Monthly Archives: May 2010

An experiment tonight in joining up politics #onlinepolitics

Tonight I’m doing an experiment to create a conversation about politics across several different niches, with the idea of trying to broaden political debate.

My aim is to help pull together different aspects of politics and media – including campaigning, technology skills, scrutiny, how to report to a high standard, and local reporting – as a way of helping build participation online.

That’s a big subject, so I’m starting with one aspect that I can grab hold of and which should be of wide interest – making some income from political or other blogs – and a twitter chat on the hashtag #onlinepolitics from 9pm to 10pm, which will be captured on my blog using Cover It Live.

There is an introductory article for this chat published earlier today here, as a “starter for ten”.

Anyone is welcome to watch or join in.

I am @mattwardman on twitter.

Advertisements

Crowdsourcing an investigation: interview with The Faster Times' Nathan Hegedus

The Faster Times have been experimenting with crowdsourcing as with their users they investigate the backgrounds of own brand foods (that is, foods which are sold under the brand of a supermarket, e.g. ‘Tesco cornflakes’). I spoke to Nathan Hegedus who is overseeing the investigation:

Listen!

Do users really want to pay for separate Times and Sunday Times sites?

The Times and Sunday Times have launched their new paywalled sites at  http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/ and http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/. But while the sites have some good features, which I was shown at a preview last night, I still can’t work out why users would want to pay for two different websites covering the same subjects …

What’s on offer?

The plan is to replace the current site – timesonline.co.uk – with two new sites, one for The Times and one for The Sunday Times. £2 a week (or £1 for an individual day) buys you access to both sites. There isn’t an option to get just one site.

The Times proposition

The Times won’t try to be a news wire – it’ll be offering fewer stories on its home page than most online newspapers with the aim being to enhance those stories.

Without the need to chase search engine traffic or page views for advertisers, the idea of covering fewer stories but in a better way sounds appealing.

Some articles, for instance, will have information graphic and tabs to let you explore the history and different aspects of the story without leaving the page. This package of content is brilliant – it works much better as an experience than lists of related articles or auto-generated tag pages.

The Sunday Times proposition

The Sunday Times site will look very different to the Times’s. It will have the sections people know from the paper. So, news, sport and  business – but also culture, style, travel, In Gear and the magazine.

The site won’t be updated much during the week – though the aim is still for it to function as a 7-days-a-week site.

But instead of trying to compete with the Times sites for news, it will offer readers the ability to browse and explore Sunday’s content over the week, concentrating on galleries, videos and interactive graphics.

Why two websites?

The decision to replace the current timesonline.co.uk site with two brands and two websites – thetimes.co.uk and thesundaytimes.co.uk – has obviously meant some thinking about how they work together.

They seem clear enough that they are two products – a daily news site and a site that you’re meant to browse all week. But it was interesting that the reasons they talked about for this were the different editorial teams, the “different but overlapping audiences”, the different values of the newspapers, and the different reasons why people buy the Sunday paper vs the weekday paper. Continue reading

Hyperlocal news in Denmark: one editor's experiences

For a guest post for the Online Journalism Blog, I invited Henriette Pilegaard, Editor (citizen journalism and social media) for JydskeVestkysten to talk about her experiences of setting up a hyperlocal news network in Denmark.

2008: Citizen Journalism

In January 2008, while changing the techical platform behind JV.DK to one with web 2.0 possibilities, JydskeVestkysten moved into citizen journalism.

In an outdoor and in-media campaign citizens were invited to register on JV.DK to write and upload photos from their area, corresponding to the local editions of the newspaper.

This initiative certainly attracted attention in the Danish media world – only the expectations of our editorial leaders were set a bit too high. They hoped for a quick 500 citizen journalist-produced articles each week. After the first eight months 2,500 were registered, delivering 25-30 articles per day. Now the number of registered users is reaching 5,000, and the number of articles is still the same.

Some areas clearly have had more success than others. What works appears to be nursing citizen journalists by response, personal meetings and – not least – occasionally printing their articles or even “real” journalists picking up and developing their ideas.

This costs manpower. As many before have discovered and some are still learning: building the online machinery is not enough; it doesn’t run by itself.

Who are the citizen journalists? Studies show that they are a broad section of the population. Many write to promote their hobby- or sport clubs in which they invest volunteer work; many are local activists who write to promote their local area, to show the amount of activity, the experience of living in little towns or villages in rural areas.

This urge is strengthened by the fact that in 2007 Denmark went through a structural reform reducing local government from 271 to 98 units. These days the big debate in the national media is what to do about dying rural areas: should, for instance, some villages with large numbers of empty houses be bulldozed?

The focus on hyperlocal

Against this background the editorial leaders set in place a new strategy concentrating the citizen journalism effort on hyperlocal sites.

