Wednesday, June 29, 2005

NewsIsFree updates

[Keyword: ]. NewsIsFree has updated its website with a new XML-based search engine - SIETS - which "allows its end users to read and search news headlines also from sites which do not provide RSS feeds." Looks pretty impressive at the moment.

The site is also beta-testing new functionality for page browsing at

The future of news - on film, online

[Keyword: ]. I'm currently downloading BlogTorrent specifically so I can then download EPIC, a film about the future of news distribution, as reported on I'll post comments once I've watched it...

The best idea I've seen this week

[Keyword: ]. Sick of having to forever register with sites just to scan through an article that turns out to be of no interest anyway? Always losing registration details and having to re-register? I'm ticking both those boxes and so particularly welcome the BugMeNot add-in for the Firefox browser which reportedly "automatically fills in the fields (with bogus information)"

Print/Web Overlap: Good or Bad?

[Keyword: ]. More from Poynter (yes, I'm catching up with my emails again) - this time worth quoting in full:
"Two recent reports, from Nielsen//NetRatings (PDF) and from Scarborough Research (PDF), present conflicting numbers, but both cite substantial unique, unduplicated website usage.

"But is that a good thing? One point of view says that a low overlap means the website is extending the total reach of the newspaper, capturing readers -- especially younger readers -- who prefer the Internet as a medium. Without a robust website, the newspaper might simply lose those readers forever, the argument goes. Scarborough clearly favors the "Integrated Audience" metric as supporting combination print/Web ad sales.

"But there's a countervailing point of view. I know of one major newspaper that has set a multiyear strategic goal of raising that overlap to 50 percent. Pepper and Rogers might support that concept, because it indicates a deeper, more powerful relationship with your best customers. But executing that plan could be difficult. It requires significant attention to creating different products and different experiences online and offline. That raises challenges in the areas of content, services, branding, and promotion."
I'm off to read these reports for a possible update...

It's not the content, it's the medium

[Keyword: ]. Poynter's Steve Outing is encouraging "newspaper folks" to read a piece by Rich Gordon on similarities between the current reaction to new technology, and the introduction of the transistor radio in the 1950s. To quote Outing quoting Gordon: "Newspapers' problem in the Internet age is not, mostly, their content. It is, instead, the package (or device) the content comes in that compares unfavorably to the Internet in the eyes of young people."

You could probably pick any number of other parallels with the introduction of new technologies. The introduction of television news, for instance, reduced the importance of the 'immediacy' of newspaper reporting (as it was always a day late), so the importance (and number) of features and analysis increased. I could go on, but as this is one of the areas of my MPhil, I'll leave it for another time...

A CNET wiki

[Keyword: ]. Another great example of wikis being used by a news organisation -'s ongoing report on India's technology industry (Courtesy of Poynter). It seems the form suits rolling and analysis-heavy stories like this best.

This comes after the LA Times' experiment with a 'wikitorial' went awry. To quote from The Guardian:
"At first the comment piece evolved sensibly. But once the newspaper's online monitor had gone to bed all hell broke loose. Discussion of US exit strategy from Iraq gave way to 'Fuck USA' and hardcore pornography. The feature was pulled after 48 hours.

"The newspaper, cheered perhaps by the high ratio of encouragement to derision in bloggers' post mortems, has promised to revive the idea with better policing."

2005 Online Journalism Awards Open for Entries

[Keyword: ]. This one's from the Online News Association (ONA) and the USC Annenberg School for Communication. Read the press release here. Contest rules, entry forms and information are available at .

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The improbable success of the elephant

[Keyword: ]. The BBC's continuing online dominance in the UK is making some wonder if the trickle-down theory that the Beeb espouses (we're bringing people online, and they'll soon drift on to commercial media sites as well, so stop complaining we're undermining the business of online news) is still tenable - see the Economist (subscription site, sorry) and Hypergene.

Seems to me, though, the big, big story is the BBC's success at getting people to contribute high quality content online and giving people open access to its creative archive. A public service ethos being truly translated for a new medium. As wired says, "America's entertainment industry is committing slow, spectacular suicide, while one of Europe's biggest broadcasters - the BBC - is rushing headlong to the future, embracing innovation rather than fighting it."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

and now the news, from BT

[Keyword: ].
""It's very future-looking," the BT spokesperson says, but it doesn't look a future shaped by public service goals. BT's just launched a trial of radio and TV services for cellphones. Virgin UK customers, initially a trial of 1000 around London, have been able to from yesterday listen to up to 50 digital radio stations and watch clips from satellite TV. The other cell phone companies are putting their toes in the water in similar ways. Might be the future of radio, and I can get enthusiastic about the coming together of online and radio, with the tens of thousands of stations I'll be able to tune into as I commute to work. But look at the growing power of the telcos. We're getting closer to a situation where the same few companies control access to most of people's digital media, and where those companies are ones that think of people first and foremost as consumers. What's BT's commitment to quality journalism and public debate?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Legal Guide for Bloggers

[Keyword: ]. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has helpfully produced a legal guide for bloggers - although, being American its applicability in the UK and other countries will vary. Any pointers for a similar guide for the UK?

