Thursday, November 30, 2006

Future plans £6.7m web investment

[Keyword: , ]. That's "more than half of its planned new product development spend," reports Media Week, as the company "seeks to stabilise the business after announcing pre-tax losses of £49m in the last financial year."

Chief executive Stevie Spring is quoted as saying: "Over the past two years, we spent all of our money on acquisitions to fill in gaps, but they didn't deliver. It's clear that our core business needed time and cash and we will be moving staff into our growth areas wherever we can."

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Paul Bradshaw lectures on the Journalism degree at UCE Birmingham media department. He writes a number of blogs including the Online Journalism Blog, Interactive PR and Web and New Media

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why multimedia? It forces your competitors to credit you

[Keyword: , ]. Jeff Jarvis has been speaking to Ed Roussel, head of online for the Telegraph, "about the paper-site’s scoop last night on the hiring of BBC Chairman Michael Grade by struggling ITV", providing an insight into the workings of the newly integrated newspaper:
"Roussel said the Grade story was a model for how it should work on a new
platform that can cut across all media and tools: The story went online at 9:50
p.m. and in no time, they put up audio and video and more content, forcing those
competitors listed above to attribute the news to the Telegraph. Roussel said
there is no more debate about putting stories online first. "
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Paul Bradshaw lectures on the Journalism degree at UCE Birmingham media department. He writes a number of blogs including the Online Journalism Blog, Interactive PR and Web and New Media

Pulitzer Prize to embrace Web 2.0 elements

[Keyword: , ]. You don't get much more establishment than this: reports that "The Pulitzer Prize Board has established new rules allowing newspapers to submit a full array of online material such as databases, interactive graphics, and streaming video for its journalism awards."

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Paul Bradshaw lectures on the Journalism degree at UCE Birmingham media department. He writes a number of blogs including the Online Journalism Blog, Interactive PR and Web and New Media

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The last web news from Press Gazette

[Keyword: , , , ]. Press Gazette published its final issue with plenty of online journalism news - detailed below. Those wanting their fix of news from the excellent Martin Stabe should check out his own blog at (RSS feed generally only says something like 'links for 2006-11-22" but it's worth clicking through to the site). Here's those stories:

Web of dispute: Telegraph web supremacy claim dismissed by rivals

Telegraph editor Will Lewis has prompted a statistical battle between national papers after... Read More

Red website a likely priority as Hachette joins digital race

Hachette has become the fourth major consumer publisher this year to announce appointments to a... Read More

Dispatches website to challenge NHS postcode lottery

Channel 4's Dispatches, is to launch a unique website designed to help viewers challenge the NHS... Read More

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Paul Bradshaw lectures on the Journalism degree at UCE Birmingham media department. He writes a number of blogs including the Online Journalism Blog, Interactive PR and Web and New Media

Newspaper readership was declining before the WWW - and didn't decline any faster after it

[Keyword: , ]. Flicking through Internet Newspapers, a book edited by Xigen Li and collecting a range of articles on the medium I came across an interesting piece of research by Xigen Li and Zhanwei Cao on the 'Effect of Growing Internet Newspapers on Circulation of U.S. Print Newspapers'. Namely:
"First, the study found circulation of print newspapers has been declining since 1990. There was no difference in circulation changes between the two periods 1990 to 1994 and 1995 to 2000. The later period was marked by the popularity of internet newspapers."
Sounds like the internet has been a scapegoat for a decline in readership which predates the World Wide Web...

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Paul Bradshaw lectures on the Journalism degree at UCE Birmingham media department. He writes a number of blogs including the Online Journalism Blog, Interactive PR and Web and New Media

The ghettoisation of citizen journalism

[Keyword: , , , ]. The ghettoisation of citizen journalism continues, it seems, with the BBC's announcement of a news programme based entirely on user-generated material. "Your News, which began a pilot run on Saturday," reports, "will feature stories, features and video proving most popular with viewers on TV and the internet." This follows the previously reported announcement by Five News that they will pay for viewers' clips - with possible plans to put it in a "special section" of the news. I'm told the advert requesting this viewer content closely resembles the advert at the end of You've Been Framed.

