Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Examples of Flash journalism

[Keyword: ]. Thanks to Poynter for collecting a number of examples of Flash journalism around the story of "the Chilean armed forces' worst peacetime disaster" when "Thirty-five young, inexperienced recruits died after they were sent to the mountain while a fierce snowstorm was beginning."

Many of the examples are in Flash but you still get a good idea:
"The media had to figure out how to show the place, as Emol.com did (Spanish) with a satellite photo, or to explain the local political circumstances, as the New York Times did.

"[T]he medical effects of low temperatures ... are well explained with a Flash animation, where you slide a bar on a thermometer and see what happens to the human body."

Friday, May 27, 2005

The future of mags in a virtual world

[Keyword: ]. Here's a discussion piece from the OJR about magazines' future with some interesting opinions. As usual in my editorial role I'll pick out the best bit:
"Jay Rosen: People who hope that the fundamentals of journalism won't change tend to attach those hopes to statements about unchanging media forms, like, 'I've lived through the death of print three times already. Remember the paperless office?' Whereas those who are hoping for change in journalism tend to get 'attached' to platform change as a kind of dynamo. I have no firm sense of what will happen with print, paper and ink. But I do think this: The strength of print is still that is scaled to the human body and what 'works' for it, or doesn't. The body and its requirements do change, but far more slowly than technology --and journalism -- do.

"Nina Link: We know from the Northwestern Magazine Reader Experience Study that people talk about magazines with some of the following words: 'it's my personal time out'; 'I lose myself in the pleasure of reading it'; 'it stimulates my thinking about things'; and 'it makes me smarter.' The physical attributes of a magazine are very much part of the experience of reading a magazine -- the size, the portability, the quality of the graphics and the ease of use. I believe strongly in the future of the paper-based magazine. It's been with us for more than 260 years. Paper-based magazines are a timely and timeless medium."

Increase in ad spending fuels new online news sites

[Keyword: ]. That's the upshot of this article from the American Journalism Review, which highlights a number of new companies venturing into online news - as well as recent trends in major news organisations buying into online operations like About.com and MarketWatch. The most useful point comes right at the end of the article, however, in these caveats:

"Jai Singh, editor in chief of CNET News, cautions that while it's easier to get into Web publishing, serious challenges await new entrants to the field. "The real cost is that to do good journalism, you've got to pay good wages to good reporters and editors," he says.

"Building a brand is not easy either, he says. "Can you be big enough to have the scale to compete with established news organizations? These things will have to be part of the business plan beyond the fact that the technology is cheaper and the ad market is strong," he says.

"According to Nolan, the key to success isn't simply getting your site up on the Web, it's getting people to read it. "The barrier to entry in this new business isn't getting published; anyone can do that. The barrier to entry is finding an audience," she wrote on the blog Pressthink.

"The new sites will have to market themselves intensely, either formally or by word-of-blog; spend money to optimize their sites (so they appear higher in search engine results); and stay current on publishing technology while keeping content fresh and accurate so that visitors will return. Those that do succeed may help online journalism fulfill some of its early promise by bringing a wide variety of fresh, independent voices to the Web."

NUJ New Media Industrial Council launches blog

[Keyword: ]. The NUJ's New Media Industrial Council has launched its own blog at http://nujnewmedia.blogspot.com/ - quite empty at the moment but expect it to fill up as contributors sign up (including me).

You can also subscribe to the Council's mailing list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nuj-newmedia/

Thursday, May 26, 2005

In-house newspaper critiques

[Keyword: ]. Poynter provides links to in-house publications at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times that "offers an interesting behind-the-scenes look at The New York Times. Among the topics covered recently: redesign efforts at the newspaper, focusing on the new Travel section and Book Review; [...] and a look at the Public Editor's first year on the job."

Sadly the links on the WSJ page all seem to be dead, but perhaps someone else can track them down...?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

BBC launches online journalism bursary

[Keyword: ]. The Digital Bulletin reports that the BBC has launched a bursary in honour of its science and technology writer Ivan Noble, who died from a brain tumour this year. "The annual bursary will give a journalist, who has recently completed a journalism course or has less than two years' journalistic experience, the chance to work on bbc.co.uk for six months. The recipient will also have a passion for science and technology."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Emails as publications

[Keyword: ]. I've always been a big fan of the email newsletter as a medium, so it's good to see that some listings-based emails are making money from advertising, according to The Guardian.
"Both newsletters are free to subscribers and while Urban Junkies is aimed at a mixed audience, Daily Candy is unashamedly female in its focus. Balfour believes that they will co-exist quite happily. But with the low entry costs, it will not be long before the market becomes even more crowded. Dazed & Confused and Vice, two of the last style mags left standing, have recently launched email services."

