Monthly Archives: August 2006

Telegraph website keeps improving

[Keyword: ]. Press Gazette reports on continuing changes to the website with online editorial director Edward Roussel quoted as saying: “We want our readers to be engaged with the news-making process, by sharing their views on our blogs and other forms of online discussion.”

The article lists changes including

“larger text … and more news added throughout the day in the form of written
articles, audio and video. Other new additions include more “economic snapshots”
on the business pages including info on key indicators such as house prices,
unemployment, inflation, GDP and interest rates; content on the travel pages
divided by continent and country using maps; property pages to include data on
historic prices and access to 7.5 million UK house prices; a revamped blogging
site including online diaries from Telegraph writers such as Celia Walden, Ben
Fenton and Hilary Alexander.”

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Contribute to citizen journalism training

[Keyword: , , ]. There’s a call for contributions on Dan Gillmor’s citizen journalism blog after the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the award of a grant to Gillmor’s Center for Citizen Media “to create five online training modules for citizen journalists. Those modules will cover 1) thoroughness, 2) accuracy, 3) fairness, 4) transparency and 5) independence.”

“The modules will be available initially on the Knight Foundation site and here, and will also be available under a Creative Commons license.

“We need your help,” says Gillmor. “To that end, we’re creating discussion boards where we can have a conversation about the content and ideas behind these modules. Watch this space for more details.”

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How newspapers can take advantage of citizen video

[Keyword: , , ]. There’s a lengthy column at Editor & Publisher with some useful advice for any newspapers looking to jump on the latest bandwagon: user-generated videos of the YouTube variety. The writer suggests:

“1. Understand the benefits and drawbacks of the existing sites for viewers and advertisers alike.

“2. Make a conscious transition from being strictly content creators to become local communication facilitators.

“3. Create new channels to capture and share the best content from around the country and world (similar to the Associated Press or ESPN but for user-generated content).

“4. Integrate, don’t segregate. Video needs to be integrated directly into existing sections.

“5. Experiment. Create new sections and new services to test what types of videos
people want to share and whether they’ll pay to place or see them. “

There’s plenty more advice including why newspapers have an advantage, how to make sure cream floats to the top, and even the idea of video comics.

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Proof that you don’t have to be a big paper to produce interactive features

[Keyword: , , ]. Mindy McAdams has blogged about a good example of multimedia being used at a small newspaper:

“The Star-Exponent just won an award from the APME for “Online Convergence,” for a story in January 2006 about the lynching of a black man in Culpeper in 1918.
The award apparently hinges on the multimedia element of the story package (this was designed to pop up in a small window). It includes a slideshow with sound and some original documents. It’s not one of the cleanest or most usable Flash packages, but this is a very small newspaper, and I give them a lot of credit for making the effort.”

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Airline bomb plot – a citizen journalism angle

[Keyword: , , ]. For most big news stories now there’s some sort of citizen journalism component, and the apparently thwarted aeroplane bombing plot is no exception. The Toronto Globe and Mail, of all news sites, has a thorough rundown of the CJ angle on the story, which include links to the BBC’s Your Say facility and images on Flickr. Given the saturation coverage-verging-on-repetition of this on BBC in particular, you wonder why they haven’t covered this angle in addition to all the others.
(thanks to Dan Gillmor for the link)

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What makes a good online journalism site?

[Keyword: , , ]. I’m about to meet the man behind a new investigative journalism website to talk about how I can offer assistance and advice – and it’s prompted me to identify what exactly makes a good online journalism project. I’ve boiled it down to these five elements:

  • User involvement: in the age of citizen journalism and blogging there is no excuse to exclude your users from the conversation. At the very least you should allow users to post comments to stories – and equally importantly, respond to those comments and incorporate corrections in stories. Beyond comments, you can also offer forums where users can discuss and suggest stories or angles, or just form a community of opinion. And for a quick and simple user opinion, incorporate a regular poll.
    Then there’s the invitation for users to contribute – whether that’s pictures, video, audio clips or full articles. These don’t have to be big news events they happen to have witnessed (although that’s nice), but can be personal ‘video diary’ type experiences (where topical) or records of public events.
  • Update: Online is always accessible, searchable, and archivable. It is not tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapper. Therefore articles should be updated when new information appears, or newer articles should link to older ones on the same subject, and vice versa.
  • Linking and transparency: An online article without links is ignoring one of the fundamental characteristics of the web, and presenting the user with a dead-end. If I read an article about breast cancer, there should be links at the end to more information, organisations, and help. If I read an article about a policy document, there should be a link at the end to that document. And the latest piece about the Middle East conflict should be giving me the opportunity to find out the background to the whole situation, through links. Equally important – but perhaps harder for journalists whose living is based on rewriting press releases – is linking to your sources. If you’ve used anything online, link to it. This transparency can only improve media literacy, and hopefully, pressure journalists to use a range of sources.
  • Get interactive: This is the biggest paradigm shift in news and the one that news organisations seem to struggle most with, but one of the advantages of online news is the way you can engage the user and explain complex concepts with multimedia. Not considering this is like TV news not considering images or radio not considering sound.
    At its most glamorous, this might involve a Flash interactive as done so well at The Guardian and BBC; but you might also consider quizzes (search for simple JavaScript or PHP templates), live chats with interviewees (invite users to post questions ahead of the interview if you don’t have the technology for a live chat), or just a simple range of guides accessible by drop-down menu. The key thing here is giving your user control, and/or using the range of media available to provide depth.
  • Write for the web: brevity and scannability are the watchwords here. The BBC do this impeccably – one point per paragraph and a liberal use of subheadings – perhaps because of their broadcast background. Unintentionally, tabloids do this well too, simply because their simple style translates well. Broadsheet style works less well, especially as they tend to shovel their printed articles without any editing. But as people tend to scan-read online much more (because of the lower resolution), an increased use of subheadings can make the experience much easier for readers, while employing bullet lists where appropriate is always a winner. Splitting paragraphs to make it easier to read is not dumbing down.

