Monday, February 28, 2005

Actually making money from blogging

Keyword: . In which Simon Waldman neatly summarises three models of funding for bloggers - although it seems most of the opportunities are for businesses, not the bloggers themselves.

More fretting over the 'death of the newspaper'

Keyword: . Editor & Publisher reports on The Washington Post pondering the demise of print (demographics and lifestyle changes are said to be the real problem) at the same time as gives an overview of the same concerns, including the strange assertion in Press Gazette that internet TV news could spell the death not only of print, but of radio and TV news.

This sounds far too much like the doom-mongering for print that came with the introduction of both radio and TV news, and is still asserted with reference to the internet. The main danger to the future of print seems to be the extremely low investment in it as a business, but this is part of a wider commercialisation of news that the new trend in 'citizen journalism' seems to be addressing.

We're living in a time of flux. Quite fascinating, really.

Where a good blog can take you

Keyword: . Granted, most of us don't live in the middle of a war zone, but it's heartening for bloggers everywhere that Salam Pax - the Baghdad Blogger - has won a Royal Television Society award for the programmes he made with Guardian Films and Newsnight. Added to the increasing success of Super Size Me-style documentaries it seems there's a public (and awards panels) getting hungrier for independent, alternative viewpoints.

RSS feed for journalism jobs

Keyword: . Credit to for picking up on the idea doing the rounds to make your vacancies listings an RSS feed. It's one of the few sites to have a good range of online journalism jobs listed (the Media Guardian Jobs is normally the only other place to find them), so well worth subscribing to.

Another search tool

Keyword: . The Search Engine Journal sings the praises of TurboScout, a website that allows you to search a good dozen or so search engines - but not at the same time.

It's a bit of a cheeky way to make some money - piggybacking on the search technologies of others - but could be attractive for those of us who don't want to have to remember all those search engines and use them individually.

It would of course be useful if TurboScout told us which engines were good for what types of searches...

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Readers want more video

Keyword: . That's the upshot of this report from the Online Publisher's Association, which also has the useful stats that,
"The largest proportion, 66 percent, report viewing streams of news and current events, while 49 percent see movie trailers, 29 percent eyeball music videos, and 27 percent check out sports highlights. Those figures might be somewhat skewed, however, because many of the sites included in the survey were online newspapers or magazines."
Somehow, however, I can't see publishers investing just to please these surfers.

Ignore at your peril: the beauty of the email newsletter

Keyword: . If you're a news organisation with a website, there can be far better uses of your resources than creating an email newsletter. It creates a constant relationship with your audience, reminds them of your existence, and can even create a feedback loop that leads to better stories and more participation in discussion.

Radio 4's The Message is one good example of this, with a weekly newsletter and email facility on its site (that's pretty much it apart from audio of the last broadcast), and the BBC as a whole are very good for email updates - their sport section, for instance, allows you to receive email alerts for your favourite team. The Guardian have a number of email services for specialist areas such as media, football, cricket, travel, education, society and so on, which surely drive a significant amount of traffic to the site. And Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow co-authors their excellent Snowmail service, which adds a personal touch to the medium.

I could go on, but I'd rather wait for others to email me their recommendations...

UPDATE (Mar 7 05):

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What makes a good blog posting?

I've been mulling this one over in my head: what makes a good blog posting? Here's my bullet point list, based on a mix of reading and browsing:
  • Firstly, it should have a clear headline. None of this cryptic, punny rubbish - tell me what it's about. Now. Chances are I'm reading this in a list of headlines and I need to know if it's relevant.
  • Secondly - and this is not a blanket rule - but it shouldn't be overlong. Note I don't say "short" - what I mean is it can go on for a while if it's a worthy analysis, but otherwise, don't keep us waiting with fluff.
  • Thirdly: focus and relevance. Pick your subject and stick to it.
  • Clarity.
  • Transparency – link to everything you mention. And deep-link: that is, don't link to the homepage, link to the specific page that concerns what you're talking about.
  • Knowledge - why would we read what you write, if you cant back it up?
  • Finally, the best blog postings have personality – a passion about the subject and, if appropriate, a wit in talking about it.
Now, if you want to read someone else's opinion, The Washington Post give their tips here.