Friday, May 20, 2005

Google News more biased than Yahoo

[Keyword: ]. ...That's the upshot of this research (PDF) by Eric Ulken. He analysed news articles that are brought up by Google's supposedly bias-immune algorithms, and found that the lack of human editors resulted in more biased sources being used. He talks about his findings at the Online Journalism Review.

Open source journalism

[Keyword: ]. Letting your readers contribute to an article is not particularly new (oh I'm so jaded), but here's a recent experiment from MIT Technology Review - and some background/comment to it.

Buy your own news presenter

[Keyword: ]. Journalism.co.uk reports that news sites can now buy a virtual newsreader to read out stories for around £250 (a half price deal on till the end of May). You can have fun with a demo at creators Daden's site, which will read out RSS feeds.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

UK online research tools

[Keyword: ]. Trawling through my to-do box I found an excellent article from The Journalist by Heather Brooke on online sources. Here's a quick rundown:

The Financial Services Authority Register is "an excellent way of finding the names of directors and the boards on which they sit."

The Health and Safety Executive is "one of the most progressive and open regulators with a proactive online publishing regime. You can check the names of companies against the searchable prosecutions database, which includes all cases resulting in a conviction since 1999. The notices database includes details of all enforcement notices since 1 April 2001. The A-Z subject index of industry research reports is also useful."

The Office of Fair Trading "keeps a number of useful public registers. Some of these are easily accessible online, such as the Competition Act 1998 Register and the Register of Orders and Undertakings. However, others - the register of prohibition orders against rogue estate agents, for instance, and the Consumer Credit Act 1974 Register (which lists businesses with consumer credit agreements for issuing loans) - are not online. There is no publicity even for the existence of these registers. Journalists should pressure the OFT to make them available online."

The US Security and Exchange Commission "is a free site that monitors all companies filing SEC records, which could prove useful as many UK companies have to make them. The site will even send you an email when the company you are tracking files something new."

"Private companies that provide public services affecting the environment (such as water companies) fall under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. This law gives the public (including reporters) greater legal rights than under the FoIA for environmental information. Friends of the Earth publishes a users guide at http://community.foe.co.uk/tools/right_to_know"

Also added by David Hyatt of Halifax are The Employment Tribunal site and the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Online research links

[Keyword: ]. More useful links for online research - again, you need to take into account the fact that most are American.

Paid-for content increases - and more jobs for OJs

[Keyword: ]. The UK Association of Online Publishers has just released some research charting an increase in publishers charging for content - as well as an increase in the audiences for that content. The latter statistic is not particularly surprising given that web users and web use generally are increasing - but enough to make chairman Bill Murray state "“It’s very clear that we are starting to see the end of a general perception from consumers that the web is ‘free’".

Stats include :
  • 63 per cent of AOP member companies now charge for content online, compared with 58 per cent in 2004.
  • Paid-for content now provides 19 per cent of overall revenue.
  • A decline in one-off (micro) payments, and an increase in subscription models.
  • The largest source of revenue for respondents remains display advertising, supplying 47 per cent of all revenue. More than half (58 per cent) of AOP members are now generating more than £1 million annually from advertising alone.
  • Other sources of revenue include: recruitment classified advertising (14 per cent), content syndication (five per cent), e-commerce, sponsorship, web-design and development, listings, newsletter advertisements, and commission on sales.
  • Integration of online and offline teams increased to 79 per cent of companies (from 63 per cent in 2004), suggesting online is seen as more of an integral part of the wider organisation than in previous years."
But buried away towards the bottom of their press release is some great news for online journalists, as recruitment increases considerably:
"In the past year, 40 per cent of online publishers surveyed took on more online staff, upping their headcount by 10 on average. However, the report also found that 60 per cent of publishers on the web had unfilled vacancies, with nearly eight in 10 of them urgently seeking sales and subscription staff, and nearly half looking for editorial staff."

Got a good idea about using BBC content?