11-steps to incorporating citizen journalism in your site

[Keyword: ]. Steve Outing has put together a great 11-step guide to incorporating citizen journalism in your site - an article so good I'm thinking of ways to 'highlight' this posting so it stands out as a particularly useful one. Here's the bare bones:
  1. Opening up to public comment
  2. The citizen add-on reporter (i.e. "solicit information and experiences from members of the public, and add them to the main story to enhance it.")
  3. Open-source reporting ("a collaboration between a professional journalist and his/her readers on a story, where readers who are knowledgeable on the topic are asked to contribute their expertise, ask questions to provide guidance to the reporter, or even do actual reporting which will be included in the final journalistic product")
  4. The citizen bloghouse (adding reader blogs to your site)
  5. Newsroom citizen 'transparency' blogs ("inviting readers to blog with public complaints, criticism, or praise for the news organization's ongoing work. [...] A milder form of this is the editor's blog -- typically written by a paper's top editor and explaining the inner workings of the newsroom and discussing how specific editorial decisions are made")
  6. The stand-alone citizen-journalism site: Edited version ("establishing a news-oriented Web site that is comprised entirely or nearly entirely of contributions from the community")
  7. The stand-alone citizen-journalism site: Unedited version
  8. Add a print edition
  9. The hybrid: Pro + citizen journalism (e.g. OhmyNews)
  10. Integrating citizen and pro journalism under one roof
  11. Wiki journalism: Where the readers are editors (e.g. Wikinews)
Amazingly, he also provides examples of nearly all of these (note that these are not necessarily techniques he advises using all of the time, every time).

UPDATE: Outing has since added 'wikitorials', although he's yet to find out what it is yet...

Simon Waldman's speech on the opportunity/threat of RSS and news aggregators

[Keyword: ]. A little late to report, but it's worth reading Simon Waldman's speech on the opportunity/threat of RSS and news aggregators, in which he sees "three critical issues we are going to face with RSS.

"The first is what’s happening to our readers.

"The second is what’s happening to our content.

"And the third – is what’s going to happen to our classified ads."

On the second he makes these points:

"The prioritisation, structure and design that we have given to our content in our papers – and on our websites - is lost as we all become just one feed among many.

"[...] My three tips for dealing with it are simple to say – but tricky to implement.

"The first is your content itself [...] has to be distinctive – it has to be able to stand out on a global news stand.

"[...] The second is more technical – but has to do with how your site is technically marked up, to make sure that you can offer exactly the feeds that people want, and that the information is presented in exactly the right way.

"And the third is that you have to think of the story page on your site – as your front page."

A Guide to Computer Assisted Reporting

[Keyword: ]. Published by Poynter, this guide is a lengthy but helpful guide to the uses of Computer Assisted Reporting, with case studies to illustrate them.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Finding local blogs - if you're in America

[Keyword: ]. Thanks again to Poynter for pointing out the latest blog search engine which allows you to search by location and subject. Sadly, Blogdigger Local only allows you to search by US zip codes and state names - surely someone can do the same for the UK, or the world? (although Blogdigger promises to expand its range in time)

For now we'll have to settle for tools more suited to sailors: Jonathon Dube suggests, "if you want to search outside of the U.S., you can use the Blogdigger Local Advanced Search form [] and enter your latitude/longitude coordinates."

So how do you easily find those coordinates? My tip is Multimap: once you've found a place it lists the latitude and longitude below the map.

PS: Other location-based blog search engines recommended by Poynter include FeedMap ( "The only blogs included in here are ones that individuals have entered. Anyone can geo-code their blog and enter it, and once they do so they get a "BlogMap" to put on their site."

- And Videoblogger Map, "a map of videobloggers around the world ( Click on the dots to go to individual blogs. There aren't very many on here, but it's a nice approach and could be handy as more are added."

A suggestion for improving site registration schemes

[Keyword: ]. Poynter's Steve Outing has a suggestion for improving registration schemes: a big "PLEASE REGISTER" banner above the content, which will go away when they register.

"My guess is that nearly all regular users of a site employing this scheme will register, in order to make the registration-request graphic go away. One-time visitors won't, but they'll still get what they want -- and be exposed to the site's advertisers."

Software for drawing maps

[Keyword: ]. have a helpful and brief article on what types of software are best for drawing maps (whether that be interactive maps or illustrative). It's all about vector art.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Half the population on broadband

[Keyword: ]. Another survey shows the take-up of broadband Internet in homes is reaching a critical mass for the industry. About half of homes in South Korea have fast connections and Europe is close to overtaking it. Nearly half of homes in Denmark and the Netherlands now have fast Internet access, and the rate of increase is pretty high, according to a Dutch research company, TelecomPaper.