It would be nice to see user content integrated into the newsgathering process. The danger with these devoted sections and programmes is that citizen journalism becomes trivialised as an "And finally" item, or a "Your Views"-style TV letters page. Interestingly, the Five News website has its citizen journalism right on the front page: a sign that online, at least, the viewers are being taken seriously.

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Paul Bradshaw lectures on the Journalism degree at UCE Birmingham media department. He writes a number of blogs including the Online Journalism Blog, Interactive PR and Web and New Media

Friday, November 24, 2006

'Social network' for newspapers to launch next month

[Keyword: , , ]. reports that "A computer platform that allows newspapers to share news and classified advertising will launch early next month.
"US-based CityTools will enable newspaper publishers to create content networks with one another and draw on articles written by members of the public.
"If you spin the CityTools model forward, you can go to your local newspaper website and suddenly, because they have built smart networks and smart relationships with other publishers, you get reliable content. The same kind of
mass but its all relevant to the local readership."
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Paul Bradshaw lectures on the Journalism degree at UCE Birmingham media department. He writes a number of blogs including the Online Journalism Blog, Interactive PR and Web and New Media

The power of crowds

[Keyword: , , , ]. My latest Stirrer column looks at crowdsourcing. Here's the article in full:

The power of crowds

Some journalists are afraid of their readers. They refuse to publish an email address at the end of their article; the newspaper website does not list their phone number; and as for ‘citizen journalism’, well, we didn’t spend all that time learning shorthand only for Joe Bloggs to get in on the act with no more qualifications than a mobile phone.

Others, however, are starting to realise that their readers are the best weapon they have in tackling a story that would otherwise prove too tough a nut to crack.

Take Ben Goldacre, for instance. Ben writes a regular column in the Saturday Guardian entitled ‘Bad Science’, which looks at science-related stories in the week’s media – you know, the sort of stories that begin “A revolutionary drug-free dyslexia remedy has been hailed a wonder cure by experts”.

For a number of weeks Ben has been writing about Durham Council’s claims to have run a trial of a fish oil food supplement. Durham Council staff he wrote, were “appearing all over the papers and television in news stories to promote a pill called Eye Q made by Equazen, suggesting it is effective at improving concentration and learning in normal children, an assertion that is not supported by published trial data.”

Ben’s attempts to get hold of the trial information have proved unsuccessful – firstly his phonecalls and emails went unanswered, and then his request under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act was rejected on the grounds of cost.

So Ben decided to turn to his readers. Realising that a request for just two or three of the pieces of information he had requested should not be rejected on the grounds of cost, he asked his readers to make those, smaller, requests instead, with the intention of collecting the different pieces of information together afterwards.

The readers have responded in droves: at the time of writing there were 173 comments on Ben’s blog from people who have made the FOI request - and this in a world where most journalists wouldn’t know how to make an FOI request.

But this isn’t an isolated case. It’s called crowdsourcing, and in America newspaper publishers Gannett are already looking to integrate the process into their news operations after some particularly successful campaigns – including one investigation of a local authority’s excessive water connection fees where “retired engineers analyzed blueprints, accountants pored over balance sheets, and an inside whistle-blower leaked documents showing evidence of bid-rigging.”

In a world where the only investigative journalism involves rooting through the rubbish of celebrities, and where people are increasingly cynical of power and those who hold it – both politicians and journalists – crowdsourcing provides a spark of hope that perhaps the people still do have some power, and more importantly: they’re keen to exercise it.

Useful links:

BadScience >> Fish Oil
Something fishy?
Gannett to Crowdsource News

Paul Bradshaw lectures on the Journalism degree at UCE Birmingham media department. He writes a number of blogs including the Online Journalism Blog, Interactive PR and Web and New Media

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

BBC News is 43% in touch with what we're reading (at time of writing)

[Keyword: , ]. Thanks to colleague Dave Harte for pointing this one out: it’s a webpage that tells you how in touch the BBC news agenda is by comparing what the BBC currently has as its running order on its site and what people are actually reading. Actually, 43% is probably a decent result compared to most publications...

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Online newspapers and the 2006 US election

[Keyword: , ]. The OJR provides an overview of online election coverage in the US and "finds that many newspaper websites are not making full use of the Web to inform readers about local candidates."

