Friday, March 31, 2006

News Consumption and the New Electronic Media

[Keyword: ]. Douglas Ahlers has published a useful paper in the Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics (Vol. 11, No. 1, 29-52) on 'News Consumption and the New Electronic Media' (PDF). It looks at people's consumption of news across online and offline media, as well as the threat to newspaper advertising from the web. Ahlers argues that:
"Theories of the adoption rate of new technologies have focused on two mechanisms that overcome the costs of switching. The first is if an immediate gain can be achieved by switching to the new technology. The second is if the new technology produces increasing returns to adoption. “Increasing returns to adoption are said to exist when the net benefit to the user of a technology increases as the degree of adoption of that technology increases.” [Robin Cowan, “High Technology and the Economics of Standardization” (paper presented at the International Conference on Social and Institutional Factors Shaping Technological Development: Technology at the Outset, Berlin, May 27-28, 1991), 4.]

“With data suggesting that consumers have greater preference for the offline media or see little difference, and in the absence of a major driver to overcome switching costs, we can predict a slow adoption curve or a failure to ever produce a mass market phenomenon.”

He concludes by saying:

“A close analysis of available industry data leads us to conclude that the hypothesized migration of consumers from the traditional news media to the online news media has not happened. At least it has not happened to a magnitude that could be characterized as the collapsing of the traditional news media. We can conclude that there is no indication that the industry is in free fall or that the doomsday talk is justified.

“The online advertising component of the industry is smaller than it first appears. Most of the impact from online advertising is in the area of classified advertising, but even here we estimate the impact to be between 10 to 15 percent. The Internet also provides new revenue streams in the area of online classifieds, as traditional news media companies compete online to recapture a portion of the total online advertising revenues.

“A customer segmentation model is a more appropriate way to view news consumption behaviors. There is not a one-size-fits-all pattern of news
consumption. Instead, there is a broad range of news consumption behaviors. Some
users will go online only for their news, others will never abandon the traditional news media, some will be light users of all media, and still others will embrace all media and be multichannel news consumers. For only a small group, the online news media will act as a substitute for the traditional news media. For the majority, it will act as a complement.” (p48)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Innovating in online journalism - but not where you'd expect

[Keyword: ]. It would be easy to overlook 'Lads' Mags' in looking at online journalism, but a quick tour around the likes of brings up some innovative uses of the medium. The site makes particularly strong use of video - showing, if nothing else, that they know exactly what their readership wants. The centrefold shoot? So old hat. How about the video of the centrefold shoot? How about photo galleries? Screensavers? Desktop wallpaper? An email newsletter? Yes, it's all as titillating as you'd expect, but add in Web TV, mobile content and FHM on your PSP and you can't argue they're not making the most of the medium.

More on citizen journalism from Press Gazette

[Keyword: ]. I've yet to see the print version but Press Gazette's website has already published the articles from this week's Reporter's Guide to Citizen Journalism: here's the page's text with links in full:

"Our Reporter’s Guide to Citizen Journalism is introduced by Mike Ward of the
University of Central Lancashire, who argues that professional news organisations cannot afford to ignore citizen journalism. Julie Tomlin interviewed citizen
journalism doyen Dan Gillmor
. Graham Holliday explained how journalists can make the best use of the blogosphere. I paid a visit to the dedicated BBC unit that sifts through the deluge of “user-generated content”. Jonathan Munro of ITV, John
Ryley of Sky News
related their experiences of using content supplied by the
cameraphone-wielding public, while Nic Robertson of CNN wrote about using a cameraphone to report from Iraq. Kyle McRae recounts the early days of his citizen journalism picture agency Scoopt, and how it has made few friends on tabloid feature desks.

"For the uninitiated, we also have some links to notable citizen
journalism projects
and social news aggregators and bookmarking tools."