In New Zealand, where I'm based, the media industry is pretty wary about putting broadcast media content online or about adding to current (essentially shovelware) online content, saying they'll wait till dial-up is replaced by faster, always-on connections for most people. I tend to be sceptical about arguments that technology drives the media, but on this one maybe the changing infrastructure is the next big thing for online journalism, just because it's been holding things back for so long.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Blogs lead, but they also follow

[Keyword: ]. Interesting article in The Guardian about research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that looked at 40 "of the biggest and most respected political blogs and the extent to which they influence and are influenced by other media.":
"Its results show that bloggers are generally following another agenda, whether that of a political party or another medium, but also highlights the extent to which they can now influence the mainstream media on certain topics. "Sometimes blogs lead and can be very influential and other times they're followers," he says.

"... Rathergate showed that when bloggers were able to access primary evidence in the same way as newspaper journalists, they could run with a story."
Writer Owen Gibson comments that in the UK, "With the odd exception (Guido Fawkes' and Mick Fealty's Slugger O'Toole blog on Northern Ireland for example), there is little heavyweight comment and it is rare to see a blog break a story or substantially move it on" - this being attributed to the "more rambunctious nature" of the UK press, although Neil McIntosh, the assistant editor of Guardian Unlimited,
"says that a breakthrough Rathergate moment is inevitable sooner or later. "You'd be daft to say never. All that it takes is someone to see that a properly produced Private Eye-style blog would work brilliantly on the web. You'll get something like that in Britain." Cornfield also points to evidence of bloggers mobilising the "No" vote in the French referendum on the EU constitution as proof that it just takes the right kind of issue to spark interest."

Innovative online journalism

[Keyword: ]. Matthew Buckland at Poynter highlights a great example of "how effectively blogging and online multimedia can be used to report on an event on almost zero budget."

To quote:
"At the recent launch of Creative Commons South Africa, attended by none other than the father of Creative Commons himself, Lawrence Lessig, a group of Rhodes University (South Africa) new-media journalism students blogged the conference in real time, on their laptops and with their mobile phones and video cameras. The site was continually accessed by delegates in real time via wi-fi as the presentations happened.

"The innovative students even built their own content management system for the conference. They note on their website, "... One of the features we identified quite early is the use of mobile phones to post images directly from the event to the website. This is done by conference delegates by posting pictures from their camera phones via MMS-to-Email. Our server checks the POP mail account for new images and publishes them on the site. This type of innovative journalism is a small part of our broader approach to change journalistic practice in Africa."

Sunday, June 05, 2005

normalising blogging

[Keyword: ]. When journalists blog, they stick pretty close to the traditional role of information provider, according to an article in the latest issue of the Journalism journal (link is to subscription content, but the abstract's free). That shouldn't be news to anyone who reads j-blogs from inside news organisations, but it's a reminder that we're a long way from the we media that so many commentators are waiting for.

Jane Singer found that almost none of the 20 US j-blogs she studied allowed users to post comments. Some regional or local newspaper blogs quoted and referred to their readers' feedback, but the big national media had almost no reader content. She also found that, although postings often had links (an average of 2.3 per post), the overwhelming majority were either to the host news organisation website or to a small number of elite news sites (Washington Post, NY Times, etc). Her conclusion: journalists 'are unwilling to relinquish or even share their gatekeeping role'.

I think she's right on the reason why. Most journalists doing blogs for their news organisations see blogging as a high-tech extension of their existing job rather than as something different. Columnists write blogs like their columns and reporters provide info, with links to the places they always get their news from.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The prestige of print

[Keyword: ]. "Two-thirds of reporters still think working in print is more prestigious than web journalism," reports the Press Gazette, based on a survey by, although it seems a pretty unusual sample: the survey's respondents were "drawn from's 2,000 registered members, who use the site to syndicate and sell their journalism worldwide".

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Online journalists paid well (in America)

[Keyword: ]. So says this survey, reported by Poynter, who say:
"Salaries for new-media types compare very favorably with those in advertising, public relations, and marketing. They blow away the newspaper, magazine, radio, and television salaries for all but the national media in the Northeast.

"The survey shows that the median salary for online/new-media personnel ranges from $53,000 in the South and Midwest to $60,000 in the West and Northeast."
Hopefully, as with many things in the US, the UK will follow.

One reaction to falling newspaper sales...

[Keyword: ]. to share content, as are the Wall Street Journal and Post according to The Guardian. Is this the beginning of consolidation in the industry?

Perhaps only in the West, as rising sales in markets outside of the US, Europe and Australia mean that newspaper sales overall are up.