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Monday, November 13, 2006

The future of newspapers

[Keyword: , , , ]. Article in the Independent, of all places (the least forward-thinking of the broadsheets) with quotes from various industry people. Most of it you've heard before - the usual waffle about 'brands' and 'more people are reading newspapers than ever before' and 'it's a two-way communication with readers', but I like Piers Morgan's to-the-point assessment: "It will be the newspapers who are the most dynamic online who win. "

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Friday, November 10, 2006

‘A few thousand’ blogging professionally

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Column: whose content is it anyway?

[Keyword: , ]. Here's my latest Stirrer column:

Andrew Neil is not happy. The BBC broadcaster and former editor of The Sunday Times is the latest news executive to attack Google News, the aggregation service that collects stories from news sources around the world.

Neil opened the Society of Editors conference in Glasgow with a complaint about the service: "We don't charge them a penny for our hard-earned journalism,” he moaned. "It's time for a conversation with Google. They can afford it."

The Google News excuse is fast becoming a cliché in news circles, as newspaper revenues decline and executives cast around for someone to blame. In March journalists from The Times and the World Association of Newspapers used the Online Publishers Association to attack the service. Phillipe Janet, an online news executive with French newspaper Les Echos, said Google News should be banned form “stealing content and revenues from newspapers”.

One Belgian news organisation felt so strongly about the issue that when Google News launched its Belgian service they sued the company, saying "We are asking for Google to pay and seek our authorisation to use our content ... Google sells advertising and makes money on our content".

Now that’s not strictly true: Google News features no advertising. And when the Belgians won the case all they really won was the right not to be listed on Google. This is like suing WHSmiths for stocking your newspaper. I’ve never heard a better definition of ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’, and the newspaper website ad sales department must have been ringing with the sound of heads hitting desks.

Just as Andrew Neil bemoans the fact that newspapers don't charge Google News for their journalism, Google News could argue “We don’t charge them a penny for sending thousands of readers to their website”.

What newspapers should be doing, of course, is making a deal with Google which allows the search engine giant to start advertising alongside newspaper content, with newspapers taking a cut.

But while the dinosaurs lumber over the pennies, a limber Google is testing out fresh ideas every day that just keep fillings its coffers. And its latest plan? Acting as a broker for people to buy advertising space… in newspapers.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Google to Try Selling Advertisements for Newspapers

[Keyword: , ]. Attention Andrew Neil: Google is one step ahead of you: "Google will run a three-month test -- set to be announced today -- that is designed to make it easy for newspaper advertisers to come to the popular search-engine site, find a newspaper they want to advertise in, browse ad rates and buy an ad."

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More on the BBC's 'web 2.0' plans

[Keyword: , , , ]. Head of BBC News Interactive Pete Clifton is quoted in Press Gazette on the BBC's plans to relaunch as a web 2.0-based operation next year:
"plans include increased personalisation features for the front page of BBC News Online, an expansion of the site's live statistics tracker and possibly wiki-style pages that would let users contribute to compilations of information. A BBC News API (application programming interface) could let web developers outside the BBC access news content for their own projects."

But perhaps more noteworthy is the (welcome) focus on possible structural changes:

"An important part of the review, he said, would be examining how BBC News needs to be organised to deliver information across platforms.

"We all have to look at our newsrooms and ask ourselves whether they are set up for the challenges ahead. Is it real integration, or is there a bit of lipservice to do it with a token web person sitting at the end of the row," Clifton said, noting that competitors like The Daily Telegraph are working hard to integrate their newsrooms for multimedia publishing."

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Citizen journalism success story hitting the rocks?

[Keyword: , , ]. OhMyNews is struggling, according to Press Gazette: "According to BusinessWeek, OhmyNews could end its financial year in the red."

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The rise of user generated content

[Keyword: , , , ]. Following my previous posts on US publisher Gannett's move into citizen journalism, and the launch of MySun, Owen Gibson provides a comprehensive look at the rise of user generated content (registration required), as Channel Five launches "a major UGC drive" next Monday:

"I'm hoping people will get to know Five News as the place that really does listen to you about your story and cares enough to give you a credit, pay you and do something about it," says [senior programme controller Chris] Shaw, who insists that it is about "much more" than simply a call for story tips and mobile phone clips. The idea of paying contributors has already been trialled with some success by the mobile network 3, which rewards contributors to its SeeMeTV service every time their clip is downloaded.