PS: Thanks to Graham Holliday, who posted this link in his comment to my previous post - suitably enough, another way that journalists can make use of the blogosphere.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

BBC vows to reinvent web services

[Keyword: ]. It's all about on-demand services, says this article by the BBC itself. And as if Microsoft wasn't big enough, it sounds like they'll be able to leverage the BBC brand, as Ashley Highfield, director of the BBC's new media division, "said the BBC would work with technology firms like Microsoft."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"Citizen journalism" - or just Our Journalism done by Joe Public?

[Keyword: ]. Citizen journalism as a buzzword seems to be gathering pace in newsrooms around the country, and at the same time losing some of its definition. Consider this report from the latest Press Gazette, categorised 'citizen journalism' and sneeringly headlined The day ‘Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells’ took over the news room. It covers "a one-day project that handed over the production of evening flagship news programme South East Today, as well as BBC Radio Kent's drivetime show and Kent's Where I Live website to 14 licence fee payers."

It's a typical institutional response to citizen journalism: making 'citizens' into 'journalists' by bringing them into the institution itself. But the point of citizen journalism, it seems, is that citizen journalists operate outside of those institutions, and the processes and cultures that come with them.

Consider this quote from one of my online journalism students, Masum Ullah, who was asked to investigate citizen journalism as part of an assignment:
"The idea of a citizen journalist is to harness the power of the audience to participate in the news media. If we get articles and stories written by the people, we will get a totally different perspective to the news and current affairs.

"Citizen journalism websites open up to public comment which enables readers to attach comments to articles and also gives the opportunity for readers to react to, criticise and praise what's published by professional journalists. This concept means we are getting different perspective of the news from the audience and the institutions. Both are interacting to give a new type of journalism and news. Readers of stories may want to make their own judgements or they might want to make the story better, so that effectively a news story will change all the time.

"Professional journalists and their readers are basically working together and combining their knowledge and expertise to provide a journalistic product. Everyone who contributes is helping each other by enhancing their understanding and knowledge of a particular issue or news story."
If the BBC or Press Gazette had only done as much thinking as Masum, they might have done more than rely on their own institutionalised ways of doing things.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Telegraph to begin online and print convergence

[Keyword: ]. So reports
"Inspired by visits to converged newsroom initiatives in the US, new online city editor Philip Aldrick will be leading a drive to provide early morning, breaking-markets news like a wire service, increasing the amount of content unique to the website.

"Currently around 90 per cent of content from the newspaper is reproduced online; the remaining 10 per cent is unique to the site.

"USA Today and the New York Times both announced plans last year to converge their online and offline publications. NYTimes said the company was ready to 'raise digital journalism to the next level'."

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Sun goes all participatory

[Keyword: ]. The Media Guardian reports on plans to link The Sun website "to the recently acquired and hugely popular community and networking site to create a "MySun" online readers' network." This isn't a new idea - New Jersey Online did something similar in the late 90s - but it does build on a massive base of "60 million registered users in the 16- and 34-years-old category, a group highly desired by advertisers". Early days, but watch this space...

[Also covered at]

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Courageous journalism: Yahoo! News

There's a post by Mindy McAdams at Teaching Online Journalism: Courageous journalism: Yahoo! News about the 2006 Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism being
"awarded to Kevin Sites. In case you (and your students) don't know about Sites, he's one of those "backpack journalists" that some old-school newsroom types might scoff at ("No one can do it all"). He's got a video camera, a satellite phone and an Apple Powerbook in his backpack (you can read all about Sites's gear), and since Oct. 1, 2005, he has been on assignment for Yahoo! News in Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq. This week he's in Afghanistan."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

New blog experiment launches

[Keyword: ]. The Guardian is promoting the launch of its CommentIsFree blog experiment with a couple of articles in today's paper - the first, a comment piece by US columnist Arianna Huffington, who was involved in a similar experiment in the US (which, by the way, isn't nearly as good as the Guardian's attempt). The sharpest point of her column comes at the end, as she talks about how blogs differ from opinion pieces:
"[The] great thing about bloggers: when they decide that something matters, they refuse to let go. They're the true pit bulls of reporting.