Now, I’m sure I’ve missed something glaringly obvious here, as it seems there must be more than five items to this list, but perhaps it really is that simple. Answers on a comment please.

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TV stations to take on citizen journalism sites

[Keyword: , ]. reports on the launch of citizen journalism initiative by TV station group Pappas Telecasting. As you’d expect, the site “allows any local individual to load images or post a news story to the Web site” and “allows users themselves to determine what is news by automatically publishing content from cell phones, e-mail and the Web site.”

Nebraska’s NTV is hosting the pilot, while Pappas “plans to roll out Community Correspondent at all of its 27 stations over the next several months, beginning with KMPH-TV Channel 26 in Fresno, California.”

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Moguls of New Media

[Keyword: , , ]. Here’s a useful article on the Wall Street Journal if you want a summary of the “powerful players” in blogging, viral video, and new media in general. For instance:

“Christine Dolce, whose MySpace page boasts nearly one million friends — making her arguably one of the most connected people on the Internet. A 24-year-old cosmetologist who until a few months ago worked at a makeup counter in a mall, she now has a manager and a start-up jeans company and has won promotional deals for two mainstream consumer brands.

“…A video by a 30-year-old comedian from Cleveland has now been watched by almost 30 million people, roughly the audience for an average “American Idol” episode. The most popular contributor to the photo site just got a contract to shoot a Toyota ad campaign.

“…Each week, about half a million people watch a two- or three-minute video starring a man in a ninja costume that includes a Lycra ski mask bought
for $6. He typically delivers a sarcastic comic monologue in response to a ninja-themed question a viewer has emailed in. (“Do ninjas catch colds?” was a recent topic.) In May, “Ask a Ninja” launched an online store and now sells about 150 T-shirts a week, Mr. Nichols says. They’ll soon begin selling premium subscriptions at $1.50 a month to fans who want early access to new episodes. This month, they added their first advertisement to the series, a mention of the Sony movie “Little Man” at the end of an episode.

“…The flagship crossover star in digital entertainment is known by one name: Brookers. …20-year-old Brooke Brodack of Holden, Mass., has posted a
range of videos starring herself … Though Ms. Brodack’s videos have a distinctly amateur feel — they feature her lip-synching songs, dancing goofily around her bedroom and occasionally adopting silly character voices — they inspire a passionate following … Last month, Ms. Brodack, who works as a receptionist, got an email from an executive at the development company of former MTV star Carson Daly. Mr [signing] her to a deal to develop entertainment ideas with his production company for TV and the Web.”

There’s a great sidebar on ‘What to Watch’ on YouTube as well…

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Guardian launches ‘print-and-read’ PDF edition

[Keyword: ]. Here’s a move that will have surprised a few newspaper editors, particularly those of the Metro freesheets: Press Gazette reports on The Guardian’s launch of G24, an 8- to 12-page PDF version of the top stories from The Guardian website (you can also choose a particular version, such as ‘World’, ‘Media’, ‘Sport, or ‘Business’).

The PDF, even more impressively, is updated every 15 minutes, which suggests that it is automatically generated. There is some empty space at the end of some articles as a result, but generally the layout is good for an automated system.

The whole is designed to be read on the move, and is free, with the revenue seemingly coming from sponsors BT. I’m guessing, though, that most people will print this off at work to read on the way home, rather than the other way around, which may give some comfort to Metro publishers.

You’ll never make as much money again

[Keyword: ]. That’s the message of this article from Corante, which argues that media companies expecting to make a mint from the internet are set for a disappointment. Vin Crosbie makes a comparison with the Industrial Revolution manufacturers who “believed that industrialization would just markedly decrease their costs of production, enlarging their profit margins. But as the Austro-American guru of management Peter Drucker (1909-2005) noted, “Not only did the cost of production markedly decline, but so did the value people were willing to pay for the products.”

“The value people were willing to pay for those products declined. And that was when those products had been scarce. We today live an era when we’re already
awash in information. It’s surplus, not scarce.”