Clearing out my Bloglines

Keyword: . I've been clearing out my Bloglines subscriptions as they seem to have grown out of control to the extent where I never actually get around to reading them. So, if I don't see me reading them every day, they're gone - or at least moved to a place where I'll still check it, albeit less often.

Out goes News Dissector, which, er, dissects the day's news (in America), as does the similarly focused Media Matters for America, Nieman Watchdog and Orcinus. I'm tired of reading about America - it's like I've been watching depressing art films for months and have decided to enjoy myself for once with Dodgeball instead.

NEWSgrist looks eclectically curious, but is still out - likewise The Revealer. And while I like the idea of The Smoking Gun, reading it every day is a silly idea.

Finally the whole of my 'general' folder goes out the window: Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok's comment on microeconomic theory and the globalization of culture at “Marginal Revolution”, and alternative media site AlterNet. Out go “Iraq: The Model” and “Baghdad Burning,” which respectively support and oppose the U.S. military intervention; the right-wing “Edge of England’s Sword” and the pro-war leftist “Harry’s Place.” “Slugger O’Toole” 's blog covering the Northern Ireland beat, and “A Fistful of Euros”' overview of Western European politics. BlogAfrica's syndicated blogs from across that continent, Living in China's expatriate perspective on Chinese politics and society and Japanese tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Joi Ito (“Joi Ito’s Web”) also get ditched. Really, who was I kidding?

From hacks to hackers: the future of celebrity journalism?

Keyword: . I was pretty amused when a contact emailed me Paris Hilton's phonebook, which has been hacked and distributed online. Tempted as I am to call her dad and ask for a loan, or ring Fred Durst for a casual chat there wasn't much I could do with it. Mainly because it's not journalism - just a hacker who wants to spread some gossip - but it's perhaps a sign of how celebrity journalism in particular may go: how long till hacks have their own hackers? (sorry, couldn't resist that). Paris certainly isn't the first, as this article attests.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Story leads from messageboards

Keyword: . Here's a great example of a messageboard posting that a savvy journalist could pick up on and turn into a story: Bolton Wanderers fans complaining of poor ticket arrangements for the FA Cup game on Saturday (itself newsworthy due to the low turnout). I won't add my own experiences of ordering tickets for Bham City away only to find that they'd never processed it. Oh well, I just did.

Why journalists should use RSS

Keyword: . The internet really is a gift for the lazy journalist - but for the lazy journalist who's prepared to put in a little work now to be extra lazy later, it's heaven.

Take RSS (Really Simple Syndication). RSS allows you to subscribe (free) to 'news feeds' for a particular site or blog, that can then be displayed on a single page - or, if visiting one website rather than dozens is too much work, it can even be emailed to you.

The first thing you'll need is an RSS reader like the web-based Bloglines or the PC-based RSS Reader (you can find a list of others here). If you use My Yahoo! that also now allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds.

With that done, all you need to do is find the RSS feeds for the websites you're using - if they have one. Look for an icon on the site that allows you to subscribe - for instance this one:

Subscribe with Bloglines

Or, more commonly, this one:

When you click on the XML icon you may see a page full of code. Don't worry. Just copy the web address of that page and paste it into your RSS reader when it asks for the feed address. (more info about that XML icon here)

Even if there isn't an icon, if it's a blog, chances are it has a feed, as most blogging sites have RSS built in - for Blogger blogs, for example, just add /atom.xml on the end of the site address (this blog's RSS feed, for example, is at Bloglines also has a helpful facility when you click on 'Add' that allows you just to type in the 'user' of the blog that you want to subscribe to (the 'user' for this blog is 'ojournalism').

In truth it's a lot more complicated to explain than it is to actually do. Once you've subscribed to Bloglines, for example, you can put a button on your toolbar that says 'Subscribe with Bloglines'. When you find a useful blog or news site, you just click that button and confirm your subscription to the particular news feed.

