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Monday, January 28, 2008

Time for a holiday

I'm heading up north for a couple of weeks to hang out at the beach. There's not much in the way of internet access so there won't be many blog posts.

See you in February.

Radio NZ gets it right, again

I posted the other day about Radio NZ adding news feeds on Twitter, which I think is a great move. There are quite a few US and UK news feeds available, but as far as I'm aware RNZ is the only New Zealand news organisation providing feeds to the Twitterati. So well done them.

But they deserve a mention for more than that. I noted a couple of kinks in the service and decided to email them my thoughts using the contact email they provide on the website. Their webmaster replied with a friendly, detailed email two days later (it was a weekend after all.) Spot on. Now there's someone who understands customer service and the value of community.

Community, like it or not, is the future. Digital citizens are not happy just looking at your news website and using your services in a static way. They want to be able to engage. To tell you what they think of your service, to make suggestions (which are sometimes very good), to talk to each other about news stories (and your service). If you don't give them the chance to engage, they'll give up on you eventually and go somewhere else. These ideas are well articulated in a couple of books I've read recently, if you're interested: The Cluetrain Manifesto and Wikinomics. The Wisdom of Crowds also comes highly recommended.

The kinks I mentioned in my previous post were that you seem to get the same stories repeated across the day, which gets a bit tiresome and clogs up your Twitterbox.

RNZ explained that the stories are only repeated when there has been an update, although the headline may not have been rewritten. They plan on improving the system to amend this, and another issue related to linking back to stories from Twitter, but there's a bit of work involved:

"The current publishing software was designed to meet our needs when we built the site 3 years ago. But the software interface between our newsroom system and the website CMS was written in-house (in Perl), so we can easily change the way it works to create a 'publish stories once' news feed. There are some other non-trivial changes we'd have to make within the CMS to accommodate this and also ensure that urls to updated stories remained the same over the life of a story."

Glad to know there's a will and a way. Other news organisations should take a leaf out of RNZ's book: engaging with your audience works. I had a quibble, RNZ made it possible for me to get in touch with them, I did, they explained the situation, I'm happy with the explanation and remain a happy customer. Simple, really.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Wikis in plain English

Found a great range of video guides on RSS, wikis, social networking and other Web2.0 tools in plain English. They're by Lee LeFever of Common Craft.

Try one... (this explains wikis)

When covering both sides of the 'story' isn't enough

News? No thanks, not really interested

Roy Greenslade does a piece on research that confirms what we already know: fewer people are buying newspapers. But it also shows that fewer people are consuming news full stop.

Yes, a lot of people turning off the TV and ditching the paper are going online. But an awful lot are just getting on with their lives without being too bothered about catching a daily news package. The headlines are enough.

This is something I want to come back to a lot this year. I think it's the elephant in the conference room: People aren't interested in news. Is there anything we can do about that? Is it because of too much information so people are switching off, because people are tired of beatups and headlines that fail to deliver in the story below, too much personality and fluff and repetition and flashiness? Or is it something more than that?

In the same vein as Roy's blog post is this heartfelt piece in the Washington Post by veteran reporter David Simon.

He asks: "Isn't the news itself still valuable to anyone? In any format, through any medium - isn't an understanding of the events of the day still a salable commodity? Or were we kidding ourselves? Was a newspaper a viable entity only so long as it had classifieds, comics and the latest sports scores?"

Good question.

Post uses surveys to engage readers, generate stories

British regional paper The Lancashire Evening Post has added monthly surveys on hot issues like local environmentalism and trasnport to boost reader engagement on its website.

The Post told that the monthly 40-question surveys get a much stronger response than the daily poll. The survey results are published online and in print and used in features and editorials.

Blogs 'shouldn't replace newspaper columns'

Simon Jenkins, a former Times editor, told The Lords Communications Committee that blogs were like 'bar room chats' and couldn't be taken as seriously as newspaper columns, reports

A blogger himself, he said he found the flexibility of writing a blog stimulating but wouldn't want blogs to replace 'old-fashioned' newspaper columns.

As far as I'm aware, no one is currently considering doing so.

Andrew Neil, meanwhile, raises an interesting view: "The rise of blogging and opinion outside of the mainstream has caused newspapers a problem, because quite often these blogs are more interesting than the editorials in the newspapers."

Telegraph's interactive political map

This is fun. has come up with an interactive political map of Britain.

Essentially it's a dot-map of Britain, with each dot representing an electorate (as defined by the new boundaries that became effective in June 2007). Click on the dot and you see the candidates for that electorate, voter turnout and data on health, crime and education.

Interested in three or four particular electorates? Stick a pin in them and you can track them more easily. Want to know what would happen if 4% of swing voters in a Tory-vs-Labour race opted for the Tories? Use the Swingometer to find out. Want to see Labour's 20 most vulnerable seats, the Lib Dem's top 25 target seats or the electorates created under the new boundaries? Hit the predefined searches and there they are.

The map took a short while to load for me (no surprise, really, given download speeds etc) and a couple of times it came up blank after I'd clicked through and was trying to come back. But I like it and I expect many tcuk users will too.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Paywall stays at WSJ

Rupert Murdoch says the part-paywall will remain at the WSJ. "The really specialized (material) giving the greatest insights, that will still be a subscription service," he said at Davos. Link: Reuters

Friday, January 25, 2008

Washington Post links with hyperlocal site

Following on from my earlier post about hyperlocal newspapers: has linked up with the Washington Post.

Thanks for the tweets, RNZ

Well done Radio New Zealand for setting up a newsfeed on Twitter. It's good to be able to get New Zealand news updates this way (to balance out the many overseas news feeds available).

There may be a few kinks to iron out, mind you, in that the feed gets a bit repetitive - I was informed several times over today about our Southland sheep-shearing champion, Jimmy Clark. Don't get me wrong, I'm very impressed with his achievement (560 ewes) but I only needed to hear about his efforts once.

I think Twitter is best suited for breaking news - just the top line - and updates when something has changed. It's not well suited for a stream of repeated bulletin headlines across the day - they clog up your Twitterbox, make it harder for you to see other tweets of interest and leave you reaching for the 'block' button.

No idea what I'm talking about? Go here, sign up, find me (I'm starrjulie) and follow me. (Or just click on the link on the left of this blog.) You'll soon get the idea.

The case for pick-and-mix newspapers

The other day a friend said: I'd subscribe to the paper if I could just have the bits that I want. I don't want the business section or the sport section or the careers section, just the news section and magazines.

She doesn't like watching unread papers go straight into her groaning recycling bin. Me, I've no time for the magazines and would be happy with News, Business and a Technology section if there was one. You might well opt for News, Sport and nothing else, or just Sport.

This is, of course, exactly what we are able to do online by using an RSS aggregator or customisable homepage.

But what if newspapers could do it too? What if they could nail a way to distribute different configurations of their sections - perhaps a set number of options: the full edition, business edition, lifestyle edition or sport edition, say - and only make them available to subscribers. I don't know enough about print configurations or distribution channels to know if this is at all possible. Any thoughts?

It came to mind when I was re-reading a post from John Duncan, a former managing editor of the Observer and now an international newspaper consultant. Mr Duncan, who is unconvinced that the economics of online newspaper publishing stack up, says this: "The effort expended on making newspaper websites passably useful online would be far better spent on making newspapers more competitive and useful in print.

"More flexible distribution would be a start, so we could offer a different product to different people and get it to them when they want to read it. Better products help too. The Observer sells more copies now than it did in 1995 thanks to the past seven years of product innovation."

His post has been kicking around for a while but is worth a read. If you're a digital skeptic it will make your day. He's done some fairly comprehensive comparative maths on the Guardian online vs print and come up with the following: "Even after 10 years of spectacular growth, with broadband penetration now high and newspapers said to be in danger of total irrelevance, The Guardian is still read by vastly more people in the UK than Guardian Unlimited."

