Monthly Archives: February 2010

My Favourite UK Political Blogosphere Statistics in 2010 so far

During January and early February we have been subjected to a festival of political Satirical Statistics, as blogs reviewed 2009, Tweetminster reviewed political twitter, and commentators reviewed all of these numbers.

Most of it has been fluff and fury, but amongst the noise these are the statistics which I think are worth noting with care.

Labourlist’s lunchtime email newsletter goes to 3500 people:

3,500 people now subscribe to the LunchtimeList daily email update, which gives a quick but comprehensive overview of all the day’s news and views in the Labour Party

That’s after a year of solid plugging, and simply highlights how tough it can be to build email lists from scratch. In my opinion, a focus on email was one of the priorities that Derek Draper got right from day one on Labour List as it is still the most reliable way of building a community. Kudos to Alex Smith for publishing the email numbers; as far as I know no one else has done so and tend to just say ” we have thousands of subscribers”. Usually “thousands” can be taken to mean “two thousand and a bit”.

On an obliquely related note, I received my “free trial” to the Editorial Intelligence “Daily Digest” email today, and – bearing in mind that excellent free media summaries are available from several thinktanks (such as Reform and Ekklesia) and elsewhere – I don’t see that these are sustainable as a paid-for product, unless they facilitate real added value somewhere else in an integrated service (in EI’s case, this is the EI Club).

Comment summary may go (perhaps has gone already) the same way as much reporting and photography – it will slide down the value chain and will become an engagement (rather than value adding) tool.

Most of the traffic to Liberal Conspiracy comes from Comment is Free, Twitter and Facebook:

Most of our referrals now come from Twitter, Facebook and the Guardian website (primarily from CIF writers and commenters).

I’m still reflecting on this. Is this an illustration that Liberal Conspiracy is reaching into the wider media, or is it an indication that writers for Comment is Free can direct traffic to blogs when they try?

The online political niche has not grown *very* significantly in the UK.

In their recent report Tweetminster reported around a hundred thousand people following Members of Parliament on Twitter. That is not significantly different to the 50 to 100 thousand people following political blogs quoted to me in 2007 by people associated with the 18 Doughty Street project.

Anecdotal, but interesting. How will real political engagement be built?

Wrapping Up

I’d welcome further comments and insights.

Fair use and copyright in the UK – how different is it? (comment call)

There’s a fabulous post over at the Center for Social Media on when using copyrighted material in video comes under fair use. If the work is ‘transformative’ then there’s a strong case for fair use. Examples include:

  1. Adding satirical subtitles, fan tributes, parody, critique
  2. Using copyright material for illustration of example (e.g. stages in a star’s career)
  3. Accidental capture – e.g. music playing in the background while someone dances (if unstaged)
  4. Documenting an event or experience, e.g. presence at a concert
  5. Mashups, remixes or collages that create new meaning from old material

But of course this is all under American law. My question is: how far do these same examples go under UK law? I’d love to know your experiences and interpretations.

A media student’s guide to starting social media

One of my undergraduate students, Natalie Adcock, has put together a very useful guide to social media for student journalists. It’s aimed at the team of second year students who will be once again running a live online newsroom this year in my Online Journalism module (which Natalie studied last year), but could be used by any students. If you have any experience of running a student newsroom and want to add anything, let her know.

More 21st century newsroom ideas: the Google Newsroom

The Google Newsroom

The Google Newsroom

Here’s a new contribution to the ‘Model for a 21st Century Newsroom’ concept: the Google Newsroom, by Benoît Raphaël. Based on his experience as editor in chief at Le Post, Raphael makes a number of salient points about reorganising the newsroom in a digital age. He suggests that “we have to forget that old idea of merging newsrooms” and create “one “where everything happens,” that is to say on the web. This is the heart of information system. The rest is just appearance.” Continue reading

The London Weekly and Invincible investigated – I wouldn't touch them with a bargepole

The investigation into The London Weekly and Invincible gathers pace – now James Ball is setting out his stall: he doesn’t like what he sees, and neither do I. As a result, I want to ask you to do something at the end of this article*.

