Monthly Archives: October 2008

Yale-based online magazine launched: interview with Roger Cohen of Yale Environment 360

Earlier this year, Yale Environment 360 launched as an environmental, online-only publication with an international audience in mind. The articles cover global and national environmental issues and concerns.  Allison White spoke to Editor Roger Cohn about the publication’s online goals for the magazine and its audience.

Why did you choose to go solely online? What are the benefits and draw backs?

We chose to go solely online for two reasons: the first is that we saw it as a way to reach a wider and truly international audience.  We are covering global environmental issues, and we are looking to have readers internationally.  Continue reading

Lessons in community from community editors #3: Andrew Rogers, RBI

After the first two of my interviews with news organisations’ community editors , Reed Business Information’s Andrew Rogers blogged his own ‘3 lessons‘ he’s learned from his time as Head of User Content Development. Reproduced by kind permission, here it is in full:

1. A community is only really a community if it builds (or builds on) genuine relationships between the members.

Otherwise it is merely interactivity. A corollary of this is that an online community needs to be focused around a common interest, need or passion (or simply “something in common”)

2. The most important tool for dealing with problems is your Terms of Use / Ts&Cs.

If you are to deal effectively with problems of misbehaviour you need to be able to point to the rule which says the user can’t do that.

You will still be accused of suppressing free speech/being a Nazi of course, but at least you can justify your actions in removing posts, banning users etc.

Spend a lot of time on developing the rules and lay them out in simple language

3. Find ways to reward the best or most prolific contributors

This might be through a reputation system, increased rights, or simply highlighting their contributions in some way.

Many users are driven to upload their photographs to the Farmers Weekly website in the hope that they will make it into the magazine.

It’s also true, of course, that one should aim to reward all contributors by ensuring that someone pays attention to them.

Blogging journalists pt 7: Discussion and conclusion: “The writing on the wall”

The final part of the results of my survey of blogging journalists relates some of the findings to wider research into blogging and journalism, and also looks at some of the differences between sectors and industries.

Blogging has grown and developed considerably in the years since the studies of journalism blogs by Robinson (2006) and Singer (2005) – indeed, three-quarters of respondents had only started blogging since that research was published (in that time the BBC, for instance, expanded from its first blog in December 2005 to 43 in less than a year (Hermida 2008 [PDF]))

Respondents frequently spoke of a rapid transformation by their employers from resistance to blogs to wholesale adoption, in which commercial considerations have played an important role. These ranged from search engine optimisation (blogs help improve the rankings of news websites on search engines such as Google), to “bringing readers back more often”; “a cheap way of getting lots of content online and … resulting ad impressions” (Respondent 113, UK, freelance), to a perceived opportunity to make money, and a way of protecting against the threat from citizen media and the declining state of the news industry itself: Continue reading

Lessons in community from community editors #2: Mark Fothergill, The Guardian

I’ve been speaking to news organisations’ community editors on the lessons they’ve learned from their time in the job. In the 2nd of the series, the Guardian’s Mark Fothergill:

1. Getting the tools right for the job are ultra-important, both front end and back end:

Too many sites knock together something that ‘will do’ and it always comes back to haunt.

An oft-made mistake is spending lots of time on front end, user-facing functionality and spending no time thinking about how to moderate it.

Additionally, once users have tools/functionality, good or bad, they grow accustomed to them and when you then attempt to ‘improve’ the offering at a later date, they inevitably don’t like it and you can lose a sizeable portion of your community.

2. Define your role (and more specifically, the role of the moderation team):

If it’s not clear to other departments, particularly editorial, that the final decision on the moderation of any piece of user generated content lies with you, it can cause numerous problems. Other departments should have a say in procedures and should have a higher priority when it comes to 50/50 decisions, but they should respect the decisions of the moderation team, that are based on both experience and policy.

This is the only way to maintain consistency across your offering. Users won’t know if they’re coming or going if it appears there are a number of different moderation policies across a site that they see as being one entity.

Slight difffences between moderation on, say, Sport and Politics are to be expected, but not wholesale differences, especially when users are only asked to follow one set of community standards.

3. Deal with user complaints quickly:

If you’re not on top of user complaints within a reasonable time-frame, you’re fostering problems and problem areas. Dealing with a piece of content calling someone a “wanker” within 15 minutes, for instance, can prevent a flame war from ever getting off the ground. Deal with the same complaint after 2 hours and you’re likely to be mopping up for another hours afterwards.

