Monthly Archives: November 2009

Google Latitude’s Location History provides more opportunities for mobile journalism

This was originally published in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits last week

Google Latitude – a service that allows people to see where you are – has launched 2 new services – Location History and Location Alerts – that provide some interesting potential for mobile journalism.

location history

Location History (shown above) allows you to “store, view, and manage your past Latitude locations. You can visualize your history on Google Maps and Earth or play back a recent trip in order.”

There are obvious possibilities here for then editing a map with editorial information – if you’re covering a parade, a marathon, or a demonstration you could edit placemarks to add relevant reports as you were posting them (or someone else with access to the account could from the newsroom).

Location Alerts is less obviously useful: this sends you a notification (by email and/or text) when you are near a friend’s location, although as Google explains, it’s a little more clever than that:

“Using your past location history, Location Alerts can recognize your regular, routine locations and not create alerts when you’re at places like home or work. Alerts will only be sent to you and any nearby friends when you’re either at an unusual place or at a routine place at an unusual time. Keep in mind that it may take up to a week to learn your “unusual” locations and start sending alerts.”

There is potential here for making serendipitous contact with readers or contacts, but until Latitude has widespread adoption (its biggest issue for me, and one that may never be resolved), it’s not likely to be useful in the immediate future.

The good thing about Latitude is you can enable it and disable it to suit you, and my own experience is that I only enable it when I want to meet someone using GPS on my phone. To sign up to Google Latitude user, go here. To enable the new features, go to google.com/latitude/apps.

Those are 2 uses I can think of, and I’ve yet to have a serious play – can you think of any others?

Presentation: Law for bloggers and journalists (UK)

Yesterday I hosted a session on law for my MA Online Journalism students, which I thought I would embed below.

Some background: I teach all my sessions in a coffee shop in central Birmingham – anyone can drop in. This week I specifically invited local bloggers, and so the shape of the presentation was very much flavoured by contributions from The Lichfield Blog‘s Philip John; Nick Booth from Podnosh and BeVocal; Talk About Local‘s Nicky Getgood; Hannah Waldram of the Bournville Village BlogGavin Wray, Matthew Mark, and Mike Rawlins of Stoke’s Pits N Pots. The editor of the Birmingham Post Marc Reeves also came for an hour to share his own experiences in the regional press.

Two things occurred to me during the process of preparation and delivery of the session. The first is that law in this context is much broader: as well as the classic areas for journalists such as defamation, you have to take into account online publishing issues such as terms and conditions, data protection and user generated content.

Secondly, I’ve long been an advocate of conversational teaching styles (one of the reasons I teach in a coffee lounge) and this was a great example of that in practice. The presentation below is just a series of signposts – the actual session lasted 4 hours and included various tangents (some of which I’ve incorporated into this published version). Experiences in the group of students and guests ranged across broadcasting, print, photography, online publishing, academic study, and international law, and I came out of the session having learned a lot too.

I hope you can add some more points, examples, or anything I’ve missed. Here it is:

What if a newspaper was designed using principles of user experience design?

What if a newspaper was designed using principles of web user experience design*? That’s the question that design agency Information Architects asked themselves when they put together a pitch for Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger. They lost the pitch, but the blog post about their ideas is fascinating reading for anyone interested in usability and reinventing the print package for a multiplatform world.

front page

Their innovations included making the text scannable with blue text for key words (see above), high contrast, and being limited to two fonts. They cleaned up the logo (optimising it, essentially), and printed comments next to the articles they commented on. The blog post contains lots more images. In addition, they’ve put the original PDFs of their pitch online too – linked below:

Garcia Media has more context including why Garcia felt they failed.

H/t: Adrian Short. *I should have said user experience design not web design, which was the original headline.

The fall of a news site: the Spanish case of Soitu.es

cadaver_exquisito

Like in the music or art fields, we, the Spanish-speaking people, allways look to the Anglo-American world to see what the new trends and innovation about digital journalism are (and laugh when Rupert Murdoch opens his mouth).

But now we can show our own example of a news site that tried to survive in this ecosystem and… died. But it’s all about trial and error!

I’m talking about Soitu.es, which closed its highly-regarded doors after 22 months of life. Of course, its demise had a strong impact in the blogosphere, its increasing traffic more than 10% in the last month.