"[...] But it will face stiff competition, and the issue was hotly debated at the News Xchange conference in Istanbul last week.

"Pete Clifton, head of BBC News Interactive, said the corporation - which has for some time allowed viewers to send material via its "yourpics" facility - does not pay contributors, but allows them to retain copyright. In contrast ITN deputy editor Jonathan Munro said ITV has and does pay for footage - including "tens of thousands of pounds" for footage of the arrest of some people who attempted a copycat London bombing. "We pay because it's a commercial commodity, a competitive market and has commercial value - and we'd try to recoup that value by selling the footage on to our clients."

"Authenticity is another potential banana skin [...] Safety issues are another consideration with viewer-submitted content. Fran Unsworth, head of newsgathering at the BBC, admitted to being concerned by much of the footage that had been sent in from last year's gas explosion at Buncefield.

"A lot of teenagers were coming to our link on the ground and they provided the best pictures of the day by getting far closer than the BBC's own camera crews would go," she said. "When we said we can't use this because it's too wobbly, they said 'I'll go out and get some more'." She said that as employers, the BBC could be exposed to legal action if they could be shown to have encouraged members of the public to put themselves in danger.

"But even more important than the practicalities, says Shaw, is a shift of mindset. Like many others, he believes that news organisations will have to come down from their lofty perch."

Sadly, Channel Five still seem to be ghettoising user content by putting it in a "specific portion" of the news programme.

Equally interesting are similar moves in the world of TV:

"Celia Taylor, the controller of Trouble, a digital channel aimed at 16-24 year olds, was ahead of the curve in launching Homegrown in May this year and last week the first TV programme culled from its thousands of clips was aired. Now ITV is looking at launching its own UGC site and has commissioned Endemol to make a show derived from viewer-submitted content, Sky has unveiled plans to launch a UK version of Al Gore's Current TV and next year the BBC will embark on a wholesale revamp of its website for the broadband age.

"I wanted it to become an original place for people to play and I'm pleased to say that's happened," says Taylor, relieved that most contributions appear to have been
made specifically for the service rather than merely re-posted from elsewhere.
"What I didn't want was lots of people lighting farts and falling over," she adds. The clips that have made it to the channel include soaps made in people's living rooms, skits and comedy sketches. "It's really funny, incredibly creative and the quality is outstanding," insists Taylor. On one level, sites like Homegrown can act as a massive talent filter, she suggests. Meanwhile, Trouble is also looking at ways of linking the website with the TV channel - Homegrown users were asked to remix a video for an Oasis track that will feature on their new DVD, for example, while the hosts of X-Factor style dance show Bump 'n' Grind encouraged viewers to compete via the website and showed the best clips on air."

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Monday, November 06, 2006

USA Today publisher to bring citizen journalism into mainstream?

[Keyword: , , , ]. Wired News reports on moves by Gannett, the publisher of USA Today as well as 90 other American daily newspapers, to begin
"crowdsourcing many of its newsgathering functions. Starting Friday, Gannett newsrooms were rechristened "information centers," and instead of being organized into separate metro, state or sports departments, staff will now work within one of seven desks with names like "data," "digital" and "community conversation."

"The initiative emphasizes four goals: Prioritize local news over national news; publish more user-generated content; become 24-7 news operations, in which the newspapers do less and the websites do much more; and finally, use crowdsourcing methods to put readers to work as watchdogs, whistle-blowers and researchers in large, investigative features.
A fascinating example comes at the tail of page one of the piece:
"In May, readers from the nearby community of Cape Coral began calling the paper, complaining about the high prices -- as much as $28,000 in some cases -- being charged to connect newly constructed homes to water and sewer lines.

"Maness asked the News-Press to employ a new method of looking into the complaints. "Rather than start a long investigation and come out months later in the paper with our findings we asked our readers to help us find out why the cost was so exorbitant," said Kate Marymont, the News-Press' editor in chief.

"The response overwhelmed the paper, which has a circulation of about 100,000. "We weren't prepared for the volume, and we had to throw a lot more firepower just to handle the phone calls and e-mails," Marymont said.

