Sunday, March 04, 2007

CNN Mobile review

I've spent an hour or so over the weekend playing with the newly-launched CNN Mobile service. Before this week, I had often wondered why CNN did not have a mobile internet news service. Well, they did but it wasn't a full service. For some years, CNN offered a software download in conjunction with a third party software company. However, all the software did each time it was activated was download the last ten stories from This was better than nothing, until I upgraded my phone to a Nokia 6233 last year, which wasn't compatible with the software.

So until now, I found myself using the BBC's fantastic mobile news service which was fast, comprehensive and pleasant to use.

CNN's new service started on 1 March, somewhat quietly. The first I knew about it was on 2 March, when I spotted it advertised on the on-screen flipper on CNNI. I immediately checked it out.

My first impression was that it appeared to be a CNN International approach, as opposed to CNN/US. Indeed, the logo at the top of the home page is that of CNNI. Overall, the page looked very good on screen. Obviously much of this depends on how your phone is set up, but - with what I believe are the default settings on mine - the screen was clear and uncluttered.

On going to the home page, you are presented with the CNNI logo and the top four stories. The top story of the four is in a grey box, and has a related image beside it.

On scrolling down, a banner for's international video news headlines round-up World News Now appears, which you can watch on the phone. Unfortunately, on trying to do this I was shown a message which told me that my phone could not support the video format used.

There is the obligatory advertisement on the homepage. Like the previous software-based cellphone offering, and the PC tickers and alerts services that CNN offers, there is only one advertiser shown in this slot, which hasn't changed from day one - it's been Lexus all the way. Of course, clicking on the Lexus logo takes you to their advertisement.

Below all of this (quite a bit of scrolling) you are finally presented with all of the sections of the mobile website. Categories are colour coded, just like CNNI - green for sport, blue for business etc. The categories are as follows:

Top Stories, World News, Business, Weather, Sport, Entertainment and Lifestyle, Science and Technology, In the Field blog (in the form of a banner advertisement), More CNN services and help.

In the weather section of the home page, I automatically see the current day's forecast for London. As this is the city I currently reside in, I'm not sure if this is on purpose or just coinicidence, so I'm interested in what others see here.

When you go to an article in any section, you are presented with a small graphic related to the story. There is a magnifying glass below, which you can click to see a larger, high quality version of the same image.

A good move by CNN is how the text is displayed. Quite a large amount of text is on screen at any one time, and some stories can be stretched over as many as ten pages. On a tiny screen, this can get quite tiring on the eye. However, CNN have alternated between white and grey backgrounds from paragraph to paragraph - a simple idea which makes a huge difference when it comes to breaking things up a little. Your brain is no longer trained to read to the end of each page, but to the end of each paragraph, which is less tiresome.

At the bottom of each page of text is a link to go to the next page of the story, and a link to move to the next story in the category.

In each of the category pages there is a link to the home page, and midway through the pages there are some in-depth feature articles. However, oddly these are rarely releated to the category you are viewing. For instance, this evening there was an in-depth report on a skiing tournament in Eastern Europe within the business page.

CNN's online service has excelled for over 10 years when it comes to weather. CNN Mobile is no exception. On going to the weather page you are presented with a list of cities, and there is a text box to search for another of the 10,000 cities for which CNN provides 5-day forecasts. Temperature information and graphical depictions of weather conditions are displayed.

Under the "More CNN Services" section, the only information offered are details of the CNN i-Report citizen journalism service. Perhaps there will be more to come in future.

Overall, I'm very impressed with the service. However, the BBC mobile service is more pleasant to use. The writing style on the BBC's online services is more tailored towards the technology that people use to read it. CNN's style of writing is more compariable to that found in tangible newspapers, and a little more involved. Therefore, when reading such a style on a smaller screen, it is a little trickier than reading BBC articles - which are still quality pieces of writing, but written for purpose.

That said, CNN Mobile is an important move. It's not a new method of providing news generally, so CNN have had plenty of time to see for themselves what works and what doesn't from other news agency services. If someone wants a better service, I would suggest BBC. But if they want their news from CNN, CNN Mobil works well.

CNN Mobile can be visited by typing into your cellphone's internet broswer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really don't care whatever CNN brings in mobile phones cause, my cell doesn't support LIVE web news.

12:08 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Too bad i live in China, where the service is not available. I thought it was my phone's fault.(the software thing,blah,blah,blah)
When i visit on my cell,it redirects a page titled CNN Asia and told me it's unavailable to me. :(

9:45 AM  

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