Quick response times help to protect yourselves from a legal standpoint and, at the same time, help to protect the users who are much happier in the knowledge that a piece of reported content, that they deem to be offensive or inappropriate, has been acted upon swiftly. Who wants a system where you report someone telling you to “F off” and, on a regular basis, the comment is still there 8 hours later?

Blogging journalists pt 6: Blogging and the audience relationship: “The best stories are a result of incredible conversations”

The 6th part of the results of my survey of blogging journalists looks at how blogging has affected the relationship with the former audience.

Of all areas covered by the survey the relationship with the audience was by far the most affected, with over half of respondents saying it had been “enormously” or “completely” changed. In particular, journalists felt they had developed a more personal relationship with the reader, who was no longer an anonymous figure. Continue reading

Alfa.lt: How to turn content into clicks

As communism fell in Lithuania 19 years ago, existing dailies started to publish what they wanted. And what they wanted was money. The 2 main titles promptly became filled with advertorial paid for by politicians and industrialists.

The Lithuanian public quickly became disheartened with the printed press and turned to the internet instead. That’s why the audience of Lithuanian #1 website for news is only 8 times smaller than its UK counterpart, even though the country is 20 times as small as the UK (and twice as poor in terms of GDP per capita).

Seeing this enthusiasm for online news, MG Baltic, a Vilnius-based holding that trades in everything from consumer goods to news, decided to launch a website. The avowed goal was to complement their mass media portfolio. Continue reading

Ask me some questions (Blog08)

On Friday I’m on a panel at Blog08, an international bloggers’ conference in Amsterdam. The topic is blogs and journalism. The conference will be taking questions posted on De Nieuwe Reporter (the new reporter), an online platform for Dutch journalists, but they’d also like to take questions from the panellists’ blog readers.

So… got a question you’d like to pose?

Blogging journalists pt 5: Post-publication: “You’ve got to be ready for that conversation”

The 5th part of the results of my survey of blogging journalists looks at how blogging has affected what happens after news is ‘published/broadcast’.

In the post-publication or post-broadcast phase of journalism, blogging has introduced a more iterative and ongoing format. Some phrase this in terms of old media paradigms – the items have “more legs” – while others identify how the previous process of “moving on” to the next big story and forgetting about the old one no longer applies so strongly: Continue reading

Real life tips for changing newsrooms

Here’s my contribution to this weekend’s Carnival of Journalism, on the theme of practical tips for changing newsrooms for a new media age:

1. Set up your systems so that journalists get emails when someone comments on their stories. Nothing kills a conversation like someone who doesn’t listen.

2. Make an effort to meet social media users in your community/beat in person at least once a month (it helps if you set up a meeting or join one that exists). Failing that, have a video conversation. Both strengthen community more than just text. Jo Geary does this brilliantly in Birmingham.

3. Make 30 minutes every week to think about how you do your job, identify problems or frustrations, and blog about it, inviting suggestions on how you can do it better, or asking if others can help.

4. Try a new toy every fortnight – online services like Seesmic, Twitter, blogging, Ning, social bookmarking, Dipity, Yahoo Pipes, Shozu; hardware like the Zoom H2, Flip camcorder, and N95. IF you don’t have any ideas check out TechCrunch.

5. Regularly distribute information internally to all reporters and editors about what is happening on the website – popular stories, most commented on, bookmarked, old stories getting new interest, most visited on mobile, what times most accessed, where traffic is coming from, what search terms are most popular, what stories are getting a ‘long tail’ of small but consistent traffic.

6.If the online side of things seems like ‘extra work’ find out ways to make it less onerous and more automatic – explore Firefox extensions, bookmarking buttons, shortcuts; using ‘downtime’ to update via text or mobile web; and how to syndicate an RSS feed from one place to another (e.g. Twitter’s feed or Delicious feed to your blog).

7. If you are lucky enough to spend most of your time away from a desk and computer, work to keep it that way. A good mobile phone and Shozu may come in useful.

I’d welcome your ideas and reactions.

(Posted from my mobile, so apologies for no links)

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Blogging journalists pt 4: Blogs and news production: “I think in hyperlinks, even when working in print”

The 4th part of the results of my survey of blogging journalists looks at how blogs have affected how news production is affected by blogging.

The area where respondents most often identified a change in news production was in the rise of a looser, more personal, and less formal writing style, echoing the findings of Wall (2005). Respondents talked of finding their “voice”, being more informal and “creative”. For some this fed back into the mainstream news vehicles, particularly for broadcast journalists whose work previously involved less writing. Continue reading