"Readers spontaneously organized their own investigations: Retired engineers analyzed blueprints, accountants pored over balance sheets, and an inside whistle-blower leaked documents showing evidence of bid-rigging.

""We had people from all over the world helping us," said Marymont. For six weeks the News-Press generated more traffic to its website than "ever before, excepting hurricanes." In the end, the city cut the utility fees by more than 30 percent, one official resigned, and the fees have become the driving issue in an upcoming city council special election."

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Neil to Google: we want our cut

[Keyword: , , , ]. Andrew Neil has a strong opinion on Google's news aggregation service, as Roy Greenslade reports:
"The BBC broadcaster and chief executive of the Barclay brothers' group, Press Holdings, not only launched a by now familiar attack on Google's news aggregation service but, pertinently, castigated the media industry for not clubbing together to demand payment for content just as the music and broadcasting industry was doing to YouTube.

""We don't charge them a penny for our hard-earned journalism, the former Sunday Times editor said in the conference's opening lecture. "It's time for a conversation with Google. They can afford it.""

This is a much more refreshing approach than the Belgian newspaper which sued Google to stop it publishing its articles. 'Cutting off your nose to spite your face' sprang to mind then, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect Google to give a cut of advertising to content providers. Remember the time when "content was king" and wannabe 'portals' were scrambling to pay publishers for feeds that could draw users in?

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Chrysalis Radio latest to jump video bandwagon

[Keyword: , , , ]. So MediaWeek reports: "The company is currently updating its studios to enable filming to accompany its existing audio content, for broadcast via different platforms such as computers, mobile phones and MP3 players."

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Sun and NOW launch readers' mobile service

[Keyword: , , , ]. Press Gazette reports:
"The Sun and News of the World have both launched new services allowing readers to send in stories, pictures and video for publication via mobile phone text message.

"News of the World online editor Bill Akass said: "We make no bones about paying good money for good content. Now we're just making it easier for our readers to send us their content in either pictures or tips format, and we'll pay them for the material we publish."

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More on video: it's the ads wot done it

[Keyword: , , , ]. The recent issue of The Journalist contains a small news item which sheds more light on the trend for newspapers to focus on online video:
"The plans for multi-media publishing are based on attracting multi-media advertising, the group's "new media" director Annelies van den Belt told the Association of Online Publishers conference in October.

""The consumer now has a much more multi-media approach," she said. "It's about following that consumer [with advertising] and touchpoints are becoming incredibly important. We have come up with 32 products that we can match touchpoints to during the day."
It seems that, just as the growth of online advertising was the motivation behind Rupert Murdoch's landmark speech, so it is now pushing online news towards video. What a shame.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Five reasons why newspaper blogs exist

[Keyword: , , , ]. The Telegraph's Shane Richmond gives a response to Andrew Grant-Adamson's analysis of newspaper blogs (What is the purpose of newspaper blogs?). He identifies five key reasons for creating newspaper blogs:
  1. Niche publishing
  2. Unlimited space
  3. Experimentation
  4. Interactivity
  5. Personality
Or, to quote at length:

"First of all, blogs are niche offerings. Everything in the print edition of the paper has to work for as many people as possible but that isn't the case with blogs.
"[... S]pace is the second point. It's not that these posts aren't good enough for the paper, it's that they won't fit in the paper. There is only so much space in the print edition each day and competition is strong. The blogs give us an opportunity to focus on stories that the paper hasn't been able to cover, or to look at an angle on a story that there wasn't space to develop in print.
"Then there's stuff that the paper would never attempt. For example, for his recent article about music recommendation software The Filter, David Derbyshire spoke to musician Peter Gabriel. The transcript of his interview ran to around 2,000 words but, as is often the case with news stories, only a handful of quotes from the interview made it into print. In the old world the interview would just disappear but, since he has a blog, David put the full transcript on there.
"Likewise, after Christopher Howse wrote an article for the newspaper about comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat film, he followed-up with a blog post which considered one aspect of the story, anti-semitism, in more detail. The post was the most-read post on the blog site last week.
"That brings me to the third point: experimentation. The blogs allow journalists to try things that are a little different from what they normally do and we can experiment technically as well. The blogs were the first part of the site to offer the option to post articles to social news and social bookmarking sites, a feature that has since been added to all of
"[...] The blogs really are a conversation, with readers and with other blogs. This post is an example of the latter.
"And therein lies point four: interactivity. The blogs are steered to a great extent by their readers. Our best bloggers have all, at some point, allowed the readers to dictate what they write about. Of course, the paper is shaped by its readers too but with blogs the connection is more immediate and more personal.
"[...] my fifth point: personality. In a recent post I said that it is important to turn more journalists into 'personalities'. Blogging is the ideal way to do this. In a world that is more fragmented, where reader loyalty is harder to maintain, a journalist who is a personality can be a very valuable figure."