[Keyword: ]. Full credit to the BBC, who have opened up their content to Web developers with ideas about ways of using it. BBC Backstage revolves around an email discussion list which debates the ideas suggested - but it's also interesting to browse the Prototypes section and see what people have proposed, including displaying news on maps and using spam filter concepts to filter news - most of them with links that are quite useful in themselves.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Interactive PR: Who's paying the blogger?

More content you have to pay for

[Keyword: ]. The New York Times has announced that it is to charge for a new online section called TimesSelect, which "will provide exclusive access to Op-Ed and news columnists on NYTimes.com, easy and in-depth access to The Times's online archives, early access to select articles on the site, as well as other exciting features." The charge is $49.95 per year, but Poynter feels the inclusion of columnists in the section is a mistake, reducing the number of inbound links and discussion they will otherwise generate.

Of course, charging for certain parts of content isn't new - the Independent is one of the main practitioners in the UK (despite having one of the weakest sites), charging for crosswords, archive, specific articles and comment; and The Times also charges to access its crossword, or its e-paper. Crosswords also cost at The Telegraph, which offers a subscription to a weekly version of the paper, and you can get Digital editions of The Guardian and Observer.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Letting the source tell the story

[Keyword: ]. More from Poynter (you can tell I'm catching up on my mailings), who highlight "an audio slide show of a home-improvement expert talking about photographs of her home, "Home Diva." Barbara Kavovit is the sole voice heard on the feature."

Digital editions making headway

[Keyword: ]. Nice bit of statistics from Poynter about the increasing share that digital editions are taking in circulation figures. Paper may not be dead but online subscriptions certainly seem to be flourishing.

UPDATE (May 20 2005): Meanwhile, recognition of digital editions in circulation figures is also increasing, as Poynter reports Spanish newspapers counting PDF versions in their figures.

The non-profit newspaper

[Keyword: ]. Interesting moves afoot in America as a non-profit newspaper launches in San Diego, and Poynter wonders, "Is Voice of San Diego a harbinger of news reporting to come? As explained on the site, "Initial funding comes from San Diego foundations and individuals, a structure which allows Voice to be independent and nonpartisan. Long-term, Voice will rely on a combination of individual donations, corporate sponsorships, foundation grants, and advertising.""

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Paul McLeod's Web Tools for Journalists

[Keyword: ]. Paul McLeod's Web Tools for Journalists includes a number of useful links for Computer Assisted Reporting - many of them American as usual, but some very useful.

Chatroom used to expose politician

[Keyword: ]. More echo-chamber posting: here's a story I've written for Journalism.co.uk about chatrooms being used to investigate some allegations. An updated version, with quotes from an ex-UK investigative journalist, should replace it by the end of the day.

Again, in the interest of transparency, here's his thoughts in full:
"I have always been firmly against entrapment, if it involves setting someone up to commit a crime or an act of wrongdoing that they would not have otherwise committed. In my view, this is deplorable, and makes the journalist just as bad as the person they trap - if not worse.

"This should not be confused with going underground to 'catch someone in the act' . I have no problem with that at all - there are occasions when this is essential in order to get the proof you need to nail a wrong-doer. It's a valid technique for an investigative journalist. I have used it in many investigations in the past and would do the same again - although I personally would only go underground if the evidence could not be obtained in any other way, and there was a clear public interest issue involved.

"As I understand it, the Spokesman-Review used computer technology and a level of deception to catch the Mayor in the act, and I have no problem with that at all. I don't think they entrapped him. There was a genuine public interest issue - an under-18 was involved, and the Mayor appeared to be misusing his office by offering favours.

"I would have done the same in the same situation. This is a classic example of having to go underground as a last resort to obtain the evidence you need.

"I don't think it raises too many ethical issues for a journalist in this country. It's not really any different from bugging a phone - the PCC Code of Practice allows this in the public interest. And in terms of privacy, I would be surprised if anyone genuinely thought that an internet chatroom was a place where they had a reasonable expectation of privacy."

Stats: readership of online newspapers in the UK

[Keyword: ]. New Media Age's 'Analyst Speak' column by Paul Milsom of BMRB has a number of useful figures around readership of online newspapers in the UK. Here's some snippets:
  • A fifth of web users visit the online version of a national daily newspaperat least once a week - roughly 6m people per week.
  • The largest audiences are for the 'quality' titles: the Telegrap, Guardian and Times all attract over 1.5m visitors per week
  • Male majority among all audiences
There's also some information about buying and lifestyle habits.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Huffington - the backlash

[Keyword: ]. Always happy to quote my sources in full, especially when they're as witty as Laurence Simon. Here's what he had to say about Huffington.com when I emailed him in connection with an article I was writing for Journalism.co.uk on it:
"Huffington Post's blog is what you get when you get rid of all the monkeys and have an infinite number of celebrities banging away at typewriters. The only change is that there's a lot less monkey-poo being flung around. (Even though Jim Lampley and John Conyers are doing their best to fill the fecal void. Vegas oddsmakers and pollsters? STUPID!)