The group of people looking into this at Help Me Investigate, including James, have uncovered a wealth of information about The London Weekly and the people behind it. These can be summed up in the following:

  • Repeated connections with the Invincible Group, a project headed by Jordan Kensington that has a similar history of overhyped launches.
  • Unsupported claims of investment, staffing, distribution and company structure.
  • People who have been asked to work for nothing – for example, commission-only ad sales and internships with no support.
  • Reproduction of content from elsewhere, not just in the newspaper but on the websites of The London Weekly and Invincible Group themselves – the distribution figure of 250,000, for example, appears to be a simple copy and paste from the Metro-in-Scotland. We’re trying to find out if this copying includes advertising.
image of London Weekly spread

Click through to a set of annotated images of the second edition showing where copy was taken from

It’s still not clear whether the project is actually breaking the law, but if I was a student or freelance journalist considering being involved in this project, or anything related to the Invincible Group, I would steer well clear. That’s just my opinion. As James says:

“The people who’ve really been jerked about are prospective employees, and perhaps even those who got hired. In the wake of the widespread coverage of the new freesheet when it was first announced last year, laid-off sales staff from the London Lite, Metro, London Paper and other publications sent CVs.

“After signing NDAs (which as they refer to non-registered entities would likely be unenforceable), some were offered sales jobs: based entirely on commission.

“One such individual was offered the role of “advertising director” having never so much as spoken to anyone on the title. He was expected to work with no basic pay, but instead would receive 35% commission on advertising sold. Unsurprisingly, he decided to decline the offer.”

James’ post is worth reading in full for more detail on what’s been dug up on Invincible/The London Weekly. Likewise, his post listing the questions that Invincible/The London Weekly need to answer.

*Meanwhile, here’s what I’m suggesting. Please blog about this issue and link to this post with the phrases ‘London Weekly‘ and ‘Invincible Group‘. Given the strong PageRank of the Online Journalism Blog, a search on either should then bring this near the top of results – hence the headline – allowing potential employees to make an informed decision (and former employees to add their own experiences).

And if you can add anything more, please post a comment or email me on paul (at) helpmeinvestigate (dot) com.

Micropodcasting – an overview through the eyes of two practitioners

I’m kicking off the second semester of my MA in Online Journalism this week with a session on audio. As part of the preparation for that I’ve been looking at ‘micropodcasting‘, speaking to Mark Rock, the founder of Audioboo, and Christian Payne – better known as Documentally – who is a great user of the micropodcasting form. I thought it might be useful to post their thoughts here:

I asked Mark Rock what sort of boos (recordings) proved popular on the site. He listed the following: Continue reading

Help Me Investigate and The London Weekly

Since the middle of last week a group of people on crowdsourcing platform Help Me Investigate* have been asking questions about The London Weekly, a new freesheet that was due to launch in the capital.

The team behind the publication – ‘Global Publishing Group’ – had boasted £10.5m investment and a 50-strong team. But the public face of The London Weekly, the lack of advertising for those jobs, and lack of registration for the company, raised some eyebrows.

The paper did indeed launch on the Friday, although the distribution was limited (despite a promised circulation of 250,000) and the production values poor. More questions were being asked.

By then the Help Me Investigate group had already dug up quite a bit on the publication – in particular, a number of links between The London Weekly and the Invincible Group. My particular favourite was ‘Joe-T”s discovery that Jordan Kensington, the founder of the Invincible Group, claims to own a primary school named after Mother Theresa. The untraceable ‘Editor in Chief’ listed on The London Weekly website also happens to be ‘Agnes A. Theresa’.

Another discovered that the ‘Investor Relations’ page on the Invincible Group’s website has been copied from the Ryanair website (even down to ‘Latest Passenger figures’), while others discovered recently created Wikipedia entries edited by just one, new, user.

The investigation is still trying to track down all of the 50+ staff listed on The London Weekly website, most of whom appear to be freelancers who have had little or no involvement with the paper, or names with no apparent online presence.

In addition, we are now looking to contact advertisers who have appeared in the paper to see what they know about the publication.