UPDATE: Shane has posted a follow-up post with reactions from his fellow Telegraph bloggers.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Review: Online News

[Keyword: , , , ]. This review will be appearing in a forthcoming issue of the journal Journalism.

online news cover In 2004 American technology journalist and publisher Dan Gillmor published We The Media, a book that described how journalism in the new media age was changing from a ‘lecture’ to a ‘conversation’. It quickly became the bible of online journalism, while Gillmor was heralded as a guru on citizen journalism in particular.

With Online News Stuart Allan has produced a book of comparable importance, but from a much-needed British – or at least transatlantic – perspective.

The concept is straightforward: an overview of online journalism in its different forms, with a historical perspective focusing on key events. The execution is clear, critical, and thoroughly researched, and even much-repeated stories – such as the ‘Rathergate’ or ‘Memogate’ affair that led to Dan Rather’s resignation – are illuminated with fresh detail.

Allan identifies two key ‘tipping points’ in the development of online news: the tsunami in South East Asia and the importance that that gave to citizen journalism - and the speech by Rupert Murdoch which finally acknowledged the need for newspapers to embrace the web – or be buried by it.

From there he explores a number of other ‘tipping points’: how September 11th “redefined” news when mainstream agencies crashed under excessive demand, and smaller sites took up the strain; how the Iraq war created a demand from readers for alternative voices from abroad; how participatory journalism is creating opportunities for news outside of commercial pressures; and how bloggers have become both news source and news watchdog.

What is laudable here is the rigour with which Allan approaches his subject matter, and his avoidance of the hype that characterises so much writing on online news. While the importance of blogs are acknowledged, for instance, the potential for descent into ‘mob rule mentality’ is outlined – for instance, in the way in which rightwing bloggers targeted what they perceived as the ‘liberal’ CBS and CNN. Likewise, while bloggers can be seen as ‘democratising’ journalism, Allan points out that there is an emerging hierarchy of “celebrity bloggers” that dominate that conversation; and that “bloggers who actively resist pressures to conform – that is, who continues to strive to speak truth to power – will find it that much more difficult to reach a broad audience”.

In his final chapter Allan notes the importance of Google News and its ‘computer editors’ for the future of journalism and news distribution, while also identifying how “notions of ‘authority’, ‘credibility’ and ‘prestige’ are in flux”. The BBC is held up as an example of the genuinely empowering possibilities of new journalism technologies – particularly the organisation’s moves to make both software and archive content available to users – but ultimately “too often the pressures of the marketplace being brought to bear on online news are working to narrow the spectrum of possible viewpoints to those which advertisers are inclined to support”.

Summing up, Allan identifies a worrying trend in online news becoming “aligned with the ‘attractive wrapping’ of commercial television”, a trend which has most recently been reinforced by The Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Sun and Trinity Mirror all making moves towards producing online video. If the promises of online news are to be fulfilled books like this deserve the widest possible readership.
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'Censorship and bias' tracked by news tool

[Keyword: , , , ]. Reasons to love new media #354: reports on NewsSniffer, a web mashup that
"monitors The Independent, Guardian Unlimited and BBC News throughout the day to check for changes made to published stories. Revisions are stored and highlighted for comparison by users, who are then invited to rank the most intriguing differences.

"The site's Revisionista tool illustrates the evolution of articles, including corrections to spelling and grammar mistakes. Its Watch Your Mouth feature stores comments "censored" after publication in BBC News' 'Have Your Say' threads.

""We're looking for systemic bias," Leeds-based software developer John Leach, the man behind the site, told "I'm of the belief that the corporate media has a pro-corporate agenda so I expect to find bias towards this."

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