local media insider
Case study

iPads and apps transform the York Daily Record's newsroom

YDR shares strategies and results for moving from print to multi-media journalism

Tracy Jones
Homepage of the York Daily Record

Media: York Daily Record, ydr.com

Company: MediaNews Group, owner of 57 daily newspapers, more than 450 websites

Traffic: 60,000 to 70,000 page views daily

Circulation: 50,000 daily, 85,000 Sunday

Market: Greater South Central Pennsylvania Region, population 1.9 million

Key contributors: Randy Parker, Managing Editor of the York Daily Record and ydr.com; Lauren Boyer, Business Reporter, York Daily Record; Rick Lee, Courts Reporter, York Daily Record

Initiative: Using iPads to transform the newsroom.

Challenge:  After launching a new digital subscription paywall in the fall of 2011, the editorial staff at the York Daily Record wanted to increase and improve local online  coverage.

Although reporters  had company-supplied smart phones and laptops, Managing Editor Randy Parker wanted to see if iPads had unique advantages in transforming print-oriented writers into multi-platform journalists.

"I wanted (reporters) to make (the iPad) a part of their regular work and not just carry it around to access the internet," Parker said. "I wanted it to help shape their beat coverage."

Strategy:  Parker chose a couple of journalists to test using iPads and other tablets first  and give feed back.

A new Business Reporter,  Lauren Boyer, received the first iPad.   Lauren Boyer, reporter for the York Daily Record

Within 36 hours, Boyer had created a video on the iPad, edited it via iMovie and uploaded it into the website from the iPad through the BriteCove video serving platform, which can be accessed on the iPad either from its website or its app.

Boyer also downloaded the Notability app and began using it for note-taking and recording interviews on the iPad. Notability will record, label and segment audio clips, allowing the reporter to name and label each clip and add footnotes.

The iPad also helped her crowd-source via social media contacts;  if there is a store opening, for example, she uses the larger typing area to ask socially if anyone's going, and those people become potential sources. And she used the iPad  to create videos and take photos for business stories. The ipad was more portable and easier to connect to wifi than a laptop, but easier to type on than a phone, especially via a Logitech keyboard, (included in this list of essential mobile reporting equipment).

Senior  Courts Reporter Rick Lee also received one of the first iPads.  Phones,  cameras and laptops aren't allowed in Pennsylvania courtrooms, but the judge didn't mind the iPad - initially because there was never a rule made for the device.

Judges now say they prefer reporters use iPads because they are not as noisy as laptops, which have clicking keys and  chimes and don't ring like phones.

Lee now reports live from courtrooms using the Scribblelive App  (reviewed here) to update his "Docket Sheet" blog

Rick Lee's blog.

The code is embedded in the CMS so that the blog is published live. After the live event, he often uses the  live blog to find quotes for the print story. Essentially the live blog generated on the iPad acts as a form of note-taking transcript for the print story that will be published later on.

York Daily Record Reporter Rick Lee uses the Scribble App to provide live coverage of court cases.


Lee  uses the  Scripd app on his iPad to upload and publish court documents. He captures the image them with the iPad, and uploads them to Scribd. The app generates a link, which goes in the live blog, so that the document appear on the newpaper's web site, but is actually hosted on Scribd. Within the app, documents  can be marked public or private to designate whether they are also available to the public on Scribd.

The York Daily Record utilizes Scribd to share public documents and records with readers.

Rolling out iPad throughout the newsroom: Working the buzz

With both a junior and senior reporter endorsing the new tools, Parker encouraged all the reporters to incorporate technology into their reporting and challenged them to become mobile journalists. 

The demand from other reporters was already brewing;  he just needed to leverage growing interest.

Randy Parker, managing editor of the York Daily Record

"I wanted to see that kind of energy and interest in folks," Parker said. "One by one, most of my journalists said they wanted to get one."

To add to the buzz, Parker would make a show of giving each reporter their tablet and even has wrapped some in Christmas paper.

Some staff members began using their own personal iPads.


The key advantage:  Photos and video

The photo staff quickly developed a preference for the Nexus 7 and the iPad mini. The tablets that will be purchased next will probably be iPad minis, Parker said, because of their portability and cost. 

Parker also said he's seen a better result from iPad-shot videos than those shot by reporters with Droid phones.

The staff experimented with the Windows Surface but didn't have the same success or generate the same enthusiasm, Parker said.

All reporters and editors with iPads use them to shoot video. They edit the video through iMovie and can upload it into Brightcove, a web-based video cloud system, directly from the iPad. These are typically breaking news videos. Longer enterprise videos that require heavy editing are often completed by the paper's photo staff, Parker said.


  • 14 reporters now have received tablets.
  • Reporters are increasing their video output year over year by about 50%.
  • Despite the site's paywall, page views have been stable..
  • In the past few months, mobile views are surpassing webpage views, which show readers are also embracing mobile technology.
  • Lee now sees a dedicated audience follow his live blog of court cases - many of whom work in the courthouse. This increases sourcing and improves coverage.
  • The greatest cost is  paying the monthly 3G accounts, about $25 to $35 per tablet

Lessons learned:

  •  Parker has yet to discover one tool that does everything. "As great as I think the iPad is, I find that we still need phones and laptops," he said.
  • Parker said  selecting the right reporters  to begin the experiment was key to getting the newsroom excited about the technology.
  • If he had to do it over, Parker said he would have started earlier. He was concerned that readers would not adjust the way they see and hear stories. He was surprised at how readily they embraced and asked for more.


See this link for list  of  essential mobile reporting equipment and this link for reviews of additional newsroom apps used at York Daily News. See also Will Sullivan's pocket guide to mobile reporting tools.

  • iPad 1 with WIFI access only for courts reporter, $450; iPad 2 with 3G for business reporter, $550 plus monthly 3G charges.
  • iPad mini and Nexus 7 mini
  • Social media apps such as Facebook, ScribbleLive, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+ for crowdsourcing and audience interaction.
  •  Notability ($3.99 in App store)
  • BriteCove video serving software
  • Scribd and Scribblelive apps
  • iMovie (standard on iPad) to improve notetaking and multimedia coverage

Many thanks to Randy Parker and the reporters at the York Daily Reporter for sharing their experiences and successes with members.

Britecove, Scribd, Scribble, ScribbleLive, Boyer, Parker, Lee, Pennsylvania, MediaNews Group, iPad, mini, Notable, York Daily Record, court, reporter, business