"Some people will think there's an upper limit to collaboration, but if it's done right, there isn't.

"Command-Post had a few hundred posters combing sources and collecting them at the start of the Iraq war and the 2004 election, but it was better-organized.

"Blogcritics has a few hundred reviewers. It's well-organized.

"Despite a group of investors and a 7-man team of codemonkeys, Huffington Post is chaos.

"They have comments on news stories and not on the blog. That's backwards. And elitist. Walter Cronkite grumbling about another useless convention and three or four celebs patting him on the back or smirking is not a conversation or a debate. Open it up to the public... you know, like the convention itself? (HAHAHAHAHA yeah right. A political convention where the public isn't involved... this isn't the Monster Raving Loony Party!)

"There's no individual RSS feeds for the various posters. For instance, I want to track just John "Kerry 311 / Bush 213" Zogby. How can I do that?
Seven codemonkeys and investors couldn't anticipate that? Why? Because the designer of the site came off of Drudge and everything was Drudge talking about Drudge and where Drudge would be appearing with Drudge's voice to talk about Drudge talking about Drudge.

"This isn't one "anchor" figurehead virtually reading the prompter that's filled by a dozen writers on his staff. This is a few hundred anchors all screaming at once.

"The future of the HP blog can be summed up in David Frum's post on it.
He had an op-ed in OpinionJournal, and used the hype and traffic from Huffington post to link to his op-ed on another site.

""Hi. Look at my other stuff. Bye. And buy bonds."

"The site will stratify into alphas, betas, and fawning twits. Cronkite and Ariana will get their boots licked clean every time they post.
Huffington's "beta" pros (David Frum, John Zogby) will exploit the site to redirect people to their pet projects and paying gigs. Huffington's amateurs (Jim Lampley) will just natter away until the site ends up needing to partner with Air America, Kos, or Democratic Underground.

"We, the public, are Gammas. Mmmmmmm... soma."
Meanwhile, LA Weekly prints a column proclaiming the "horrific debut" of the site and the decisions that led to its flop.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A 300-person blog...

[Keyword: ]. Yesterday Arianna Huffington* launched a 300-person blog, modestly named the Huffington Post. Unknown over here, it seems Arianna is able to draw on a raft of "famous showbiz friends" to post to said blog, including Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Geffen, Larry David, David Mamet and Walter Kronkite, plus plenty more I've never heard of. Personally the attraction of Larry David is enough to get me reading, but two days in the blog looks pretty slick.

*No, I didn't know who she was either. According to this very useful article in the Washington Post about the launch of her blog, she "has been a Republican activist (as a GOP congressman's wife), Democratic activist (she backed John Kerry), Comedy Central bedmate of Al Franken, syndicated columnist, author, anti-SUV crusader and gadfly candidate for California governor (she got 0.6 percent of the vote after a last-minute pullout). She envisions the blog as a big dinner party, with chatter "about politics and books and art and music and food and sex."" As publicity-seeking stunts go, well, you know who she is now...

Creating a search facility for your site

[Keyword: ]. Thanks again to the Search Engine Journal for pointing out Gigablast's new Dedicated Site Search and Custom Topic Search facilities. The Site Search facility enables you to add a search facility to your website - although it does need to be registered with the search engine.

The Custom Topic Search allows you to create a search box that will search up to 200 sites that you specify, so instead of just enabling users to search your site, you can instead provide them with the facility to search a specialist set of sites relating to your topic area - watch this blog for something along those lines.

Of course Gigablast isn't the only site to offer custom searches - Google offers the same service to non-profit institutions, to name one. If you know of any others, let me know.

Using chatrooms to sting politicians

[Keyword: ]. Poynter Online's Romenesko highlights just some of the issues raised by an article in the Spokesman-Review which used gay chatrooms to 'expose' the mayor of Spokane of using his position to "develop sexual relationships with boys and young men". To quote further from the article: "[The mayor] offered a man he believed to be an 18-year-old – whom he met online at Gay.com – gifts, favors and a City Hall internship, Internet dialogues retained by the newspaper reveal. The 18-year-old was actually a forensic computer expert working for the newspaper."