"That kind of relentlessness was never available to me as a newspaper columnist. When I started blogging about Judy Miller and the New York Times in 2005, it was something I never could have done as a columnist. My editors would have said: "Oh, you wrote about her last month." [...] By getting on these stories early and staying on them - and by linking to other bloggers covering the story, and having them link back to us - we helped shape and define them.

"Bloggers share their work, argue with each other and add to a story dialectically. It's why the blogosphere is now the most vital news source in America."

Less directly relevant is a piece by Owen Gibson on Rupert Murdoch's "Damascene conversion" to new media. "Internet means end for media barons, says Murdoch" proclaims the headline, followed by the straplines "Magnate hails second great age of discovery"; "Power 'moving from the old elite to bloggers'"

Anyway, back to the Guardian's blog experiment, CommentIsFree*. Firstly, it looks good. Even a cursory glance results in you getting drawn into one of the many fascinating discussions taking place. It deserves particular credit for the way it gives the user a number of different ways to navigate the content - by recency, by contributor, by subject, by activity, and so on. There's a huge amount here, and it's going straight into my personalised Google homepage...

*Described as "a collective group blog, bringing together regular columnists from the Guardian and Observer newspapers with other writers and commentators representing a wide range of experience and interests. The aim is to host an open-ended space for debate, dispute, argument and agreement and to invite users to comment on everything they read."

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tabloid puts sting video online

[Keyword: ]. The tabloids aren't particularly well-known for their use of the web in their journalism, but yesterday's News Of The World demonstrates that one area in particular - the video 'sting' - could prove increasingly fruitful. "Blowing the whistle"on Footballers' Wives star Holly McGuire's "secret life of vice" the paper's cover story pushed readers to the website to "watch our undercover video of Holly brazenly offering her sexual services". The links are given below. Titillation aside, it's also an interesting document of how an undercover reporter goes about his 'interview'.
Windows Media 56 Kbps 300 Kbps
Real Player low high

Sunday, March 12, 2006

How to use messageboards to find a news story

[Keyword: ]. Doctors spit blood over plans to let nurses operatereforms giving nurses the right to carry out routine operations - but rather than looking up her list of GP contacts, Templeton has the much better idea of scouring the messageboards at, producing quotes she probably wouldn't have got from a straight interview ("would you let an air hostess fly the plane with your family in it?" being one particularly juicy example), as well as a 'community response' feel from passages like "A doctor who urged the BMA to “put the boot in” won the support of more than 200 postings."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Where do blogs and 'citizen journalism' intersect?

[Keyword: ]. This has become a pet topic of mine of late. It seems that the term 'citizen journalism' (which used to refer more specifically to sites such as OhmyNews), as it has gained currency, has also gained a vagueness which includes blogging, moblogging, podcasts, vodcasts and other forms of online journalism under its umbrella. Some journalists' understanding of the term seems to be muddied, and often twinned with that is a view of it as inferior in some way. Mindy McAdams gives a strong argument as to when blogging can be considered citizen journalism - but it's worth noting that not all blogging is citizen journalism, and the same is true of podcasts, etc. Those who spend a little time browsing these forms will be able to pick out the good stuff.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Mindy McAdams is now blogging

[Keyword: ]. Those interested in Flash journalism or teaching online journalism should take a look at Mindy McAdams' blog (, which has been running since December but doesn't take too long to catch up on.

