Journalism courses often expect students to spend a large part of their final year or semester producing an independent project. Here, for those about to embark on such a project online, or putting together a proposal for one, I list some common pitfalls to watch out for… Continue reading
It’s been a little while since we had a new entry in our Hyperlocal Voices series (where we interview hyperlocal practitioners about their experiences). To kick off our efforts for 2014, Damian Radcliffe touches base with Jamie Summerfield, to talk about A Little Bit of Stone, a community news website for Stone in Staffordshire.
Who were the people behind the blog?
I set up A Little Bit of Stone in August 2010 and was joined a month later by Jon Cook.
We quickly set up a partnership, me doing editorial and Jon looking after web and technical matters. Continue reading
Ofcom’s Damian Radcliffe produces a regular round-up of developments in hyperlocal publishing. In this guest post he cross-publishes his latest presentation for this summer, as well as the background to the reports.
Ofcom’s 2009 report on Local and Regional Media in the UK identified the increasing role that online hyperlocal media is playing in the local and regional media ecology.
New research in the report identified that
“One in five consumers claimed to use community websites at least monthly, and a third of these said they had increased their use of such websites over the past two years.”
That was two years ago, and since then, this nascent sector has continued to evolve, with the web continuing to offer a space and platform for community expression, engagement and empowerment.
The diversity of these offerings is manifest in the Hyperlocal Voices series found on this website, as well as Talk About Local’s Ten Questions feature, both of which speak to hyperlocal practitioners about their work.
For a wider view of developments in this sector, you may want to look at the bi-monthly series of slides I publish on SlideShare every two months.
Each set of slides typically outlines 20 recent hyperlocal developments; usually 10 from the UK and 10 from the US.
Topics in the current edition include Local TV, hyperlocal coverage of the recent England riots, the rise of location based deals and marketing, as well as the FCC’s report on The Information Needs of Communities.
Feedback and suggestions for future editions – including omissions from current slides – are actively welcomed.
One of the areas which interests me is how independent publishers can cut through to build an audience, or drive a story into the wider public arena. This is a cross-post from the Wardman Wire.
Two articles from the last month by the Heresiarch and Anna Raccoon form an interesting study in articles by political bloggers which gained widespread attention. Both of these pieces went viral via Twitter, rather than Facebook or any other social network.
Firstly, a piece, which caught the moment when the conviction of “Twitter Terrorist” Paul Chambers was confirmed. This piece achieved almost 1000 retweets.
This is the headline and abstract:
Heresy Corner: With the Conviction of Paul Chambers, it is now illegal to be English.
There is something deeply and shockingly offensive about the conviction of Paul Chambers for his Twitter joke, almost unbelievably reaffirmed today at the Crown Court in Doncaster. It goes beyond the normal anger anyone would feel at a blatant injustice, at a piece of prosecutorial and judicial overkill that sees the might of the state pitted against a harmless, unthreatening individual for no good reason.
Secondly, a piece from Anna Raccoon last week, about the case of Stephen Neary, who seems to have been caught up in a bureaucratic whirlpool through his autism:
The Orwellian Present – Never Mind the Future.
Steven Neary, Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, Welfare Deputyships and The Court of Protection
These numbers of tweets are 50-100 times more than will be achieved by a reasonably well-received article. As a comparison the last 6 articles on the Heresy Corner homepage this morning are showing 3, 5, 4, 9, 40 and 2 retweets.
1 – Both are non party-aligned writers embedded in the political blog niche, but also cover political questions from a position of non-political knowledge, with a degree of authority/respect which has come from their own work over two years or more.
2 – In these instances, both are amateur or professional subject specialists in the areas they cover here, and have an established readership who are able to give a boost to a piece in the social media nexus. As a comparison, in the world of Internet Consultancy much time (and money) is spent trying to build initial traction for articles and websites to give them a boost into wider internet prominence.
3 – The importance of “connectors”. Anna Raccoon’s piece received a significant boost from Charon QC, who provides an important hub-site in the legal niche – which of course is one place where a real difference can be made to Stephen Neary’s situation.
4 – The “edge of the political blogosphere” has become very important – both for specialist sites writing about political questions, and political blogs who “do more than politics”.
5 – These are two different types of article. The Heresy Corner summarised the online reaction to the “I’l blow you’re airport sky high” Twitter Joke Trial case at the right time to catch the Zeitgeist, while Anna Raccoon’s piece is a campaigning piece trying to direct attention to a particular case, in an area of society she has written about on perhaps a dozen occasions.
6 – Several legal commentators (eg Jack of Kent in addition to Charon) have pointed out (correctly) that for campaigning piece to convert attention into action, there needs to be more complete information about both sides of the story. A spotlight can be directed onto a perceived abuse, but there needs to be objective investigation afterwards.
That is a good distinction; but the rub is that officialdom can prevent both sides of the story being available to the public, and often only react to media spotlights – not to problems which they have not been embarrassed about.
7 – Neither of these bloggers are deeply embedded in the Facebook ecosystem, which is a distinct difference from some other mainly political sites, which report Facebook as a major source of traffic (example). I’ll write more on this another time, because I think it is important.
8 – During November, when the Paul Chambers piece was published, Heresy Corner jumped from 134 in the Wikio blog ranks to number 15 (illustrated). This was after changes which introduced a “Twitter” factor into the Wikio rankings. I’d suggest that this level of volatility may illustrate that they’ve overdone it.
The missing link for independent publishers is the ability to translate incisive observation or reporting into an effective influence.
I’ll return to that subject soon.
Can I ask a favour from brave souls who’ve reached the end of this article. I need a couple of dozen Facebook “Likes” for my own site’s new Facebook page to gain access to all features. You can “Like” me at the bottom of the rh sidebar here.