If you use Firefox, it's even easier, as an orange icon appears in the bottom right corner of the browser whenever there is an RSS feed - just click on it to add it to your favourites as a news feed.

A little bit of time spent getting to grips with this can save hours of browsing.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Debating the end of journalism

Keyword: . Unsubtly titled 'The Fall and Fall of Journalism', an event in London at the end of the month will debate "whether the traditional role of journalists is being usurped by simply anyone who has access to a digital camera, camcorder and the internet." It continues "This debate will explore the new phenomena of citizen reporting, blogging and other new technology/new media-enabled reporting." Some interesting speakers.

Blog promotion tip

Keyword: . Buried within the text of this article on Google AdSense is the following tip on getting your blog listed by Yahoo!: "just add the URL of your blog to your My Yahoo page and Yahoo! will start accessing it immediately." A-ha.

A magazine about blogging?

Keyword: , . Particularly humourous posting regarding a magazine about blogging. This must be one of the most stupid ideas I've heard in a while. The mag is web-based rather than print-based, and you'd think any publication about blogging would be thinking of taking full advantage of the medium. Instead they publish in PDF format. And, as Rex says, "a magazine about blogging is about as appealing as a magazine about talking on the telephone. Or a magazine about using a fax machine." Now there's an idea...

Saturday, February 19, 2005

359 foods recalled - the online angle

Keyword: . The story that broke this week about the hundreds of food products that had to be recalled because they contained an illegal ingredient was a perfect opportunity for the use of the internet. Broadcasters unable to provide the full list on air could refer viewers to their website - and to their credit, they did.

Strangely, however, the BBC's list was in PDF format, making it inaccessible to some, as well as preventing it being searchable - although they did also link to the Food Agency's table-format HTML version. ITV simply listed all 359 products as one very ugly list - not particularly easy to browse.

The Guardian's report took the easy option of linking to the Food Agency's list, as did The Independent, The Mirror, and The Sun (whose article is illustrated by so many images that it almost qualifies as a cartoon). The Telegraph provided extra links to Pot Noodle and the statement from Premier Foods.

A little extra thought and one of those institutions could have made a searchable database of that list - creating massive traffic for their site. The Guardian did think to position the story within the wider issue of food concerns but missed the opportunity to help their readers find out if they have the affected foods (admittedly this is also something that the Food Agency should have done).

As a last note, I was particularly amused at the response from a Food Agency spokesperson to the question as to what concerned consumers should do. 'Take the food to the supermarket where they bought it', was the response. What? All of it? Every single item the person is concerned about? Give that person a pay rise.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Writing for the Web

Keyword: . I have a mantra that I repeat whenever talking about writing on the Web: brevity, scannability, interactivity.

The first - brevity - comes in the writing: write in short sentences, in short paragraphs that each only cover one concept. This not only helps the person reading on-screen, but also helps them scan the article for the salient points.

Scannability comes when you edit the article: break it up with subheadings where you can; use bullet or numbered lists where appropriate. Again, this helps the reader find what they want to without having to concentrate too hard.

Interactivity at its most simple level comes at the end of the article: links. At the least, link to your sources; at the best, link to where your reader might want to go next: related articles, definitions, places to donate, places to contribute or discuss. You should imagine yourself in their place and anticipate their needs.

A good exercise is to take a particularly cumbersome, badly edited article, and edit it for the web. Thanks to one of my students for introducing me to this one from the Jewish Post website.

This fails on every count. Brevity? Try overlong pars. Scannability? Fat chance - no subheadings, and the article is spread over several pages with no signposting as to which page you're on. Interactivity? A massive opportunity wasted, with no links - and this is an article that could have linked to organisations, more depth on the issues involved, further articles - the list goes on.

So here's my challenge: edit the aforementioned article and post it on your blog - then post your link as a comment on this posting.

New contextual search tool from Yahoo!