I – a journalist and citizen journalist manager at the Soenderborg (population 77,000) office – was placed in a brand new position as an overall editor of citizen journalism in November last year. The role was primarily focused on organising the opening of ten hyperlocal sites this spring. The tenth opened Monday, May 10 (pins on the map link to hyperlocal sites – others are “ordinary” citizen journalism).

The software behind JV.DK is Xoops, and this open source-material is also used to build the in-house, home-made platform for our hyperlocal sites. So this is done with very little cost.

The main costs of the project are my position and supposedly 8-15 working hours a week spent by local community managers (journalists) in each of our 9 offices.

The goal of the strategy is not directly to make income, but to strengthen the newspaper brand by building goodwill. We help local communities increase their visibility, to organize themselves into communicating and promoting their area and even to go into action on political topics like closing of  schools.

Of course we hope to make people spend less time on Facebook etc. and more time on JV.DK, which will make it easier to sell ads. Also we aim to introduce micro self-service ads on the hyperlocal sites.

The market

As with most newspapers, the daily Danish regional newspaper JydskeVestkysten has for decades been steadily losing readers and subscribers (now 64,000 copies).

On the other hand, the website of the newspaper, JV.DK, has been rapidly growing in user numbers – a pleasant fact which in no way makes up for the income lost from subscribers or – the latest blow – advertisers holding back because of the financial crisis.

We’re keeping above the surface, but every little expense is being spared. Last spring 11 editorial jobs were cut, less than 2 years after the previous reduction.

Luckily the editorial leaders of the house don’t lack visions – as long as they don’t demand great investments.

Other hyperlocal sites have been rolled out in Denmark within the last few years. Among them www.dinby.dkwww.lokalia.dk and www.lokus.dk. They all find it very hard to get the expected amount of user involvement and user generated material, even though they have much better platforms with a – maybe confusing – range of functionality.

Our advantage is that our news brand is very settled and highly rated in terms of credibility, our first goal is not commercial, which it clearly is on the other hyperlocal sites; and we have local offices with known journalists who are there to guide, help and respond to the citizen journalists who register to the hyperlocal site.

Get organised

My experience so far is that it is crucial to get the local people well organized. To get local volunteer managers of the hyperlocal site to arrange workshops to overcome technical issues and to do follow ups.

This is certainly a new kind of a job to a journalist, sometimes a hard one to sell to highly educated colleagues who are used to being alone in the market, sovereignly deciding which stories to work with and when.

I’ll admit they don’t queue up to be local community mangers, but I sense that some of them are learning to like it and even become fascinated with the web 2.0-possibilities in regaining contact with the readers.

Another hard part is working with a home-made system which has its faults and bad days, relying on developers who don’t really have the capacity and have to put tasks between other assignments.

Going forward

This fall we expect to transfer all community and citizen journalism content on to a new and separate platform which provides the possibility of tagging in more dimensions, and a range of extra functionality that makes it more social.

This is going to be a challenge but, I hope, also a development that will take us further.

At the same time – says the chief editor – we’re going to roll out another 10 hyper local sites and maybe another 10…

Busy fall too, I expect 🙂

Zoe Margolis wins Libel Damages for a headline on her own article

The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday that Zoe Margolis, who as Abby Lee wrote the “Girl with a One-Track Mind” sex blog and book, will receive damages from the Independent on Sunday over a headline attached to an article she had written herself. I can only find a printed version of the article:

Her Lawyer, Lucy Moorman, told the High Court in London that on March 7th the newspaper published an article by Miss Margolis, who writes under the pen name Abby Lee, but added to it was the headline, “I was a hooker who became an agony aunt”.

Miss Moorman said: “This headline was written by the newspaper not by the claimant.” The headline featured in the newspaper and on the website, she said.

The hearing was on Friday, and documented that a settlement had been reached:

On 7th March 2010, The Independent on Sunday newspaper seriously defamed Ms. Margolis by referring to her as a “hooker” in the title of an article that she wrote for them, published in both the paper and online editions.

The resulting effect of this libel was immeasurable, and Ms. Margolis was forced to issue legal proceedings against Independent News & Media Ltd.

These proceedings have now come to a conclusion and substantial damages have been offered to Ms. Margolis for the distress and impact to her reputation, both personal and professional, that this libel caused.

There will be a statement read in open court in a hearing tomorrow, Friday 21st May 2010 at 10.30am, court 13 at the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London.

Ms. Margolis will be available for interview or comment following the hearing.

So far I have seen no report in the Independent. I assume that this will be coming soon.

The original report is here. There are a couple of interesting points:

An action has been pursued and damages have been paid by the Newspaper despite a correction and apology having been published within a week.

I find it slightly difficult to fathom what happened with the process of writing and checking the headline on the original piece. Perhaps the mention of “Belle de Jour, the blogging London call girl” in the second paragraph of the text, before the author herself was mentioned by name, had some effect.