The challenges of hyperlocal

Great post from venture capitalist Fred Wilson about hyperlocal. He identifies the inherent problems facing hyperlocal - small, really locally focused online publications:

"There is the problem that over half of the stories are about things that don't really impact or interest me. Steven Johnson calls this the "pothole paradox." That pothole in front of your home or apartment is a big deal to you, but your friend four blocks over couldn't care less. And The Villager [Fred's hyperlocal site] is barely scraping by living off local advertising that is moving fast and furious to Adwords and other forms of web advertising."
He talks about two hyperlocal services, one that he's invested in called and the other a new one called Everyblock. Both show terrific promise (Everyblock, for example, lets you search for building permits, lost and found, news articles and crime rates in a particular zipcode) but as he puts it: it's going to be a long slog to get hyperlocal to work.

"There just aren't that many people producing hyperlocal content in a form that is organizable into a new version of a community newspaper.

"And there isn't enough of an incentive to produce hyperlocal content. If a mom (or dad) could blog for two hours every morning between dropping off her kids and going shopping and make $1000-2000/month doing that, we would see a lot more content getting produced. And who better to blog about the high school soccer game, the PTA meeting the night before, or the controversy about the new supermarket coming to town?"

"We need every newspaper in the country to embrace platforms like and everyblock and showcase their content on the newspaper's pages. We need to find these local voices and amplify them. And we need to attract more of them. And we need to monetize them for their efforts. And then we will have a new kind of community newspaper, one that we program and we read and we comment on. It's coming. I just don't know when."

If newspapers hit the wall, should the Government save them?

Here's a post from tech blogger Michael Arrington about a question that arose at the Davos jamboree. (Thanks to Adrian Monck for the link)

It was this: When the business model of “real journalism” fails, what should society do in response? When things are considered important, but can’t be supported with a business model, government sometimes steps in. National parks, highways, police and national defense are all examples. Should print journalism be next?

Notice he says' when' it fails, not 'if' it fails. Needless to say there's now a robust conversation going on around the blogosphere. Check out the comments on Michael's post for a starting point.

Just to be clear, the question is about newspapers, not the media as a whole. So, should the government step in and save the print editions of the Herald and the Dom-Post if they fail?

The short answer is: hell no. Newspapers should pay their way. If they can't make it, it means the market doesn't want their product. Which means they should revamp it, repackage it or find a new product. Just like any other business. Why on earth would you want to spend tax money propping up something that's failing because people don't want it?

Yes, I know: ensuring the public is informed. Well, the people who are currently motivated enough to buy a newspaper are going to be motivated enough to find news from somewhere else. The end of newspapers doesn't mean the end of news. There's still online, mobile, radio and TV - which is where the people who aren't buying newspapers are getting their news now.

There is one problem. Currently it's the newspapers that are generating most of the content for their news websites, and most of the revenue. The website business model isn't sufficiently developed to be able to fund a large reporting staff. No paper, no website - at least for now.

Still, newspapers aren't going to drop dead today, or tomorrow. And when weaker ones start to fold, the stronger ones will get an extended lease on life. In the meantime, newspaper owners are exquisitely focused on finding a workable business model for multi-platform publishing.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Want teens to read news? First you've got to find them

Wondering how to get teenagers interested in news? Here's a few insights from a US report:

1. They won't come to you so you have to go to them
2. If something catches their eye they'll take a look, but they won't go looking for news.
3. News makes them feel anxious about the harsher side of life. They're happier if you can diminish negative associations for them and offer a springboard for taking action, talking about it and effecting change.
4. They respond well to user-friendly, useful and trustworthy sites.
5. They don't feel strongly about online advertising, postively or negatively.

Cyberjournalist does a nice job pulling out interesting quotes from the report, which was conducted by Northwestern University's Media Management Center. You can grab the report for yourself here.

Here's a few pull-outs.

"Teen after teen told our researchers that they won’t go out of their way to get the news online, but they will click on news stories ‘if something catches my eye,’” said Michael P. Smith, executive director of the Media Management Center (MMC).

“There’s a world of meaning – and opportunity — in that phrase,” Smith said. “Understanding it and learning what to do about it is vitally important, since our democracy depends on an informed citizenry. This research provides insights and suggestions news organisations can use to better connect with and serve teenagers.”

Teens get most of their news online from the large internet portals and news aggregators that pop up when they go online — not from local media websites. Therefore, news organisations should develop widgets, partnerships and news feeds tailored for teens in order to get their content on the sites and places where teens spend their time online.

Researchers found that while serious news – particularly news of politics, government and public affairs – is not currently that important to most teens, they are “interestable.” They will look at news online if it catches their eye – with content that interests them, video, the right topics, humorous and weird news, and new things.

For teens, news is stressful and reminds them of the peril in the world. So news organisations should actively experiment with ways to diminish the negative associations teens have with news and to lift their feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. This includes making news a better springboard for talk, action and change; writing about teens’ feeling of peril and about the subjects they’re worried about, and increasing attention given to solutions and problem-solvers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Reporters, privacy settings and other people's Bebo profiles

Martin Hirst raises some interesting thoughts on how reporters in NZ are plundering Bebo, Facebook and other social network profile pages for quotes and pictures. He talks about the coverage of murdered economics student Sophie Elliott.

"I just wanted here to draw attention to the ways in which Facebook, Bebo etc are now being used extensively as a "source" for reporters. Usually in the context of horrible murders, like the one discussed in the SST article. In the print edition the frontpage splash is illustrated with photos taken from Sophie Elliott's Facebook page, including a photo of her with her alleged killer.

"I wonder did the SST get anyone's permission, presumably Sophie's family, to use this pic, or any pic of her from Facebook? Or is the assumption that because Facebook is 'public', no permission is required, stuff can just be ripped from there without regard to privacy or copyright issues.

"And what about potential contempt of court. A photo of the alleged killer - can this influence potential jurors?"
He goes on to say:
"What about the invasion of privacy? Oh, there is none. Bebo is like a public park. If you stand in the park and have a conversation, and a reporter overhears it, would you expect it to be in the next day's paper?"

I don't know that such coverage is 'extensive' but certainly some journalists seem to see social networks as targets for 'easy' reporting. There are a lot of ethical and privacy issues here, which I'd like to return to another time. But two quick points now: one, lazy reporting does no one any favours; two, every user of social networks needs to set aside 10 minutes to adjust their privacy settings.

The message seems to be getting out that people, especially kids, need to be safety-conscious online. It would help if newspapers would run useful tips and links whenever they run scare stories. That said, I haven't got any links together to include with this post, but I'll try to do so soon. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions from me...
  • go to the Privacy tab in whatever network you're using and answer the questions about who you want to be able to see what. If in doubt, choose to have your details visible only to your friends. For example, my Facebook friends can see my profile, groups, friends, pictures, contact details etc; non-friends can only poke me, request my friendship or send me a message, they can't see my profile or my friends.

  • Don't post anything you don't want your boss/father/grandmother/spouse to see. (They're logged on too and if they're one of your friends - or your profile is entirely public - they can see what you got up to over the weekend).

  • Expect potential employers/extended family members/old flames/old school buddies (or enemies) to search for you and check out your profile. Protect your profile or don't post anything you don't want them to see.

  • Don't publish your mobile phone number unless you're prepared to change it somewhere down the line if someone gets creepy on you.

  • Don't publish your home phone number or street address.

  • Don't publish your birth date (you have to provide it when you sign up but you can request that it doesn't appear on your profile). This is one less detail lying around for fraudsters.