Keyword: , . Search Engine Watch reports on Yahoo's new contextual search tool, Y!Q: "[It] lets you use all or part of a web page you're viewing as the source of a search query. Simply highlight relevant portions of text on the page and run a "related search," and Y!Q analyzes the page, extracts the most relevant concepts and uses those as inputs."

Find out more about the service - and install it - on Yahoo!'s introductory page.

Blogs of the new online journalists

Keyword: . My online journalism students have started their own blogs, with their first postings focusing on online journalism itself. Some very good postings worth checking out:

Simone Dixon: Music to your Screens (
Siobhan Erangey: readmeidomakesense
Lisa Groom's Hello (some thinking on the blog name?)
Dean Heeley and Dean Heeley Online (
Hayley Longdin's I know best
Gareth Main: Music Monstrosity (
Claire Morrall: Claire's blog
Andy's Link To Hollywood
Mark's ListenNow
Sarah Shirley's Pink Ladies
Stephanie Stephanides: fashionista blog
Ben Williams: Positive Thought
Sian Wilson: ListenToSian
Kureha Kudo's blog
Simon Williams: Heeb and Heeb Travel (
Rebecca Smith: Beccy's thoughts
Florence (Wing Shan) Fok's Women & Health

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Salon founder steps down

Keyword: . Salon, one of the earliest online magazines, is a particularly interesting case study in online publishing. Founded in 1995, it had both surfed the online bubble (to mix metaphors), and charged for access. In the title link the NYT reports on the departure of its founder, David Talbot.

To quote at length (seeing as the NYT requires registration and, most likely in future, payment):
"A former newspaperman at The San Francisco Examiner, Mr. Talbot sensed a significant business opportunity when the Web began to flourish and became one of its chief evangelists. At the time, the Web was seen not only as a utility for consumers, but as a potential giant killer as well. "Dead-tree" journalism would go the way of typewriters, the theory went, and nimble, lippy sources of information like Salon, and its chief competitor, Slate [my link], would become the must-click option for those in search of up-to-the-minute information.

"In the beginning, Salon staked a claim on cultural coverage, publishing as much as a book review a day, tart media reporting and a sex column by Courtney Weaver that was followed breathlessly by thousands. At the end of the 1990's, the site began to add political news to its mix, some of which opened eyes at other, significantly larger news organizations. Salon was the first publication to point out why it was that Representative Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican, should not have been throwing stones during the Monica Lewinsky affair. It also played a significant role in revealing some of the allegedly anti-competitive practices of Clear Channel, and broke the news that the White House was pressuring broadcasters to insert anti-drug messages into programming. More recently, Salon raised significant and lasting questions about President Bush's National Guard service."
Tip: take a trip to to see how both sites (Slate and Salon) have changed over the years.

Citizen Journalism

Keyword: . The New York Times has an interesting article on Wikinews, which has gone fully live since I last reported on it. It makes a good point that the need for deadlines and topicality means users' contributions to shaping articles may not be as important as in other Wiki projects: "Wikinews articles are short-lived, so there is a reduced feeling of contributing to a knowledge base that will last a lifetime," the article quotes Erik Möller as saying (a "technology journalist in Berlin who drafted the original Wikinews project proposal").

There's a nod to other citizen journalist enterprises such as Korea's OhMyNews which, it should be noted, still employs a team of editors. And the extremely useful IndyMedia, a collection of independent news sources with a focus on alternative and protest movements.

Thanks also to Dean Heeley for introducing me to Out There News, "a channel for filmmakers, journalists and anybody caught up in the news to reach a world audience." with a current focus on Islam and the West. The site asks for "video, photos or articles which tell strong stories being ignored by mainstream media". As well as considering them online publication the site says it will work to find outlets for them in broadcast and print.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Celebrity gossip source

Keyword: . The web is an excellent place to source celebrity gossip and media whisperings. Popbitch and The Friday Thing* have already made a good name for themselves with said product - but The Media Guardian report on a new entry, Holy Moly!, whose founder describes himself as a businessman and not a journalist (despite once being an editor on said Popbitch). It'll be interesting to see if the site does manage to make money from its target market of "stocking fillers". In the meantime, the site design is making my brain bleed and I need to lie down...