This Spain-based news site was born in the wrong way, trying to show off with an enormous and fancy newsroom of almost 40 people, in times when the bet must be low-cost. The correct path is to start with a smaller staff and try to grow when the cash starts flowing in. Instead, Soitu.es made an alliance with the BBVA bank, that soon came to an end when they didn’t see the profitability, taking the whole project down with them. Its Director, Gumersindo Lafuente, blamed the financial crisis – as expected – after he spent money on their own CMS and ad server instead of using the great open source options available.

With this experience in mind, David De Ugarte came up with a few key points to make your news site a sure failure:

  • Over-budget your project: There is nothing quite like having great amounts of money from the beginning to install in your team the habits that will make you fail, while the expectations of your investors remain high.
  • Abandon your own speech about reality: Comment uncritically on all the fashionable stuff. Cut no ice. Don’t believe in anything and stand for anything and with a bit of luck they won’t remember anything you published.
  • Don’t allow users to identify with you: people used to buy El País newspaper – or any newspaper, for that matter – as a militant action or a way of life. If you want to fail you can’t allow something like that to happen. Don’t let them associate you with something in particular and don’t make yourself specialist in anything.
  • Have a “paper mindset”: pay columnists to write like they have been doing it all their lives without a single link for contextualization.
  • Burn time and capital as fast as you can: organize conferences and invest while you can in nice headquarters with fancy furniture.

2 videos: How social media changed the journalist’s day; and making money from content

Here are 2 very interesting videos from a recent talk by Karl Schneider, Head of editorial development at B2B publisher Reed Business Information, at UCA Farnham. In the first Schneider takes a look at how the typical journalist’s day has changed – I particularly like the concept of previously only ‘20%’ of a journalist’s activity being visible, and 80% invisible, but that equation being reversed with the arrival of collaborative social media.

The journalist’s day from Stop.Frame on Vimeo.

In the second video Schneider likens online publishing to exhibitions and events, rather than traditional print and broadcasting models:

Can we make money from web content? from Stop.Frame on Vimeo.

What I was told when I asked about blogs joining the PCC

Following recent coverage of the PCC’s Baroness Buscombe’s Independent interview where she possibly mooted the idea of the PCC regulating blogs, I thought I would share some correspondence I had with the PCC recently over the same issue. In a nutshell: blogs can already choose to operate under the PCC anyway.

I asked Simon Yip of the PCC whether a hyperlocal blog could opt in to the PCC Code and self-regulation. These are his replies:

“They can decide to adhere to the PCC Code if they choose. To fall formally within the system overseen by the PCC, they would have to subscribe to the body responsible for funding the Commission.

“I am afraid I am unable to answer the question of cost, as it depends on the circulation of the newspaper [sic]. As you can imagine, it would vary from publication to publication.

“For any publication to subscribe to the Code of Practice, the publication would contact Pressbof.”

So there you go. If you can afford to pay for a shiny PCC badge, then you’re welcome.

And of course, that’s the main hurdle to the idea of PCC regulation of blogs: few blogs could afford to pay, and even fewer would want to. Meanwhile, there is no financial incentive for the PCC to recruit blogs (nor is there any incentive for bloggers – yet – in joining an organisation whose 2 main purposes appear to be to stave off statutory regulation and to mediate disputes to avoid legal costs).

Whether there is financial incentive in trying to attract public funding to do so, or to use blogs as a common foe to do the same is, of course, a separate matter.

What is much more worrying than this blogging regulation sideshow is the apparent ignorance demonstrated by Baroness Buscombe in talking about Google and the news industry’s business plans, described earlier on this blog by Matt Wardman.

The most curious quote for me from her SoE speech is this one, following on from a paragraph which attempts to conjure up the now almost pantomime-like Monster Of Google.

“I urge you to recall the recent words of Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO: “We use as our primary goal the benefit to end users. That’s who we serve.” So there you have it: the end user matters, not those who create content in the first place.”

Is she saying that serving users above content creators is a Bad Thing? Weren’t newspapers supposed to serve their readerships as well? Or did that change while I wasn’t looking?

Baroness Buscombe, the Press Complaints Commission and the Internet: Hard Questions

Baroness Buscombe, the Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, gave a speech this week to the Society of Editors, followed by some comments to Ian Burrell of the Independent about a desire to “regulate the blogosphere “.

