omar

With an increasing number of smartphone-first markets, knowing how to capture compelling mobile stories has never been more important.

By Ella Wilks-Harper | Mar 29, 2018

Through mobile storytelling, social video agency Hashtag Our Stories (HOS) has helped train and empower communities across 26 countries in mobile journalism (MoJo).

We spoke to Yusuf Omar, award-winning mobile journalist and co-founder of HOS about best practices in mobile and what areas of MoJo publishers should be tapping into.

Newsroom organizations went to digital-first strategies and now they are going to mobile-first strategies (…) but the world is a step or two ahead of that. We are already talking about AI-first newsrooms, AR-first newsrooms.”

— Yusuf Omar, co-founder, Hashtag Our Stories

Virtual Reality – “The next decade is all Spaces”

In the latest Reuters Institute report, researchers predict 2018 will be the breakthrough year for virtual reality (VR). However, making VR technology both portable and low-cost is predicted to be one of the main struggles in reaching its full potential.

Facebook Spaces is a virtual reality app with an aim to connect 1 billion people using virtual reality. The app lets users interact virtually with friends in avatar form. Users can share pictures and create digital sketches live.

Omar recently produced Palestine’s first ever Facebook Spaces live video. He describes Spaces as the interchange of live, VR and social. “It is blank canvas that allows us to do absolutely everything,” he says. He predicts that the next decade everything will be on Spaces.

Facebook Spaces live video – live, VR and social

Stories format – “Now it’s about creating thumb-engaging stories”

“Storytelling is becoming interactive. We’ve spent the longest of time trying to create thumb-stopping content, so people didn’t scroll past our videos on crowded social media timelines,” says Omar. “Now it’s about creating thumb-engaging stories like the Stories format on Instagram and Snapchat.”

With over 250 million Instagram users and over a third (33%) of young people using Snapchat as their main source of news, the Stories format has a huge audience potential.

Previously as mobile editor for Hindustan Times Omar used Snapchat filters to protect the identity of rape survivors, turning a filter into a powerful storytelling tool. He won Snapchats The Ghosties award for his coverage.

The format allows journalists to be creative in their storytelling through the use of geotagging, time-stamps and filters.

Live – “We believe live is the most important format right now”

Omar predicts that with the advancement of 5G everything will be live by 2020.

“We will overshare everything. The job of the media will be to curate all of that,” says Omar. “We believe live is the most important format right now.”

At Reuters we have seen Lives get more creative. Reuters Head of Live Desk Marie-Claire Fennessy says, “We have seen iphones being used to get a quick live up in a breaking news scenario getting clients the first pictures from the scene; go pros and drones add to our ability to provide different types of footage.”

Final thoughts

When asked about the current state of innovation in the media, Omar believes all media organizations need to be experimenting with new technology.

“As a standalone product live video wasn’t a golden goose. Virtual reality wasn’t a silver bullet,” he explains. “Now we are seeing a perfect storm of all of these elements coming together and at that intersections things are going to move incredibly quickly. If newsrooms aren’t ready and not experimenting with all these different platforms, they’re not going to be very effective.”


To discover more insights and predictions for 2018, download the latest Reuters Institute report.

— Yusuf Omar, co-founder, Hashtag Our Stories