  • Job done. Now hang out with your friends and have fun.
I'd be glad to hear other thoughts on how to keep safe online. You can leave a comment here or email me at

Telegraph to become OpenID provider

The UK's Telegraph is signing on as an OpenId user. OpenID lets you use a single username and password across multiple sites (provided those sites are OpenID participants). Apparently, 61% of us are pretty much doing this anyway, using a single username and password across multiple sites because we can't be faffed keeping track of them all and can't remember them off the tops of our heads. ReadWriteWeb wrote a good post about it last week.

Shane Richmond, Communities Editor, announced the Telegraph move this week on his blog:

"The Telegraph will soon become the first newspaper in the world, and the first British media company, to become an OpenID provider. Readers will be able to begin using the service from the end of February.

"OpenID is a decentralised registration system that will offer enormous benefits to our users. Once you have an OpenID login you can use it at any of the supporting services, including AOL, Orange, Digg and Blogger. Having to remember fewer passwords is clearly a very good thing.

"Yesterday, Yahoo! announced that they will soon begin providing OpenID logins too and the technology is spreading quickly."

More foreign readers than local for UK news sites

Foreign users outnumber domestic readers on UK news websites, according to research from comScore.

Media Bulletin reports that the Daily Mail has the highest proportion of overseas users, at 69%, while many others attract 50%-60% of their readers from abroad.

"Around 59% of the BBC's audience was international, with 27m of its 46m users residing outside the UK.

"The Telegraph drew 57% of its...users from outside the UK; Guardian Unlimited attracted an international audience of 56%; and Times Online had an overseas audience of 55%.

"The Independent had an equal split of domestic and international visitors among its 1.8m users, but The Sun's website was more popular with UK visitors, who account for 55% of its 6m user base.

"British Sky Broadcasting and ITV have a much lower international profile. Just 20% of BSkyB's 9.6m users were from outside the UK, as were 23% of ITV's 7.7m online audience.

Global appeal should be reassuring, although I gather sales execs balk at trying to convince local advertisers of its merits. I don't have figures to hand for NZ, but anecdotally I understand them to be similar. Can anyone point me to recent user figures for NZ news websites?

In social networks as in life: it's good to experiment but eventually you have to settle down

NZ-born social networking site iYomu is trying to entice me back by offering me money, well, possible money - the chance of finding a US$100 icon in my vault, whatever that is.

It's not going to work though. It's not that I have a problem with iYomu, which bills itself as a social network for grown-ups and uses some quite nice Flash in its interface. (Although they do make it hard to quit, as I recall, which is why I haven't gotten around to it yet).

It's just that there's only so many hours in a day and I can only reasonably use so many social networking tools. I've been experimenting with networks and am still doubled up in a few areas while I make up my mind which service I like better, but my digital life works best when I have just one of each - one social network, one professional network, one photo sharing service etc.

Facebook is, by default, my primary social network, for no reason other than that I joined up along with a bunch of work colleagues and a few friends not long before I left the UK. It's thus become quite a nice way for me to drop in on them from time to time and see what they're up to. I don't have the energy to cultivate networks elsewhere, although I sometimes join to have a look around as part of my work.

I'm using both LinkedIn and Naymz as professional networks, trying out the two in a spirit of exploration. So far I use them as profiles - mini CVs - and have yet to work on the networking opportunities. I haven't decided yet which I prefer, but am unlikely to look at another.

I use Twitter for posting status updates, questions, watching news break and following people who interest me. I'm finding it really good for picking up on ideas, sentiment and links to useful tools and blogs. I've looked at others, like Jaiku and Pownce, which also have merit, but Twitter's sating my needs in this area for now.

So, my digital life boils down to: Facebook, Naymz and/or LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogger (this blog), Tumblr (mini blog and aggregator of links and posts), Delicious (public bookmarks), Jumptags (private bookmarks), Flickr (for sharing pictures), Picasa (also for sharing pictures, will probably move all to Flickr), Feedburner (my RSS feeds), Bloglines (my RSS reader) and You Tube (for sharing and bookmarking video), along with text and email.

And what if friends and colleagues end up using different services to me? So far I tend to encourage people to go where I go, which works reasonably well given that a lot of my friends and colleagues, especially here in NZ, aren't connected much at all yet so are open to suggestions (or completely uninterested and would rather be at the beach). And I'm meeting new friends and colleagues on the networks that I use, so no trouble being in contact with them.

The good news is that the rise of lifestreaming applications will make it possible for us to read all our friends' feeds and updates in one place, regardless of where the feeds originated. So I'll be able to read your Facebook status updates, tweets and blog posts without having to visit any of those sites. Now that's networking.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Treat social networks like any source: with measured skepticism

A few big names got caught out not long ago using quotes from a Facebook profile purported to belong to Benazir Bhutto's son. The profile was a fake, although it turns out her son did have a profile but clearly one which reporters didn't stumble upon.

Subsequently, AFP has banned its reporters using either Facebook or Wikipedia as 'sole sources' and requiring additional, trusted, sources to be used corroboratively.

That should have gone without saying. Reporters should never use a single source. Even trustworthy sources are worth checking. After all, sometimes it's the discrepancy in view between trusted sources that turns out to be the story.

There's no reason reporters can't use Facebook, Bebo and Wikipedia as starting points for ideas, trends, information, sentiment and sources of potential interviewees. But they should double-check any information they come across on wikis and social networking sites. This is not rocket science. It's standard journalistic practice. Get on the phone, and check your biographical dictionaries, electoral rolls and so on.

The best way to prevent being duped is to know your beat - no change there. If you understand what your sources are talking about, you quickly get a sense when something's not quite right.

I know reporters don't always have the luxury of knowing their beat. I know you can often be thrown into story after story with little lead-in time, no specialist knowledge and a looming deadline. The answer then is to use common sense, check your sources, and talk to your editor.

That means, of course, that editors need to understand social networks. If they don't, they will be incapable of properly weighing the importance of stories and unable to direct reporters. I'll be honest, I've seen a few cringeworthy stories in recent times which showed loud and clear that the newsdesk didn't understand them.

I'll get off my soapbox now and finish with a few tips. I blogged recently about Telegraph Communities Editor Shane Richmond's ideas on how to minimise the chance of getting tripped up by fakes. (I gather the Telegraph did get tripped up by the Bhutto profile but I'm confident it wasn't Shane doing the reporting). You can read them here.

And Jennifer Woodard Maderazo, associate editor of PBS's Mediashift blog, writes a great set of guidelines on how she uses Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in her researching and writing, along with the pitfalls to watch out for. It's a worthwhile read.

LA Times editor leaves

LA Times editor James O'Shea has left the paper citing differences with the publisher over how to take the company forward. He "told senior editors that he opposed the constant drumbeat of cuts in response to falling advertising revenue." His departure comes a month after the paper was bought by real estate magnate Sam Zell.

Here's the LA Times story about it, in which O'Shea is said to be leaving. And here's
CNN's version of the story, in which O'Shea was fired. Here's what O'Shea told staff in a farewell speech:

"In discussions about the current and future budgets, it became clear that Publisher David Hiller and I didn’t share a common vision for the future of the Los Angeles Times. In fact, we were far apart. So David decided he wanted a new editor. As I’ve said on numerous occasions over the past 14 months, I intended to stay here and lead this newspaper to the greatness it deserves. But David decided he wanted to terminate my employment and get another editor. I wish the new editor the best."

He ended his speech with this: "When this industry stops relying so much on cuts and starts investing in journalism, it will prosper because it will be serving the best interests of our readers. That’s when we will prosper."

You can read his speech here and the publisher's memo to staff here.

Six months ago O'Shea brought in a few changes at the LA Times aimed at making the paper more transparent and engaged with its readers, and taking steps towards integrating web and print. It was under him that the Times launched its Readers' Representative blog and Editors' blogs, and started routinely including reporters' email addresses with their stories and encouraging more direct contact between readers and reporters. He also set about bringing web and print operations closer together in areas like motoring and business.

