Monthly Archives: July 2009

…Meanwhile, bloggers investigate scientific claims

Ben Goldacre writes about the suing of Simon Singh by The British Chiropractic Association (you’ll see a badge on this blog on the issue), and how bloggers have helped investigate their claims.

“Fifteen months after the case began, the BCA finally released the academic evidence it was using to support specific claims. Within 24 hours this was taken apart meticulously by bloggers, referencing primary research papers, and looking in every corner.

“Professor David Colquhoun of UCL pointed out, on infant colic, that the BCA cited weak evidence in its favour, while ignoring strong evidence contradicting its claims. He posted the evidence and explained it. LayScience flagged up the BCA selectively quoting a Cochrane review. Every stone was turned by QuackometerAPGaylardGimpyblog,EvidenceMattersDr Petra BoyntonMinistryofTruthHolfordwatch, legal blogger Jack of Kent, and many more. At every turn they have taken the opportunity to explain a different principle of evidence based medicine – the sin of cherry-picking results, the ways a clinical trial can be unfair by design – to an engaged lay audience, with clarity as well as swagger.”

Here’s the payoff:

“a ragged band of bloggers from all walks of life has, to my mind, done a better job of subjecting an entire industry’s claims to meaningful, public, scientific scrutiny than the media, the industry itself, and even its own regulator. It’s strange this task has fallen to them, but I’m glad someone is doing it, and they do it very, very well indeed.”

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Another blogger doing investigative journalism – on the fashion industry

Last week Jezebel blogger Tatiana outed herself. That isn’t particularly important, but it does give me an excuse to highlight what a fantastic job she did as a somewhat overlooked investigative blogger.

‘Going undercover’ has a rich history in investigative journalism – in fact, for investigative television journalism, it’s almost part of the genre toolkit. In print, German journalist Gunter Wallraff was a particularly successful exponent – his book The Lowest of The Low,  describing his experiences working undercover as a Turkish immigrant, was the most successful in German publishing history.

But it’s one thing to use a wig and contact lenses to disguise yourself as a Turkish immigrant. If you want to expose the fashion industry, most journalists don’t have the option to pass themselves off as a size zero, six foot model with razor sharp cheekbones.

And so we come to Tatiana – now known to be Jenna Sauers. These are the sorts of things she wrote: Continue reading

How US traffic is vital for UK newspaper sites

The latest figures for UK users  from the audited ABCes together with Compete‘s figures for American site usage show how USA traffic is vital for UK newspaper sites (figures originally posted here).

On average, US traffic is 36.8% of the UK traffic (ie there is just over one US visitor for every 3 UK visitors). The figure for the Telegraph is slightly higher (44.5%) and for the Mail it’s a massive 62.5%.

Newspaper
site
USA
visitors
(Compete)
UK
visitors
(ABCe)
US users
as % of UK
Daily Mail 5,199,078 8,316,083 62.5
Telegraph 4,087,769 9,184,082 44.5
Times Online 2,805,815 7,668,637 36.6
Guardian 3,676,498 10,211,385 36.0
Independent 1,317,298 3,781,320 34.8
The Sun 2,419,319 8,704,036 27.8
Mirror 748,098 4,907,540 15.2
FT.com 5,960,589 n/a n/a
Express 63,216 n/a n/a
Average 2,919,742 7,539,012 36.8

These figures are all for June 2009. The FT wasn’t audited in June’s ABCes. The Express isn’t in the ABCes. I had planned to use Alexa data but Compete seems a bit more robust.

The figures are further proof that the Mail’s success in the June ABCes was driven by American searches for Michael Jackson’s kids.

Anonymous blogging – Blogacause’s Michael Groves explains how they do it

Last month I said in my post ‘7 ways to blog anonymously‘ that I was trying to find out how anonymous blogging platform Blogacause.com ensured anonymitu. I’ve now had a response, from owner Michael Groves. Here’s what he said – comments and further questions welcomed:

Blogacause uses the blojsom blogging platform to execute the blogs you see on our site. The home page and subpages, not including blogs, are
built on coldfusion code. Since I’m a web application programmer by trade, I’ve rewritten the code in blojsom such that any identifying
information that was previously stored about visitors or bloggers is no longer a part of the engine code.

With regard to comments on the site I did leave the code in place but as you will notice as a blogger on our site it always returns the same IP, that of the hosting server (we did this because we though we might need to track down some very specific spammers from the Asian countries so we can block them. However, a recent code page I developed will allow us to automatically ban spamming IPs and this is due for deploy 4th quarter 2009. So eventually the comment IP will be removed entirely.). Continue reading

Umair Haque on ‘Nichepapers’

Umair Haque always talks intelligently about economics, and yesterday’s post ‘The Nichepaper Manifesto’ is well worth reading in full. Some choice quotes:

“Journalists didn’t make 20th century newspapers profitable — readers did. 20th century newspapers were never supernormally profitable because of what they wrote: it was the natural monopoly dynamics of classifieds that fueled massive margins.”

Note: those monopolies are going.

[Nichpapers reinvent what news is:] “Knowledge, not news. Newspapers strive to give people the news. Next stop, commodity central. Nichepapers strive to impart meaningful, lasting knowledge instead.

Commentage is the kid sister of reportage: it is the art of curating comments to have a dialogue with the audience — because the audience can fill gaps, plug holes, and thicken the foundations of knowledge. Many newspapers have comments — so what? Almost none are having a dialogue with commenters — who are mostly stuck in a twilight zone where they can only talk to one another. Nichepapers, in contrast, are always having deep dialogues with readers.

Note: this is because they understand that to do so is a) part of any good distribution strategy and b) delivers efficiencies in newsgathering.

Topics, not articles. That’s why Nichepapers develop topics — instead of telling quickly-forgotten stories. When Talking Points Memo exposed the Bush administration’s series of politically motivated firings, it did so in a series of posts, that let the story develop, surface, thicken, and climax. Stories are for information — topics are for knowledge.”

Note: Google likes topics better than articles, which is why a number of news websites are creating mini-sites around big stories and issues.

There’s a lot more in the full post, including 4 examples of ‘nichepapers’ currently operating, including Perez Hilton, Talking Points Memo and Huffington.

h/t Will Perrin

Why I’ll be subscribing to a dead-tree newspaper this year

The previously online-only publication/club The Frontline Club is launching a broadsheet – and I have just subscribed.

My reasons are simple – and it’s nothing to do with content. It’s about community, and supporting a principle. (It’s for the same reasons (and free music) that I pay a monthly subscription to Bearded Magazine.)

I suspect community and the social contacts engendered and supported by the web will become an increasingly important part of news business models, and I wish The Frontline Club all the best in their efforts to explore this.

Oh, and you can subscribe here.