Monthly Archives: November 2009

Did Web 1.0 begin dying in September 2008?

Nicholas Moerman has put together an impressive collection of graphs showing a general decline over the past year in visits to mainstream websites across a raft of categories, from content and commerce to portals and porn. The only sites that buck the trend? I’ll let you guess.

He doesn’t know why this is (or even if he’s seeing things), which is rather refreshing, but offers some ideas, and it’s certainly food for thought. Here it is:

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.