The Baroness has taken several steps backwards from her previous statements to Mr Burrell, and has attempted to emphasise that any proposals would be “voluntary”.

I am sceptical as to whether this is a true change of mind, or a simply more nuanced journey aiming for the same destination by a more circuitous, and perhaps better hidden, route. Ian Burrell has pointed out that he had a direct interview with her for 40 minutes, so making that mistake would not be easy. However, that has been addressed elsewhere by perhaps hundreds of people, with a vigorous collective letter from hundreds of bloggers.

For me, in addition to the “will we … won’t we … will we … won’t we … regulate the bloggers” game of Hokey-Cokey, this affair has highlighted a number of problems with both the Press Complaints commission, and perhaps with Baroness Buscombe herself.

Firstly, the Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission is a position which surely depends on political and commercial neutrality. Perhaps it can only be compared to that of Speaker of the House of Commons. How is it possible for a Peer who takes the whip for a political party to be neutral?

Secondly, despite the Chairman of the PCC clearly needing to be a neutral figure, Baroness Buscombe used her speech to the Society of Editors to make party political points.

Thirdly, having read Baroness Buscombe’s speech to the Society of Editors, I think that her, and the PCC’s, level of knowledge and understanding about the Internet is open to question.

And finally, Baroness Buscombe applauds the aggressive media investigations of the House of Commons, and MPs’ Expenses, yet suggests that they need to lay off the House of Lords – where she is a member; this at a time when the finanical skeletons have begun to emerge, creaking, from their Lordships’ cupboards into the light of day. That is a double standard.

Let me illustrate this with a few extracts.

Political Neutrality

Baroness Buscombe opens with a recounting of her experience as a Shadow Minister fighting the current Labour administration, including:

Of course the fact that unfortunately we do have such a dysfunctional democracy – particularly given the House of Commons appears almost entirely to have forgotten what they are there for – means it is vital that the press is free to investigate and probe and tell it like it is.

You can rightly feel proud that, from unraveling the government’s misleading spinning of intelligence in the Iraq War to exposing uncensored details of MPs’ expenses, the British press has filled the democratic deficit in recent years.

Does this partisan accusation, whether true or not, have any place in a speech by the person who is ultimately responsible for determining the accuracy or otherwise of such claims made by newspapers?

And why has she not, at the very least, resigned the Conservative whip?

Understanding the Internet

Baroness Buscombe, on news aggregators and search engines:

Together the press, all commercial broadcasters, film, book publishing and music industries must now work together to find a new business model with the Search Engines. The latter, the aggregators, think it is ok to enjoy the use of all your valuable intellectual property and ad revenues for little or no return.

This statement is simply untrue. Major aggregators do *not* use *all* of the intellectual property of newspapers and media. Google, which is attacked by the Baroness in the following paragraph, runs the Google News service.

Google News takes 1) a headline, and 2) up to around 155 characters of text.

It must be very depressing for journalists who spend a whole week creating a 5000-word article to realise that only the first 2 lines and the subeditor headline are of any value !

Further, Google offers a complete opt-out service, either from having articles included in the site’s cache, or from having a site indexed altogether. I use it myself on the Wardman Wire to prevent caching, since I have taken the trouble to invest in a high-quality server and want the visitors to come to my site rather than read the Google cache.

If services such as Google News are covering content from newspapers and the media, it is simply because those newspapers have made a decision to allow Google to do so.

The issue of aggregators and search engines, and their impact on the revenues of newspapers, has been one of the very highest priorities of the industry for months, and it is worrying that the head of the PCC hasn’t got to grips with the basic concepts involved after 6 months with the organisation (Wikipedia quotes her start date as April 2009).

Leave their Lordships Alone

Baroness Buscombe on the Commons, and the importance of vigorous scrutiny:

I know that this is not a popular message with many of my fellow Parliamentarians, some of whom are bruised by recent coverage, but we must consider the MPs’ expenses furore as a whole, and not focus on individual injustices.

What is the main lesson to be learned?

Surely, it is that the absence of scrutiny in the first place allowed a culture of abuse to flourish. If trust in politics is at a low ebb, it is because there has been too little freedom to shine a light on politicians’ activities, not too much.