The changes were announced in an internal memo, which did the rounds online last July, along with directives on writing shorter stories (except where a good, long read was truly warranted) and a focus on 'projects' - bigger, collaborative, good-old-fashioned-journalism-type stories that he saw as essential to the paper's continuing success.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Telegraph readers get Q&A with BBC chief

The Telegraph in London from time to time invites guests in to respond to questions set by readers. The most recent was BBC director-general Mark Thompson.

Telegraph Communities Editor Shane Richmond blogs about that here, along with the BBC, the licencing fee that part-funds it, and a response to blogger Martin Belam's summary of the Q& A and his thoughts on Mark Thompson 'getting off easy'.

Entertaining blogs and an interesting idea. Haven't been back in NZ long enough to know if anything similar happens on any of the news sites here.

Does it?

First rule for ISPs: keep it simple (please)

Here's something I'd like New Zealand's ISPs to read. It's a list of suggestions made by Silicon Alley Insider in response to the news that some US cable companies are moving to user-consumption billing (more you use, more you pay). Here's a couple to be getting on with:

Make things simple. Don't have 50 pricing plans. Try three: Big, bigger, biggest. And don't nickel-and-dime people like the cellphone companies do - don't bill people for minor or accidental overages.

Absolutely. Please, enough with the 15 complicated packages all tangled up with phone services that no one can understand (and get rid of those nonsense 1Gb packages that are of no use to anyone). Small, medium and really big will do fine. Clear charges. No throttling (this punishes your customers = bad idea).

Be straight with your customers: Don't try to describe the switch as an anti-piracy measure, as a TWC PR person did to the Times today. It's about generating more revenue to cover increasing costs. Say so, and move on.
Announce your plans a year ahead of time. Or two. Give people the right tools and enough time to figure out how much bandwidth they use each month, how to prevent neighbors from stealing bandwidth via open wi-fi routers, how to download more efficiently, and how much they'll have to pay for what kind of access. Put ads in the papers. Call customers. Stop by and show them how to put a password on their wi-fi router. But don't let a single customer go unprepared - or get ready for the lawyers/angry mobs/FCC.
Again, right on. Help your customers understand their usage (start by not throttling them or charging them daft overage charges when they estimate it wrong). Get out there, talk to them, use live chat helpdesks. Be nice. But most of all be accessible and transparent.

Irish Times joins newsroom integration club

Irish Times has begun integrating its print newsroom with website It is aiming for a 24-hour newsroom.

Link: Editor & Publisher

NY Times tops US news sites: December figures

Here are user figures for US news sites in December: Editor& Publisher

USA Today invites readers onto expert panel

USA Today is surveying its socially networked readers, asking them to join an expert panel where they can share their opinions and be interviewed by reporters.

"By joining, you are offering to be contacted by our reporters with queries about social networking, blogging – your overall Internet experiences -- for use in upcoming stories."

Bebo still number one in NZ with Facebook close behind

Hitwise reports that Bebo remains the most popular social networking site in NZ, with 16.87% market share for the week ending 5 January 2008. Facebook followed closely at second position with 14.2% share. Bebo has strong brand recognition, Hitwise said, and was the leading search term for 2007.

The report says people spend considerably more time on social networking sites than they do on other websites.

"Bebo had an average session duration of 26 minutes and 22 seconds for the week ending 5 January 2008, compared to websites across all categories, which had an an All Categories average of 11 minutes and 8 seconds. The average session time by New Zealand internet users on Facebook was 17 minutes, 54 seconds and on MySpace it was 13 minutes and 54 seconds."

After logging out from Bebo and Facebook, most users then head for "News & Media, Shopping & Classifieds, Multimedia, Games, Photography, Education and Sports."

Wired uses Facebook group for science reporting

Wired science reporter Alex Madrigal is interviewed about his exploits so far in beat blogging.

He's trying some interesting things, among them:

running a Facebook group for people who read science stories; posting pieces to the group ahead of publication (such as a list of 'top 10 new organisms') to keep people interested, posting video of reporters and editors at work in the office so readers can see what it looks like

looking at running debates: reader versus reader, or reader versus expert. Then perhaps create Reddit widgets so people can vote on who won the debate.

looking at asking readers to tag science journal articles that they're interested in, maybe using, which Wired can then monitor and incorporate into their reporting.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Why newsrooms should integrate web and print

Knowing that I worked on a major newsroom integration project at the Telegraph in London, it will come as no surprise that I think integrating web and print is a good idea.

I was reading a Jeff Jarvis post about it and liked the way he put it:

"At the end of the day...we know this: Every journalist needs every tool to gather and tell every story how best it should be told. Every reader/listener/viewer/user should be able to get the news however, whenever, and wherever he or she wants. News operations won’t be able to afford the inefficiency of separate staffs all putting out the same news. And that’s why I think consolidation is inevitable."

I agree. More than that, news companies need to see themselves as news providers, not as newspapers or news websites. They need to get their content out to as many audiences as they can, in as many formats as they can, if they are to remain relevant. If you are publishing to mutiple formats, the logical way to go about it is to create the content in a neutral format and then modify it as required for each platform. Write into a neutral text editor, then mark it up for mobile, web and print as required. Writing for one format, then having to parse it to another is invariably a fag and terribly inefficient.

Jeff raises another good point in his post:

"One could consolidate too much and, in the words of one of my students, turn every journalist into an eight-armed monster — and do a halfassed job in any medium."

Yep, that's a danger, in the medium term anyway. But it needn't be so. The following points are worth making again and again. Yes, you must modernise your newsroom. Yes, you must tell stories in different formats where appropriate. Yes, you must move faster than you used to if you are to give your mobile and online audiences what they want. But no, it does not mean that every journalist has to file audio, video, text and timelines for every story every day. It means they need to talk to their editors about the best formats for telling this story on this day. It means the editors must make decisions about the best use of newsroom resources (reporters' time, equipment, studio time etc), and about the stories they think are relevant and interesting to their readers.

News judgement and resource management don't disappear in an integrated newsroom. They are central to it.

If toddlers hang out in virtual worlds, so should news companies

This caught my eye on - PBS, the US Public Broadcasting Service, is developing an ad-free subscription-based virtual world for toddlers. Yep, toddlers.

"Dubbed PBS Kids Play, the site is ad-free and is aimed at ages 3 to 6. It’s currently in beta. PBS is offering free trials and claims to offer a pre-school and kindergarten curriculum along with PBS characters such as Curious George and Bob the Builder. The free trials will end before spring," says PaidContent.

Suddenly the impetus for news brands to get themselves established in virtual worlds - such as Second Life - seems greater. If future generations of news audiences are growing up using virtual worlds, they're going to want to work, network and consume information in virtual world formats, as well as other formats.

It's easy to ignore virtual worlds at the moment because they are optional and primarily recreational. But companies are beginning to hold meetings in virtual world conference rooms - allowing people in various countries to work together - and the format lends itself to all manner of commerce, educational projects and social networking. Some schools already teach children how to get around in virtual worlds.

The technology is far from perfect - I'm not alone in having abandoned my avatar at a bar in Second Life after getting frustrated at trying to move around in there - but once it becomes easier to use and more people are using broadband, its wide adoption is surely guaranteed.

It's also easy to dismiss the commerce going on in virtual worlds as a flight of fancy. Most of us were stumped the first time we heard about the run on banks in Second Life which left users seriously out of pocket. But that commerce is very real. As Techcrunch notes in this story: Disney paid $350m last year for Club Penguin. If you google the phrase 'virtual worlds' you'll find listings for people selling architecture and interior decoration services for virtual world premises and many more variations on that theme.

And if you're sitting there thinking, yes, but virtual worlds aren't real, then think about this: neither is money. Money has no intrinsic value. It's only value lies in the fact that we all agree to use it as money. The moment you or I or the bank stop doing so, those notes and coins become worthless. Reality is what we make it.