You can also read coverage of the journalistic issues at the Seattle Times, which includes responses from the Spokesman's editor and professors of journalism ethics. It not only documents the reasons behind the decision, but also the dangers of it amounting to entrapment. It's well worth reading in full, but here's a key quote:
Smith of The Spokesman-Review said ... "I would be lying if I said I'm not troubled by it. It's a step we took with great reluctance," after many newsroom discussions and after consulting with outside journalism-ethics experts.

Reporters and editors asked themselves whether they could obtain on their own the information they needed.

"What we were trying to ascertain was whether the man we were tracking on [the Web site] was, in fact, Jim West [the Mayor]. ... We had allegations from three individuals that they had interacted with this person and that this person was West. But we needed more substantial verification than they were able to provide.

... From the outset, the newspaper decided to explain to readers about the use of the outside expert and fictional scenario but debated whether to publish the chat transcripts. In the end, it did so. "It was only fair that readers saw what we saw to see if we quoted people fairly, accurately and contextually," Smith said.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The place of amateur journalism on Google News

[Keyword: ]. Kaibatsu of GrabaGeek makes the point that: "Now Google is seeking patent(s) to rank news quality ... The 4500 plus news sources will still be around but it will be harder to get your article's headline noticed to the world. So [writers on] sites like Grabageek and Neowin who promote amateur journalism will have to work harder to pass the rank rating to get your article on Google news."

Shame they didn't link to their source about Google seeking patents... I had to find it myself.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Newspaper journalists: you CAN realise that DJ dream...

[Keyword: ]. ...if you convince your newspaper to podcast, as the Denver Post has. Get your Denver news on your ipod here.

UPDATE (May 10 2005): The Philadelphia Daily News also launches a podcast, as reported by Poynter.

UPDATE (May 16 2005): Now it seems they can't resist the lure of hosting their own chat shows. And: podcasts become a trend.

Backfence.com launches

[Keyword: ]. Backfence.com being a citizen journalism site in the vein of Korea's OhmyNews. Poynter reports on the site including an interesting advertising model that allows you to place your own display ads and classified ads, "and even Yellow Pages listings". Worth exploring.

News on your Playstation?

[Keyword: ]. That's the upshot of this article on Poynter online reporting that ABC News is to provide content for the new Playstation Portable (PSP). The chances of it catching on are slim, as the writer points out: "I'd be surprised if many people spent five minutes putting a 90-second video clip on a portable player when they could just watch it online to begin with." But still, a trend worth watching.

The uni that blogs together stays together

[Keyword: ]. The idea of students maintaining blogs is nothing new, but Warwick University have taken it a stage further with their own blogging service. The Guardian reports that the service hosts more than 3,000 weblogs "but with 15,000 students at the university, at least 12,000 therefore remain unconvinced". Interestingly, students can block tutors from reading posts, and there seems to be a trend towards "gaming" the system. "For example, students have faked comments to certain posts so they are identified as hot topics and highlighted on the main Warwick Blogs page".

This main page is most interesting. Visitors can browse the blog directory to find bloggers in their area (or by name), or look at the categories page to see what's being discussed ("Crime and Deviance" was the hot topic when I visited, suggesting a recent sociology assignment must have been set). It's a great display of blogging ability, and also a great way to engender communication within an increasingly fragmented student body. And if I was working on the student paper, I'd be browsing to see where my next story might come from...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Comment on AP's move to charge

[Keyword: ]. You may have read about Associated Press planning to charge for use of its material online. Here's the take from OJR - key quote:
"AP started as a cooperative. Today, it is a cooperative in name only. It’s time to take a lesson from music swappers and invent the new AP – a digital cooperative, a Napsterized news service.

"...Members would have to adopt thorough formatting taxonomy and keywording schemes that would make articles easy to search, sort and parse for publication. Suitable schemes already exist through independent standards bodies such as the International Press Telecommunications Council and the news division of the Special Libraries Association.

"A PubSub-like function would allow a member to be notified when stories with key topics hit the networks. For instance, a Knoxville newspaper or broadcast outlet would get an alert when any member uploaded a story about the Great Smoky Mountain National Park."