The first study (PDF) of magazines and their various approaches to websites, undertaken by Columbia Journalism Review, found publishers are still trying to work out how best to utilise the online medium.
There is no general standard or guidelines for magazine websites and little discussion between industry leaders as to how they should most effectively be approached.
Following the responses to the multiple choice questionnaire and the following open-ended questions –
- What do you consider to be the mission of your website, does this differ from the mission of your print magazine?
- What do you consider to be the best feature of aspect of your website?
- What feature of your website do you think most needs improvement or is not living up to its potential?
– the researchers called for a collective, informed and contemporary approach to magazine websites with professional body support.
The findings were separated into the following 6 categories: Continue reading
Today I’m trying an experiment with a group of students on my undergraduate Online Journalism module – a ‘Social Media Treasure Hunt’ on their patch: Birmingham.
The students are all reporters who will, next week, be reporting for the environmental news website Birmingham Recycled. Last week they set up their systems – RSS reader, Delicious, and Twitter – and this week they are setting up their blogs. They’ve already had the lecture about the theory – now comes the practice. But instead of the usual workshop-in-a-computer-room, I’m taking them into their community.
This year I’ve made a significant change to how I teach blogging. The focus is explicitly on social capital, and ideas of sharing their processes. So here’s what I wanted to do:
- Get them meeting people in person rather than virtually – a much more effective way of building social capital
- Get them away from a desk. It seems to me that most people approach online journalism as a deskbound job – actually, it opens up enormous opportunities for production on the move: moblogging, liveblogging, photoblogging (one student has already tried all 3 in one go).
- Get them to open their eyes, ears and noses. These students have spent 18 months learning how to be journalists – looking for angles, structuring a story. Now I’m asking them to unlearn some of that when they approach a blog: put out unfinished material; observations; raw material. Sharing – not processing. That can be a hard habit to get into.
Oh, and of course I want to make it fun and engaging. So…
The Social Media Treasure Hunt
At 9am this morning a group of around 15* 7 students will gather at Coffee Lounge in Birmingham city centre. They all have phones with web packages and/or laptops with wifi. I will make sure they are all set up with a blog, and are able to post to it from their phone or laptop.
They will then be given, in pairs:
- A map of wifi coverage in Birmingham
- A name
- The rules of the game
The rules of the game
- You have been given the name of a person with a social media presence in Birmingham (e.g. blogs, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook etc.).
- You must find a way to contact that person, and arrange to meet them as soon as possible, today.
- When you meet them, you must find out about them – then ask them to name another person in Birmingham that they think it would be useful for you (as an environmental reporter) to meet. (If you are unable to meet any person, contact @paulbradshaw for a new name)
- From the beginning of this process you must keep your eyes, ears and noses alert – and comment on what you see/hear/smell…
- …As you travel, you must generate as much content as possible on social media – tweet; take and upload pictures; bookmark webpages; record or stream video or audio; and of course: write blog posts containing all of the above. The purpose of this hunt is to share as much as possible – experiences, insights, opinions, questions – so that others can get to know the city – and you – through your senses.
- Tag everything that you do #bsmth (Birmingham Social Media Treasure Hunt) – and follow all the other material using that tag.
- You cannot ‘hunt’ a person who is already being – or has been – hunted by someone else.
- Points are awarded as follows:
- 100 points for meeting someone named;
- 50 points for meeting and finding out about someone else;
- 20 points for every blog post;
- 5 points for every other piece of valid* social media generated.
- *Material generated to ‘game’ the contest (e.g. flooding with meaningless material) will not be counted
Winners will receive a prize of non-monetary value…
So that’s the Social Media Treasure Hunt – I’ll blog about the results in due course. Meanwhile, you can of course follow the tag on social media…
*UPDATE: We had a couple inches of snow overnight, which disrupted transport (yeah, I know – just a couple of inches) and prevented around half of the students from taking part, so I adapted by starting a second meme, #snowbrum, for those who were housebound. This was overseen by Birmingham Recycled’s editor, Natalie Adcock, and I’ll blog about that in due course too.
A couple weeks ago I blogged about how people often confuse using technology as a tool with using technology as part of a broader strategy. While that post focused on the objectives of news organisations in using UGC, I thought it might be useful to write a short follow-up post about strategies.
It’s very simple. Often, I find that people will say their strategy will be to ‘use Twitter’ or ‘use Facebook’ or ‘use Flickr’. They are then surprised (or, for the sceptics, vindicated) when they ‘get no results’.
The following is a simple list of translations from tools to typical strategies:
|Follow people in your ‘market'; tweet useful information; monitor searches on key terms in your field; respond to relevant people with @ messages; use relevant hashtags; retweet anything useful to your followers, or anything that might help users you need to build relationships with|
|Flickr||Upload photos regularly; comment constructively on other users’ photos; participate constructively in Flickr forums and pools.|
|Blogs||Post useful content (you might have a particular strategy around the type of content, e.g. linkbait, evergreen content, etc. – this obviously applies to Twitter, Flickr, etc. too); link to other blogs in your field; post constructive comments on other blogs in your field; link your blog presence to presences elsewhere on social media|
Of course, as detailed in that previous post, the tools should come after the strategies, and the strategy should come after the objective, but I thought this might be a useful way to clearly communicate what you really want when you ask for a ‘social media strategy’.
I’ve only mentioned 3 tools, because after that you get the idea. If you can add any other strategies for these or other tools, I’ll happily add them in (I’d love to hear them too).
UPDATE: This post takes a similar angle on so-called social media strategies and the ‘tick-box’ syndrome.
UPDATE: Below is a very useful diagram on Twitter strategy from Ogilvy PR:
Thanks to Jashpal Mall, whose conversation sparked this post.