There's a loose consensus among digital media commentators that news organisations need to focus on getting their content out to where audiences congregate, rather than relying on audiences being attracted to their websites. There are audiences aplenty in virtual worlds.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Reporting through social networks throws up tech challenges

More from the beat blogging experiment, which involves 12 reporters in various US newsrooms using social networks and blogs in their reporting.

This post looks at the tech challenges facing reporters and editors who want to use social networks not just to find ideas for stories but also as tools for reporting stories. No problem if you just want to set up and use a Facebook group, but harder if you want multi-blog sites or a way to weave ugc into your network. They're going to give updates on the topic as the experiment goes on.

In the meantime, the beat blogging site has some good posts on social networking tools.

59 million users can't be right and other thoughts on Facebook

Every day's a good day to talk about Facebook. There is endless chatter online about how big it's going to get, whether it deserves to be big, how much it will sell for, whether it will sell, how safe it is, how big a mistake the Beacon fiasco was, how long it will take for people to lose interest in being bitten by mutant ninja zombies and so on.

My three favourite posts recently are from a geek who's losing interest, an early adopter who intends to carry on but wants to strip it back to its basic components, and a Guardian columnist who is eschewing it entirely on ideological grounds.

Alex Iskold of ReadWriteWeb interviewed his sister, a senior student who was an early adopter. I think she strikes a chord when she says she's unimpressed with constant invites to join Zombies and Vampires and Happy Hour. "When they started to add new features like the wall, photo albums, video capabilities, and groups, people became more interested," Julia says. "But then Facebook took it too far. Now I find Facebook to be a suffocating bombardment of useless applications and features. I prefer an older version of just the basics - messaging, walls, photos and groups."

Phil Whitehouse, a British software geek, thinks Facebook faces a "slow, steady and painful demise". He cites the following evidence (in a heavily edited nutshell): "I'm hardly ever using it... my friends use it less and less...On the rare occasions I visit, it's just to 'ignore' all the invitations I've received.... I haven't read a positive thing about Facebook in the past three months."

And last but not least, Guardian columnist Tom Hodgkinson chimed in this week with a cutting critique of the investors behind the social networking site (which include a CIA venture capital fund and 'neoconservative libertarian' venture capitalists). He ultimately decides that 59 million users can't be right, that Facebook is a "heavily-funded programme to create an arid global virtual republic, where your own self and your relationships with your friends are converted into commodites on sale to giant global brands" and announces he's logging off to do some gardening and read Keats. Good for him.

Mr Hodgkinson seems to share the rather odd view, though, that using Facebook precludes people from doing anything else, or doing anything of value. I'm going to "spend the time I save by not going on Facebook doing something useful, such as reading books", he says.

I have analog friends who argue much the same thing. It's bad for people, they say, to be cooped up and spend all that time online when they could be....out walking/at the beach/reading books/gardening/talking to people in person etc.

Funny, I use Facebook and talk to people in person, and read books, and go to the beach, and go hiking, and blog, twitter, email and talk to people on the phone, sometimes all in the same day.

But I'm with Phil, in the end. I use Facebook less and less and I ignore almost all invitations. But I like to check in on my friends in the UK from time to time, I'm glad it reminds me when my friends' birthdays are and I love playing Scrabulous. So I'll stick with it for a while yet.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Talk to other reporters on Facebook: join the group

Here's a Facebook group for reporters. It was set up by Ryan Sholin, an energetic blogger whose posts hit the nail on the head again and again. He recently posted five simple things you can do to modernise your newsroom. Check him out.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

First question for 'Ask AP' is: where are the answers?

AP announces the launch of Ask AP, where readers can ask questions about the stories that interest them. "AP editors will choose some of the questions sent in by readers like you and get answers from AP reporters and editors — the people who spend their days covering the very issues you're curious about," the news organisation says on Yahoo.

Aha. Now here's how you go about it.

"So send your questions to newsquestions(at), with "Ask AP" in the subject line. Then keep an eye out for installments of the new Q&A column, where you'll finally get some answers."

Eh? Finally is the operative word. Clicking around Yahoo, and through to the AP site, I can't find a form for sending in my question, can't find any reference to asking questions, and can't find the Q&A column - not even on the site map.

Chances of me getting round to asking a question (with Ask AP in the subject line) and popping back at an undetermined time later to catch an answer? None.

Oh well.

Trinity Mirror buys recruitment site

Trinity Mirror has bought The Career Engineer Ltd , paying an initial £1.9m. Trinity expects the site to generate more than £500,000 in revenue in its first year.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Telegraph drops podcast, launches 7 TV programmes

The Telegraph is adding seven TV programmes to its existing multimedia offerings.

Digital editor Ed Roussel told the Guardian the investment was part of the group's digital strategy. "The future of news on the web is in the combination of text, video and user-generated content. This development is a major step in that direction."'s new offerings will include weekly programmes The Gadget Inspectors, Your Money, Their Hands, The Wheel Deal and Real Trips. It already has a daily news roundup - Telegraph TV Now - daily business show and a fashion programme.

As part of a resource reallocation, stopped its daily news podcast and its Telegraph PM pdf download at the end of the last year, the Guardian said.

Glad to see the pdf gone. It chewed up a heck of a lot of resources for negligible gain.

Herald news link-up with has linked up with to flesh out the latter's news offering and drive traffic to the Herald site. Lance Higgs documents the move on his blog: "NZHerald gets more traffic, pure and simple. MSN gets some real news on their rather sparse website. Stuff is still ahead in UB’s, (498k vs 456k last week) but NZHerald with this move has a Page View lead. For now."

WSJ brings Opinion out from paywall, but not much more

There was me thinking the WSJ was going to bring its whole site out from behind the paywall. But no, so far only opinion, editorials, commentary and video. And they're still running a discount campaign enticing new subscribers.

Silicon Alley Insider thinks they may not go much further. "With this hybrid solution, the organization's columnists can now go head to head with the blogosphere (and the NYT editorial page), without giving away the farm."

Either way, the WSJ personalisation offering for subscribers has appeal. You get to track 10 companies - stock quotes and stories, 10 industries, the columnists you like and news in 10 areas (world, business, technology etc) - delivered online and by email.

UK online ad spend 'to overtake TV in 2009'

Analysts are forecasting online ad spend will surpass TV ad spend in the UK by 2009. The study, by Group M, the media planning and buying agency owned by advertising heavyweight WPP Group, projects a 31% increase in online spend this year versus a 1% rise in TV ad spend.

Emarketer notes that the UK media picture is unusual: "For one thing, the print sector remains pretty healthy. Also, the phenomenal rise of the internet has encouraged significant spending on the Web by UK advertisers, and hard evidence of online successes breeds further investment.

"Moreover, the dominance of television as an advertising vehicle is less pronounced in the UK, because TV programming is not funded by advertising to the same extent that it is in the US and elsewhere."

But it's still a sea change and although Emarketer's projections are slightly different, it agrees that online spending will overtake TV within two years.

Online video 'complements' linear broadcasting

Emarketer reports that six out of 10 broadband users watch video online at least once a week. The good news for broadcasters is that "70% of internet users surveyed who watched television online did so because they had missed the programme when it was on TV. Nearly one in five said they watched TV online to watch programmes again, after having seen them first on a television set."

The report is based on research by US company Horowitz Associates, who noted:
"The data suggest that broadband video is not cannibalistic to linear video, but rather an enhancement to consumers' traditional TV experience."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bret and Jemaine get convergent

Here's Flight of the Conchords at the CES 2008 conference. Bret and Jemaine get to grips with multi-platform convergence...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Reporters using Facebook: good idea but don't take anything at face value

Shane Richmond, Communities Editor at the Telegraph, brings a few notes of common sense and caution to his advice on how reporters can use Facebook. His first point is 'be suspicious' and he gives good tips on things to help you spot fake entries, blogs etc. He also includes sensitivity and awareness of privacy and confidentiality.