However, about 4 paragraphs later the tone of Baroness Buscombe’s speech changes:

Which leads me to the House of Lords. I may be partisan, but is it really in anyone’s interests for the media to be party to the undermining of our Second Chamber – one of the few platforms in this country where people can stand up and say what they believe without fear or favour?

This is astonishing at a time when the light of day is at last shining on abuses of the Expenses system in the Upper Chamber. This is not a good recommendation for a Press Regulator who is trying to declare her support for strong investigation by journalists.

And that letter …

The letter should should still be signed by as wide a range of bloggers as possible, because – even if we take Baroness Buscombe’s new position as being the real one – the PCC and the Baroness clearly need someone to explain to them how the Internet works.

Wrapping Up

You can find the letter and the argument behind it, and sign up, here at Liberal Conspiracy .

Before signing, I’d encourage readers to read the whole speech and judge my comments in their full context.

At present this riposte has been driven largely by bloggers in the political niche; I’d particularly encourage bloggers in the media and journalism areas to offer their support.

But the bloggers who I really want to sign up are those for either the Society of Editors, or the Press Complaints Commission.

Unfortunately, neither of them has a blogger. Perhaps that would be a good first step to find out more about the internet before Baroness Buscombe makes another speech.

They presumably already have an insight into how quickly the online community can react when necessary.

Further Coverage

  1. Mark Pack has a slightly less pointed critique of Baroness Buscombe’s speech.
  2. Roy Greenslade has three articles about the “blog regulation” incident.
  3. The Heresiarch has a different angle entitled “Bloggers Repel Boarders“. Ooh-arr, me hearties.
  4. Liberal Conspiracy has the “Unity letter“.

Young people drying up like puddles on a sunny day: useful tools

There is a tool available to show graphically changes in population over time between 1992 and 2031.

The website provides an interactive map that graphically illustrates the extent to which age profile of the UK will change over the next few years. The mapping tool allows the user to select criteria for studying various age groups from UK level down to every local authority area. So, if you’d like to see what the age profile of your locality will look like in ten years’ time, this site can help. It is especially useful for local news bloggers.

To find out more, visithttp://www.statistics.gov.uk/ageingintheuk/agemap.html

If you set the age range to the 0-15’s, it’s like watching pools of water dry up on a sunny day, as the drought of young people spreads across the country. Or watch the progress of the over-65s (which I join just after the end of the period) as the map gradually darkens.

20090117-uk-young-people-1998

20090117-uk-young-people-2026

20090117-uk-young-people-ceregedion

Hat-tip: St Aidan to Abbey Moor.

Let’s do something interesting with the OJB Facebook Group

The OJB Facebook Group is about to hit 1500 members, and yet we’ve never really done anything interesting with it. I’d like to change that.

I am advertising the position of OJB Facebook Group Manager. It has no pay, of course, but it does have potential for fun, and valuable experience.

For example, could we crowdsource something? Could we broaden the voices on OJB? Use apps and widgets creatively? Engage with the Wall and forums better? Something else? (setting up a Fan page?).

What would you do with a group of 1500 people? Send me a message on Facebook with your ideas and a link to your online presence, and then I’ll set up some online discussion to develop it further.

PS: As an equal opportunities non-employer, I’m particularly interested to hear from people outside of the Anglo-American world.

A glance at the magazine industry

I am speaking to the various digital heads at the major magazines for an overview of the industry as we approach 2010.

Emanuela Pignataro, head of Conde Nast Digital UK, spoke of relaunches and a new focus on social media.

What are you working on now?

We are focusing on the relaunch of CNTraveller.com – version two of this site is due to go live at the beginning of December with exciting new services.  In addition we are looking ahead to early 2010 where we are working towards unveiling an evolution of the successful men’s quality lifestyle site, GQ.com.

What is the biggest challenge you are currently facing?

The ability to keep innovating and investing in spite of the current economic climate. We have shown consistent investment over the past two years – this year alone we have launched a brand new website – wired.co.uk, as well as relaunching CNTraveller next month, and we will be continuing this investment in order to ensure we stay ahead of the competition.

What do you hope to achieve in 2010?

A robust social media platform which can support our editorial content and increase user engagement