Gillmor writes on citizen media for the BBC

[Keyword: ]. Thanks to Steve Outing for pointing out this one: Citizen media 'guru' Dan Gillmor has begun writing a column for the BBC on the subject. The first attempt is the sort of generic introduction that often kicks off these affairs - "Media are becoming democratised, and a global conversation is emerging," he tells us, which may be news to those not in the business, but is starting to sound hackneyed. He then takes a quick tour around the tools of this global conversation - blogs, wikis, podcasts and mashups. Again, introductory stuff. No doubt as Gillmor gets into his stride and feels confident that his readers know what he's talking about, things will become more interesting.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

How to get your stories to the top of the search rankings

[Keyword: ]. The answer, suggests Robert Niles, is to publish your running stories in a wiki:
"I'm suggesting that -- instead of distinct daily takes -- news stories could be covered with encyclopedia-style articles that staffers would update with new information whenever available. How many more inbound links would such an approach get? How much higher in SERPs might this page place than a traditional story archive page? And, most important, how much more accessible would a new or infrequent reader find this approach -- as opposed to the traditional list of links to daily news stories?
"[...]Of course, there is a drawback to the wiki/encyclopedia approach. This way of writing does not well serve the loyal, frequent readers, who come to a news site looking for the latest incremental information on a topic. Why make those readers wade through paragraphs of familiar background, looking for the new stuff?
"This is where a hybrid of blogging and a wiki could prove killer. Set up your front page as a blog, providing an entry point for frequent readers to learn what is new on the site. Then maintain the archive as a collection of wiki-style summaries, recapping "the story to date" on those topics. Maintain a chronological archive, if you must, but meta-tag it as "no index" to spiders, as not to dilute their attention to your wiki-style archive pages."

Building and managing your community

[Keyword: ]. The OJR reports from OJR 2006 on 'bringing readers into the loop'. My favourite quote comes from OJR editor Robert Niles, who "compared moderating blog comments or discussion boards to basic journalism skills."

"Just asking readers the general "What do you think?" question as a topic starter will get broad, unfocused answers, he said. As any good journalist would, it's important to "maintain control of the interview."

""If you ask a targeted, well-tailored question, you're more likely to get a specific response," he said."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Newspaper Revenues Online

[Keyword: ]. Vin Crosbie over at Rebuilding Media reprints his speech on newspaper revenues online - well-informed stuff; here's a key quote or two:

"American newspapers are earning significant revenues online, particularly now
that local advertisers are going online. However, newspapers are in danger of
losing local online advertising revenues, not to TV or radio stations but to
'pure-play' Internet competitors such as Google and Yahoo. And that newspapers
must their expand their online advertising focus well beyond just the
traditional classified advertising categories of jobs, properties, and
automotive, because those three categories account for just a fraction of the
monies advertisers are spending online."

"More U.S. households now have Internet access than purchase daily newspapers."

"The average persons who visits a newspaper website visits almost eight times per month. He reads more than 45 newspaper webpages and spends more than 40 minutes on newspaper websites each month.

"Some surveys report that 40 percent of those 50 million persons are people who never read printed editions of newspapers.

"'pure play' Internet companies, such as Google and Yahoo, earned more than half of all online advertisement spending during 2005: Almost nine billion dollars. Almost 53 percent of all online advertisement spending in the United States.

"Newspapers however earned most of the local online spending by advertisers: a 41 percent share.

"Nevertheless, the 'pure play' Internet companies captured nearly a 32 percent share of local spending. Google, Yahoo!, and companies of that type are now in the local advertising business."

You can also find coverage of the issue at, who in turn report on coverage by AdAge...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Reports on the Online Publishers Association conference

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Quizzes and surveys in online journalism - opinions from the industry

[Keyword: ]. Matt King is a journalism student at UCE Birmingham's media department who has responded to the task of exploring quizzes and surveys as a form of online journalism with the kind of investigative streak all students should aspire to. Finding articles about the area hard to come by, he went out and spoke to Adam Harding, Deputy Editor of Sky News Interactive; Jon Dennis, deputy news editor for Guardian Unlimited; and a member of the Fox Online team. You can also find some great examples of the medium at his blog:, and expect to find more as the deadline for submitting his work approaches!