Why 'most popular' doesn't mean 'most important'

Shane Richmond at the Telegraph (London) gives hope to those in despair about the lightweight nature of stories that often fill up 'most viewed' and 'most emailed' boxes.

He has a theory about those 'man has sex with bicycyle' stories: while many different kinds of readers might check that story out, they'll then get back to doing what they came to the site for in the first place, whether that was to get sport scores, read opinion pieces or browse news. "In a Venn diagram of readers interests, the most popular stories sit in the centre. They've caught a little bit of everyone's attention but they might not be anyone's most important story."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Don't hog the online toys

Anecdotally, I have been hearing more about reporters putting up their hands to go over to the digital desk, which is heartening, and not a bit surprising given the doom hanging over the future of print and the fact that online is so much fun.

Also starting to see more posts along the lines of this one from Melissa Worden, in which she notes the online desk can get a bit cliquey in some newsrooms and hard for others to break into.

It's a good point for newsroom change agents to be aware of: make sure that once you've explained how great online is, and given people a taste of it, that they can actually do some of it when they walk out of the training room and go back on the floor.

I like Melissa's point about sharing the toys. She's absolutely right. Ultimately, we want to get useful kit into as many people's hands at possible. Yes, some people will be better at some things than others - maybe audio, maybe visuals, maybe graphics, maybe Flash. That's all good. If you don't give people a chance, you'll never realise the talent you're sitting on.

While you're at it, why not give everyone a point and shoot video/camera/writing tool like an N95 or JasJam or HTC Tytn and show them how to upload, tag, assign categories, write abstracts etc. Give them a bit of time once a week to play and work on stories that need a bit of technical stretching. Make sure they know how to use the CMS and the appropriate workflow - who signs off on what. Then sit back and watch morning news conferences get more interesting.

John Birt, 10 years of BBC online and the modular homepage

John Birt talks to iPM about the beginnings of the BBC's website 10 years ago. He talks about going on a study tour and meeting dotcom evangelists in the US when 'the scales fell from my eyes' . He came back to the BBC to proselytise only to be met with blank faces and a fair amount of resistance. (Sounds familiar). It's a good interview in which he talks about being proud of the site's achievements over the years. Quite right too.

The BBC website, always a pioneer, remains so and still sets trends and standards that others worldover follow. Yes, that is in large part due to the fact that it's long had a giant staff and buckets of public money to play with. A good number of those staff, mind you, will soon be gone as the latest round of redundancies kick in - necessitated by another major cultural and structural shift, this time to accommodate the demands of convergence.

In addition to the interview, the post talks about the BBC's new modular homepage which launched late last year in beta. It looks extremely promising although I've found it a bit clunky and UK-centric so far and have temporarily abandoned it. I will go back to it, though.

The BBC says: "The new page is made up of customisable and moveable widgets that allow users to determine the layout of the page and give them a greater level of control over what information they want to see.

"As well as the tailoring the page to their own requirements users can, for the first time, listen live to BBC radio directly from the homepage and browse the evening’s BBC tv schedules."
There's been huge chatter about the site, a disproportionate amount of which is in appreciation of the analog clockface adorning the top right corner. Mind you, to be fair, it is fantastic. Most of the chatter, as far as I can tell, has been favourable and rightly so: the BBC is leading the way on this aspect of personalisation.

Personalisation has been talked about a lot in media companies in recent years. It's been applied here and there to email services and the like, and some sites have launched user-centric areas with some degree of personalisation, such as the Telegraph's user-blogging site My Telegraph.

But this is the first I've seen of an interface where the user can experience the whole website from their own personalised homepage. Are there more out there?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Where UGC fits in the BBC newsroom

Peter Horrocks, head of BBC newsroom, posts a speech he made at the University of Leeds' Institute of Communication Studies about where user generated content fits in at the BBC. The BBC is restructuring its newsroom with the UGC team sitting alongside the news teams supplying content for broadcast and web outlets - there's more detail in the post.

Peter covers a lot of issues including how much weight to give to user comments, how many resources to commit to managing them, not letting the 1% of the audience who comment drive the news agenda, how to find the wheat within the chaff that will turn into compelling stories and how to apply journalistic principles to the process.

"We cannot just take the views that we receive via e-mails and texts and let them dictate our agenda. Nor should they give us a slant around which we should orient our take on a story. At their best they are an invaluable information resource and an important corrective to group-think. They very often ask direct or apparently na├»ve questions that get to the heart of the subject – they can be gold dust for interviewers for instance.

"But we need to be very clear about how many contributions we get, their statistical significance and the weight we should attach to them. The BBC gets an average of 10,000 e-mails or posts in a day to its Have Your Say site. That can soar on big news days. That sounds an enormous number. But up to 5 million people can come to the BBC News website on a single day. That means that fewer than 1% of our users, even on the most active days, are choosing to say something to us. What organisation – a political party, a business, a trades union – would allow its stance to be totally driven by such a small minority?

"Of course a small proportion could be indicative of a wider population, but we can’t be sure. Rather than playing a numbers game to drive our agenda I instead encourage our teams to look for thoughtful or surprising views and opinions. In other words we still need to be journalistic with this material, as we would with any other source."

It's a considered piece and I recommend reading it. The comments add a lot too.

How to spot a plagiarist

This is an interesting list of warning bells for plagiarism.

The march of integration in UK newsrooms

This from Roy Greenslade. It's a pretty comprehensive wrap of the moves UK newspapers have made and are continuing to make in integration. It's well worth a browse, especially the sections about the Times, Telegraph and Financial Times and the various approaches they are taking.

I notice he mentions that the FT are using Methode, the second reference I've heard that it's a good CMS for integrated web and print production. I'd love to see it, having not yet seen any systems that are truly integrated.

Spotlight on video

Editors Weblog are running a series on video and how much newspapers should use it.

The urge to document and share is a powerful one

I enjoyed this post from BBC journalist Robin Hamman about documenting his life and uploading it to Flickr. Reminded me a little of Everything is Illuminated, a moving story centred on a young man who is a habitual collector and travels to Eastern Europe after his grandfather's death to find the woman who'd helped his grandfather escape the war. He documents his life by sealing odds and ends he finds in plastic bags and pinning them to a wall.

I spend a lot of time photographing, writing about, thinking about how to write about, and uploading my life - always have done in one form or another but much more now that there's such a wealth of digital tools available. The thing is, I do it to the point sometimes where the documenting of my life is my life, rather than the event or activity I'm supposed to be participating in. Sounds bad, but I really enjoy it.

I think the urge to document and share is very powerful. Just think of holidays where you spent three-quarters of your time taking photos so you could remember all those new and interesting things and show them to your friends back home.

Robin takes it to a different level, though. He's even documented his dinners.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Guardian chooses Pluck community tools

Pluck is to supply community tools to Guardian website. This from Press Gazette.

Throw out the rulebook, if only for a day a month

Love this post from journalism teacher Mindy McAdams about throwing out the rulebook one day a month, forgetting everything you know about filling newspaper pages, and getting the whole staff engaged in some solid, local storytelling by all formats possible.

"First," she says, "you have to quit crushing everyone on the staff under stupid stories that no one in your community even cares about."

Have a read. The comments as well, they add a lot.

Watch the kids to figure out the market

I enjoyed this post from New York venture capitalist Fred Wilson. He looks at his three kids for clues to digital market trends. I read Fred quite a bit, and follow him on Twitter - because I can and because I get a vicarious kick out of how much electronic kit he seems to have.

A key observation is that his kids spend a lot of time online - on social networks, games, listening and buying music, reading. As his daughter said: 'Dad, the internet is my primary entertainment.'