Meanwhile, James Ball has written an open letter to The London Weekly laying out the questions raised by the investigation so far. It’s pretty lengthy, and gives a perfect summary of what has been dug up so far by various people.

If you want to join the investigation – whether that’s simply to browse, or make a simple phonecall – post a comment below, send me a tweet, or use the form on Help Me Investigate.

*Disclosure for non-regular readers: Help Me Investigate is run by me, Nick Booth, Colin Meek, Jon Bounds and Stef Lewandowski.

Technology is not a strategy, it's a tool – part 2

A couple weeks ago I blogged about how people often confuse using technology as a tool with using technology as part of a broader strategy. While that post focused on the objectives of news organisations in using UGC, I thought it might be useful to write a short follow-up post about strategies.

It’s very simple. Often, I find that people will say their strategy will be to ‘use Twitter’ or ‘use Facebook’ or ‘use Flickr’. They are then surprised (or, for the sceptics, vindicated) when they ‘get no results’.

The following is a simple list of translations from tools to typical strategies:

Tool Sample strategies
Twitter Follow people in your ‘market’; tweet useful information; monitor searches on key terms in your field; respond to relevant people with @ messages; use relevant hashtags; retweet anything useful to your followers, or anything that might help users you need to build relationships with
Flickr Upload photos regularly; comment constructively on other users’ photos; participate constructively in Flickr forums and pools.
Blogs Post useful content (you might have a particular strategy around the type of content, e.g. linkbait, evergreen content, etc. – this obviously applies to Twitter, Flickr, etc. too); link to other blogs in your field; post constructive comments on other blogs in your field; link your blog presence to presences elsewhere on social media

Of course, as detailed in that previous post, the tools should come after the strategies, and the strategy should come after the objective, but I thought this might be a useful way to clearly communicate what you really want when you ask for a ‘social media strategy’.

I’ve only mentioned 3 tools, because after that you get the idea. If you can add any other strategies for these or other tools, I’ll happily add them in (I’d love to hear them too).

UPDATE: This process in action with an MA TV and Interactive Content group.

UPDATE: This post takes a similar angle on so-called social media strategies and the ‘tick-box’ syndrome.

UPDATE: Below is a very useful diagram on Twitter strategy from Ogilvy PR:

Twitter strategy

Thanks to Jashpal Mall, whose conversation sparked this post.

Property Week takes magazine online

Property Week has launched what it claims to be the first online, interactive business magazine, Property Week Global Interactive.

PWGi, which is is free to read, will be published four times a year alongside the original Property Week Global, and emailed to its newsletter subscribers.

The publication is dependent on advertising, but publishers have not ruled out exploring other revenue-raising options in the future.

Property Week editor Lucy Scott said the launch is part of a long-term strategy.

“I think digital magazines will be a major part of publishing in the future,” she said.

“Reading habits are changing – Apple’s launch of the iPad shows that. Although we have websites where people can access the information they need, a magazine fulfils a totally different role in the way it is presented, the arrangement of content and how we prioritise that content.

The beauty of this format for a Property Week is that we can reach our global circulation instantly and therefore are not hostage to the perils of using the post to distribute the magazine. This was a major part of our decision to publish the magazine digitally.”

So what is it like?

The site loads in a page-style format, with fairly fool-proof links to video, audio and animation.

The user clicks the corners to turn the page and on the page to zoom, while a calendar-style contents page allows you to flick to any section of the magazine for a full story. The reader can also choose to to share the story or download it as a PDF.

However, aside from the reading options, the various clickable icons and the ability to view the content in any order in your own time, there is little real particpation on offer.

The publishers have relied on Ceros technology and Flash to offer interactive, three dimensional-feel content, but the result is strangely static.

While the magazine is ascetically pleasing and the layout impressive, I felt a little overwhelmed by the various flying images and garish colours.

Let me know what you think.

Online journalism lesson #9: Audio slideshows, community and wikis

The penultimate session in my 10-class module in Online Journalism from last year covered a range of areas. There’s a little bit on audio slideshows, a lot on community, and related to that, I covered wikis too. I’ve split them into 3 presentations for ease of use. This year (the module starts again on Monday) I’ll probably take an axe to all of this…