Disclosure: I set the task in the Online Journalism module that I teach.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Best Blogging Newspapers in the US

[Keyword: ]. Here's a great idea for teaching students about online journalism: a professor and a group of his students have drawn up "the top blogging newspapers in the U.S. among [the 100 largest] dailies. We found six standouts, two honorable mentions and some wacky blogs. Number One in our eyes: the Houston Chronicle. By a mile."

Here's the list:
1. Houston Chronicle
2. Washington Post
3. USA Today
4. St. Petersburg Times
5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution
6. San Antonio Express-News

...and two sites "where the blogging efforts were worthy of honorable mention:"
New Orleans Times-Picayune
The Oklahoman

The report lists eight factors the selectors saw as critical:

  1. Ease-of-use and clear navigation.
  2. Currency
  3. Quality of writing, thinking and linking.
  4. Voice.
  5. Comments and reader participation.
  6. Range and originality.
  7. Explain what blogging is on your blogs page.
  8. Show commitment!
- and you can read why the papers that won, did win, on the special report too.

The Bigger the Paper, the Less the Website Is Trusted

[Keyword: ]. Another one from Poynter:
"In research fellow Arne Krumsvik's latest paper (as yet unpublished), he finds that 7.4 percent of small papers' readers think that the paper's website has a lower ethical standard. The figure for larger local papers is 10.7 percent, whereas 14.3 percent of the largest papers' readership think that their paper's website has lower standards."

Could it be because they do? Adds Tags

[Keyword: ]. So reports Poynter, with an accompanying image (copied here), and notes "The site also features Technorati links on articles, which point readers to what bloggers are writing about its articles. " These are great ways to drive traffic to your sites - why aren't more papers doing it?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Digitizing the news

[Keyword: ]. I've just finished reading the excellent Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers by Pablo Boczkowski, one of the best pieces of research into online journalism I've seen (with possibly one of the dullest covers).

Boczkowski spent time in the online newsrooms of three newspapers: the New York Times technology section; the Houston Chronicle's Virtual Voyager project; and New Jersey Online's Community Connection inititative. Whether by design or accident, the sample conveniently crosses three different types of online journalism - the transferrence of print to online; experiments in multimedia storytelling; and user-generated content.

Rather than adopt a strictly journalistic theoretical framework, Boczkowski draws on media theory, technology theory, and organisational theory to produce an analysis that steers refreshingly clear of the technological determinism that normally characterises writing on online journalism (e.g. the "citizen journalism will make all journalists redundant" hype).

In conclusion, Boczkowksi questions the assertion of Gieber (1964) that news "is what newspapermen [sic] make it":
"the news in the online environment is what those contributing to its production make it [...] at least two transformations appear to distinguish the production of new-media news from the typical case of print and broadcast media: the news seems to be shaped by a greater and more varied groups of actors, and this places a premium on the practices that coordinate productive activities across these groups. This, in turn, seems to influence the content and form of online news in three ways. The news moves from being mostly journalist-centred, communicated as a monologue, and primarily local, to also being increasingly audience-centred, part of multiple conversations, and micro-local.

"[...] studies of print and broadcast newsrooms ... have tended to focus on the work of editors and reporters ... it is reasonable to speculate that at least four additional groups of players may be having a growing degree of agency in new-media news production. First [...] two newsrooms, the online one and its traditional media counterpart [...] Second, advertising and marketing personnel [...] Third, technical and design personnel [...] Fourth ... users appear to shape what is seen as newsworthy, who gets to communicate about it, and how it gets covered.

"...Becker (1982) coined the expression "art world" to refer to "all the people whose activities are necessary to the production of [works of art]" Much as art is not only the product of artists, news in the online environment ... may be what emerges from "news worlds"" (p183-184)
A welcome contribution to the literature, and one we should be building on.

Journalism tips at

[Keyword: ]. Thanks to Cyberjournalist for pointing this one out:, a "A collection of simple, useful and practical journalism tips" - you can also subscribe to get updates by email.