Sure, his kids have electronic gadgets and connectivity far beyond what most households have. But the point is, as ever, that once people get online, and get broadband, and get a PC with a reasonable bit of memory and a zippy processor, and get familiar with a few of the tricks of social networks and games and shopping and blog-hopping, they get hooked. Then they start expecting the analog world to start behaving more like the digital world, and if it doesn't, they lose interest.

And that's why media companies need to adapt, and quickly, or else they'll get left behind.

One way to stop ads detracting from Herald's media player

I realise now that is selling more than one ad per slide show. Sorry to be a spoilsport, but it's distracting, so I'm just pulling the player further down my screen so the ads are tucked away out of sight below my toolbar.

Still like the player. But I would like to see the captions sit vertically on the right of the pic where it would be easier to read, and expanded to an abstract with a link to the story.

Herald makes good use of readers' fire pics

Nice to see inviting readers to send in pics on the fire story. I like the slide show player as well, although the ad at the bottom reloading for each shot is a distraction that detracts somewhat. If it's the same ad for the whole slide show, couldn't it be set to load just once?

How about a howler hotline?

It's not uncommon to spot typos online. I see them everyday on news and other websites (including my own). It's a reality of web publishing - you move faster, push copy through fewer pairs of hands and relax in the knowledge that it takes two ticks to fix typos once they've been spotted (unlike the poor old newspaper which has to live with its mistakes glaring back at it from library reading rooms for ever more).

And clearly I'm not alone. I see blog posts cropping up complaining about typos in headlines on news sites more and more. Here's one from a couple of days ago - a typo on spotted and blogged by Snice.

I think Snice is a little harsh in his blog post, but on the upside - he wants to help. He tried to get in touch with to help them fix their site but got no reply.

I've tried to do the same but haven't been able to find a suitable address.

Wouldn't it be a good idea for news sites to have a way for the public to point out typos and other errors? Imagine it. All you have to do is set up an email address, promote it, make sure your duty web editors are copied into it, and hey presto, free proofreading.

NY Times and CNBC to share web content

The New York Times and CNBC have done a deal to share content on their websites. The CNBC site will carry Times stories and will carry CNBC video stories. The deal helps position the pair against the coming onslaught from Murdoch's Wall Street Journal - Fox Business News nexus.

This is the first reciprocal print-TV collaboration I've seen of this kind. Most deals have been more about print companies buying editing and archive services from TV. But it was only a matter of time. The concept makes sense: the print sites get a steady supply of broadcast quality video and the TV sites get written news in volume, each without having to invest large sums in equipment and training.

Monday, January 7, 2008

How reporters can promote themselves online

This is a great example of a reporter getting with the digital programme. Her website is spot on - a blog, information about her, links to her work, her CV, several ways to contact her and engage in conversation.

She is a newsroom recruiter's dream - not only a journalist but a blogger with a science background who started 'teaching herself HTML at age 10'. Now that's a skill set.

If you do nothing else this year, read this

Having overheard a couple of conversations in newsrooms recently that ran along the lines of 'you can't trust what you read online' I realise that we have a ways to go in New Zealand on understanding quite how profound the changes are that face our industry.

So, here's a must-read for all reporters, editors, sub-editors and media executives. It neatly encapsulates what's required to make the leap from traditional media to digital. This is not a quick fix, by the way, more like a journey that will take time and a lot of effort.

Twelve things journalists can do to save journalism

May as well read this too:
Five guiding principles for the transformation of media companies

While you're at it. If you haven't already (most have been around for a while), read:

The Cluetrain Manifesto
The end of business as usual
By Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger.
The blog, the book.
In a nutshell: the internet is changing the way we do business and the way we relate to one another. Out goes meaningless marketing piffle, in comes honest appraisal of what you've got to offer. Out goes secrecy and walls, in comes transparency and engaging in dialogue with your customers. Out goes pretending you don't make mistakes, in comes owning up and accepting help in fixing them. It's a light read and I think worth looking at.

The Long Tail
Why the future of business is to sell less of more
By Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired.
The blog, the book.
In a nutshell: digital products create new business models - without the need to warehouse and stock products on shelves, you can carry exponentially more stock and make even extremely low sellers available year-round. It's an easy read and much more than just a business lesson.

The Search
How Google and its rivals rewrote the rules of business and transformed our culture
By John Battelle
The blog, the book.
In a nutshell: search is the internet, pretty much. Without search we wouldn't be able to find each other and carry on conversations. This is highly readable and a fascinating look at the history of Search, Google's rise and rise included, and where we are now.

The World is Flat
The globalised world in the 21st century
By Thomas Friedman.
The blog, the book.
In a nutshell: while we're arguing about whether or not text language is acceptable in exams and ignoring science and maths, a gazillion parents in China and India are working their socks off to put at least one of their children through university. Those children are working their socks off to get the best job they can. They speak several languages, excel at physics and eat algebra for breakfast. And because of the internet they can do our jobs. Good to know. You may not agree with Friedman's take on who wins with globalisation and this isn't an easy read, but it's certainly thought-provoking.

And if you haven't already seen these, take a look now:

If you do nothing else this year, read this

Having overheard a couple of conversations in newsrooms recently that ran along the lines of 'you can't trust what you read online' I realise that we have a ways to go in New Zealand on understanding quite how profound the changes are that face our industry.

So, here's a must-read for all reporters, editors, sub-editors and media executives. It neatly encapsulates what's required to make the leap from traditional media to digital. This is not a quick fix, by the way, more like a journey that will take time and a lot of effort.

Twelve things journalists can do to save journalism

May as well read this too:
Five guiding principles for the transformation of media companies

While you're at it. If you haven't already (most have been around for a while), read:

The Cluetrain Manifesto
The end of business as usual
By Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger.
The blog, the book.
In a nutshell: the internet is changing the way we do business and the way we relate to one another. Out goes meaningless marketing piffle, in comes honest appraisal of what you've got to offer. Out goes secrecy and walls, in comes transparency and engaging in dialogue with your customers. Out goes pretending you don't mistakes, in comes owning up and accepting help in fixing them. It's a light read and I think worth looking at.

The Long Tail
Why the future of business is to sell less of more
By Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired.
The blog, the book.
In a nutshell: digital products create new business models - without the need to warehouse and stock products on shelves, you can carry exponentially more stock and make even extremely low sellers available year-round. It's an easy read and much more than just a business lesson.

The Search
How Google and its rivals rewrote the rules of business and transformed our culture
By John Battelle
The blog, the book.
In a nutshell: search is the internet, pretty much. Without search we wouldn't be able to find each other and carry on conversations. This is highly readable and a fascinating look at the history of Search, Google's rise and rise included, and where we are now.

The World is Flat
The globalised world in the 21st century
By Thomas Friedman.
The blog, the book.
In a nutshell: while we're arguing about whether or not text language is acceptable in exams and ignoring science and maths, a gazillion parents in China and India are working their socks off to put at least one of their children through university. Those children are working their socks off to get the best job they can. They speak several languages, excel at physics and eat algebra for breakfast. And because of the internet they can do our jobs. Good to know. You may not agree with Friedman's take on who wins with globalisation and this isn't an easy read, but it's certainly thought-provoking.

And if you haven't already seen these, take a look now:

Key to a good video interview: be prepared

More from Howard Owens on video. This time a couple of tips on getting a good interview:

"As any experienced reporter knows, getting a good quote usually requires asking a good question. Good questions come when a reporter is both a good conversationalist and well prepared (either by dint of preparing for the specific interview, or knowing his or beat really, really well).

"As an advocate for short, quick-production videos, I also believe that what works best for online video, as for most good journalism, is people, people, people — get tight shots of people talking about something of interest and you have engaging video … if you ask good questions."