*I tell a lie: The Friday Thing is more about analysing the media and current events, but is a good example of an email newsletter that's made a name - and a little money - for itself.

Games and news

Keyword: . While searching for a definition of shovelware specific to news organisations, I came across this curious welcome speech of a conference from 2001 entitled "Playing the News: Interactive Narrative and Games". It gives a number of useful links (many, sadly, dead) to examples of forms of online journalism, while the overview of the conference still suggests some creative ways of thinking around interactive methods of journalism.

Certainly I think the opportunities for using games within journalism have been vastly under-exploited, most likely because that sort of thinking comes from a computing paradigm, rather than the print and broadcast journalism paradigms which have dominated online newsrooms in the past decade. Even a simple quiz can engage the reader in ways that a clickable interactive fails to do, while reinforcing information and making it more memorable.

Anyway, here's some of those useful links:
"MSNBC’s Rainforest simulation :

These are decision making elements that get a reader involved in thinking about the implications of decisions.

The Guardian’s Budget Game:

Quiz Game:

News quizzes or quizzes related to a news story – here’s the Beatles one..,5962,362873,00.html

The Helsingen Sanomat Head Hunter game is really just a feature column on how to be effective in a job interview – made into an interactive quiz…

Arcade Games with a learning component

The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel has a whole series of things they have done… show the roach game…

Product tie-in game – done by the newspaper… our own Jesse Weisbeck did the Escape from Mars game…"

As I'm a lazy thing let me know which ones are dead and I'll put a note.

Online jobs

Keyword: . I don't often post jobs here (i.e. I never have), but here's an interesting ad for online editorial roles, with an impressive wage packet attached. Anyone else know of any jobs - or sites for jobs in online journalism/editorial - let me know.

dotJournalism relaunches

Keyword: . dotJournalism - one of the few British sites covering online journalism - has relaunched, now looking less like an offshoot of the NUJ website and more like a seventies bathroom (sorry). Style aside, there's always some great content here, including this interview with Richard Burton, web editor of

Monday, February 07, 2005

Tell me your blogs

Keyword: . If you have a blog about online journalism, let me know by posting a comment.

A medium still finding its form

Keyword: . From basic 'shovelware', where articles written for print are simply reproduced online, through articles with media clips and live Q&A sessions, to multimedia clickable interactives that combine text, sound, video and animation, online journalism seems to be a medium still trying to find its definitive voice. Whether there ever will be a definitive 'form' of online journalism is a question worth considering. Perhaps it's more likely that most non-online journalism will take on its interactive qualities in some form or another, sooner or later: we already have the "text-us-your-opinions", the "check our website", and the "press the red button".

Jonathon Dube of has an excellent article about the range of online storytelling methods which includes some great examples of the various forms. Please comment if you have your own examples to add to the list.

UPDATE (Jan 8 05): Thanks for the comments. Dean highlights this Flash interactive from the Guardian about what the 'threat alert levels' actually mean. Simple idea that's easy to do and works well. Likewise the Bird Flu interactive explaining how different countries were affected by the outbreak, as well as the science behind the disease - and this interactive on the Iraq elections. Giving more options to the user is this interactive on ethnic communities in London: the user can explore the map to see where different communities are concentrated.

Simon picked up on this article from the Jewish Post - it's a good example of how not to do online journalism: the article runs for pages, paragraphs are too lengthy to read on screen, and there are no links or attempt to engage the user. Likewise this article on the 39th Superbowl - and this one too - gives the user nowhere to go next - although it does offer a printable version and email article option.

Much more like it is this Daily Mail article about the Soham case, which gives the user lots of options for further information, including archive stories and a slightly distasteful picture gallery.

Also worth looking at is a comparison of articles about the immigration issue: 1xtra's involvement of the user by allowing them to post opinions, versus The Guardian's more flat treatment.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Video search engines