Video journalism: it's 'all about people'

Nice piece of advice from Howard Owens about being a mobile video journalist (MoJo):

"The classic image of a MoJo is a reporter sitting in his car, filing a story. Certainly, you must spend time doing that, but the less time you spend actually driving that car, the better. You need to be out and about, on foot, with people.

"Your job isn’t to find scandal or hard-hitting news. Your job is to unlock the life of your town in a way that print journalism hasn’t done consistently for generations.

"It’s all about people."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

'Raw' video works just fine

Howard Owens talks about video taxonomy and what makes good video on online news sites: "raw is good; heavy editing is a waste of time". He's posted while reading Glut, Mastering Information Through the Ages, which I haven't read yet but have on standby for when I go to the beach for two weeks at the end of the month (smile). Here's an excerpt:

"Story video may have its time and place, but unlike some, I don’t believe that is the sum and whole of what online video can or should be.

"The point of quick-production, reporter-shot video should be to illustrate in a way that words alone cannot. Raw is good. Heavy editing is a waste of time. Context is a distraction. The point is not to capture the whole story. It is to illustrate a story."

I hadn't read Howard before but found him through Shane Richmond, the Telegraph's Communities Editor (and thoroughly smart guy), and like him because a/ he writes about interesting things and b/ he thinks George Jones's version of He Stopped Loving Her Today is the best country song of all time, which makes him okay in my book. I'm not sure it is the best, but it can't be far off, and I agree completely that no one could do it as well as George.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Murdochification spotters

For those who like a bit of sport, Jack Shafer over at Slate is looking for some help spotting signs of the Murdochification of the Wall Street Journal.

Cheers! I'm a journalist

Jack Shafer's written a nice post about liqour in the newsroom. The post was in response to the editor of the Cincinnati Post asking staff not to bring in booze on their last day - the afternoon paper has shut down after 126 years. It's a nice read with some smart observations about how journalists see themselves:

"Journalists identify with larger-than-life personalities, because that's how they see themselves. Deny the journalist his self-image as a rule-bending individualist and you might as well replace him with a typist.
"Wise editors know when and how to encourage newsroom insubordination, as opposed to squelching it, because they appreciate Bob Woodward's aphorism, 'All good work is done in defiance of management.' By giving the newsroom the opportunity to stand up to him, the wise editor instructs his reporters in the advanced techniques of standing up to CEOs and politicians. The wise editor understands that quality journalism requires a bad attitude, foul words, a brawl, and sometimes a drink afterward."

In the midst of it comes a surprising reference to US journalists having to undergo drug tests. He points to this blog post about it by LA Times staffer Matt Welch. That's certainly never been required of me, in the UK, NZ, Ireland or Vietnam. How about you?

Interested to know, too, what an assistant editorial page editor does (it's Matt's title).

Oops, I got my feeds crossed

Apologies to new subscribers. I forgot to update my feed chicklet when I moved recently. All fixed now. Please check your feed is for Evolving Newsroom. Thanks.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Outgoing Wall Street Journal editor sums up 50 years of news

Outgoing Wall Street Journal editor Paul E Steiger has wound up with a page one wrap of changes in the newspaper business over the past few decades. It's well worth a read. Here's an excerpt:

"In some ways, what's happening to the newspaper industry is a return to its past. Less than 50 years ago, American newspapers were in the main relatively small, narrowly profitable, family-owned, locally focused and hotly competitive.

As a kid reporter in California in the '60s, I heard tales from newsmen and photographers about how, just a few years earlier, they had sat in cars, engines running and radios tuned to police bands, trying to get an edge in covering the next murder. The national and international news would be handled by the wire services. Lurid local photographs on page one were what sold newspapers in that era.

"A certain fast-and-loose, devil-may-care attitude often prevailed. I remember walking past a photographer's open car trunk and noticing that he carried a well-preserved but very dead bird among his cameras and lenses. The bird, he explained, was for feature shots on holidays like Memorial Day. He'd perch it on a gravestone or tree limb in a veterans' cemetery to get the right mood. Nowadays such a trick would get him fired, but in the 1950s, this guy said, there was no time to wait for a live bird to flutter into the frame."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Should online news be free? Yes, but the debate grinds on

The 'Are newspapers cutting their own throats by not charging for their product online?' debate grinds on. Inside most media companies the battle lines are drawn: on one side are those in favour of charging for premium services - 'we're mad to give away this great content we've made' - and on the other are those against - 'if we charge, our audience will go somewhere else'.

The Wall Street Journal, recently taken over by Rupert Murdoch, is the highest profile example of a newspaper that used to charge, and had enviable subscriber numbers, but decided to abandon it in favour of ramping up readership and selling more ads on the back of that.

Times blogger Justin Fox posts this week about the pointlessness of arguing about it. "News was already pretty close to free long before the Internet came along," he says, in response to a 'we're mad to give it away' post from LA Times business columnist David Lazarus.

"It was free on TV, free on the radio, and effectively free in newspapers when you consider all the valuable stuff that came packaged with it for 25 or 50 cents, from comics to crosswords to classifieds to supermarket ads. And unlike, say, a song - which was free on the radio but worth spending money on to be able to play again and again whenever you wanted to hear it - a day-old newspaper was usually less than worthless."

While some point to younger generations not being willing to pay for online content, Justin shows that's not the case. They buy music online happily enough, and pay for games. They just don't want to pay for news.

And neither do I. Why would I? There's no shortage of news online. If I can't read the story on one site I can read it on countless others. If I reach a paywall, I give up and go somewhere else. And don't get me started on those US sites which require you to register, albeit for free, but then don't accept your postcode because it's not local. So much for globalisation.

The point is, unless you organise a giant, worldwide news cartel to set a global price (not going to happen), you can't charge for news online. Archives, maybe, but not daily news.

Trouble is, increasingly people don't want to pay for a newspaper either. Not even the people who wail about how important quality journalism is to the health of a country. Seriously, next time someone bemoans how outsourcing/globalisation/greedy management are eroding journalistic values, ask them how often they buy the paper. Nine times out of ten, in my experience, they'll say they don't buy it at all, or they buy it once a twice a week. Not quite enough, then, to keep 'quality journalism' afloat.

So, if they're not buying the paper, and people under 35 aren't buying the paper, who is?

Miami Herald outsources ad production to India

The Miami Herald is outsourcing some advertising production work and website moderation to India. The project is starting with copywriting and design for a weekly community supplement. The move follows a similar step by the Sacramento Bee, another McClatchy title.

Search Twitter for first-hand accounts of breaking news

Robin Hamman, a BBC journalist and blogger, posts about using Twitter as a way to get your finger on the pulse of a breaking news story.

You can search Twitter for key words, such as Bhutto, to see what people are saying about the story. Not only will you get a sense of what sentiment is around, but also in some cases first-hand accounts of events and plenty of links to news stories around the world.

Robin recommends using a tool from David Sterry called Tweet Scan. It's simple, but effective. Just type in a keyword and hit Search. If you register you can also subscribe to keywords so you get updates via email or RSS.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Reporters on Facebook - the professional and the personal

Steve Outing offers some advice for reporters - use Facebook and consider having two profiles, one for personal and one for professional.

That way you can carry on sharing pointless-but-clever videos with your friends without risking offending your contacts. And you can set up industry links on your professional site that would likely leave your friends cold.

Meanwhile, Facebook is slowly gaining ground in NZ, where Bebo reigns supreme (Hitwise has some figures on that) but losing its wow factor in a couple of other quarters.

Silicon Alley Insider points to a skeptical Wallstrip take on Facebook with the comment: "This strikes a chord with us: After you get past the novelty stage, what are employed grown-ups supposed to do at the site?"

Then there's Bobbie Johnson who blogged on the Guardian about Facebook Whales - people with more than 1,000 friends on Facebook - being insecure. No kidding.

A mini backlash in the making? Who knows.