Author Archives: Paul Bradshaw

2016 was the year of the bot — here’s a brief history of how they have been used in journalism

Robot gif

2016 was the year of the bot in journalism. In this edited extract from the forthcoming second edition of the Online Journalism Handbook, I outline what bots are, how bots have been used by media organisations from early Twitter bots to the recent wave of ‘chatbots’, and some tips and tools for getting started with journalistic bots.

‘Bots’ are ‘robots’ – only on the internet. Without the mechanical body of their physical counterparts, all that leaves is a disembodied computer script, normally created to perform repetitive tasks.

This broad description takes in a whole range of activities, and so the term ‘bot’ is used to talk about very different things in different contexts:

  • In search you might talk about bots used to index webpages, such as the ‘Googlebot’.
  • In finance and commerce you might talk about bots used to monitor information online and respond to it by buying or selling things.
  • And in advertising and politics you might talk about bots being used for nefarious purposes: for example, to make it look like more people are viewing webpages, clicking on adverts, or arguing for a particular candidate.

This article isn’t about any of those.

In the context of journalism and publishing, the term ‘bot’ is normally used to refer to something which users can interact with. Examples include: Continue reading

Snapchat for Journalists now available in Spanish

Snapchat para periodistas libro

My ebook Snapchat for Journalists is now available in Spanish: Snapchat para periodistas.

The new translation also includes specific examples from Spanish language media and journalists using the platform.

A Spanish language blog post by Barbara Maseda, with more details about the translation, can be found here.

Barbara has also translated two of my other books into Spanish: Periodismo de datos: Un golpe rápido (Data Journalism Heist) and Excel para periodistas (Excel for Journalists)

Whatever happened to the audio slideshow?

Remember the audio slideshow? Once one of the most compelling editorial formats – and a truly web-native one at that – it is now rare to see them on a news website. And a whole wave of audio slideshow work is starting to disappear from the web.

The page for BBC’s Jazz junctions – riding New York’s A Train now lacks the audio slideshow it once held, while The Guardian is awash with pages showing gaps where a slideshow should be – like After the riots and Timbuktu’s ancient manuscripts (both from 2007), error messages about Flash (from 2010 and 2011) – or no pages at all in the case of Shrimp fishing in the Wash or Somalia’s refugee camps.

audio-slideshows-chart new-york-times

A search on the New York Times Chronicle tool shows a spike in mentions of audio slideshows at the end of the last decade. After 2010 they aren’t mentioned at all.

2012 seems to have been the last time audio slideshows were part of the fabric in the UK: most of the work on the Guardian’s Audio Slideshows section is from that year, while it represents the peak of production at the BBC. Here’s just a selection: Continue reading

My online journalism Masters course is changing its name. Here’s why

telegraph-newsroom image by alex-gamela

MA student Alex Gamela took this image of the Telegraph newsroom during the first year of the MA

My MA in Online Journalism has a new name: the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism. It’s still a course all about finding, publishing and distributing journalism online. So why the name change?

Well, because what ‘online‘ means has changed.

For the last 18 months I’ve been talking to people across the industry, reflecting on the past 7 years of teaching the MA, and researching the forthcoming second edition of the Online Journalism Handbook. Here, then, are the key conclusions I arrived at, and how they informed the new course design:

1: Adapting to new platforms is a specific skill

In the last few years a significant change has taken place. Journalism is now increasingly ‘native’, playing to the strengths of multiple platforms rather than just using them as promotional ‘channels’. It went from web and social to chat, keeps remembering email, and in the near future will take in cars, the home and other connected devices too. Continue reading

See all the presentations from Data Journalism UK 2016

If you enjoyed the first Data Journalism UK conference on November 22, or followed from afar, I’ve gathered together all the presentations from the day on a special Slideshare account here.

The BBC’s Dan Wainwright has written about his session on data journalism on this blog, Anna Noble wrote about some of her work on The Information Lab, there’s a brief summary in the Media Mill email newsletter here, and you can also read a write-up of the event by Benjamin Cooley on Journalism.co.uk:

We’re already starting to plan ahead for Data Journalism UK 2017, so if there are sessions or people you’d like included, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

7 platforms who became publishers in 2016

We've got work to do

In 2016 Tumblr got angry

If there was always a suspicion that it would happen eventually, this year it was confirmed: in 2016 platforms from Facebook to Snapchat, Twitter to Tumblr, all took significant steps towards becoming fully blown publishers. Here are 7 things that happened this year that swung it. Continue reading

How the BBC England data unit scraped airport noise complaints

heathrow-noise-story

This news story used scraping to gather data on noise complaints

BBC England Data Unit’s Daniel Wainwright tried to explain basic web scraping at this year’s Data Journalism Conference but technical problems got in the way. This is what should have happened:

I’d wondered for a while why no-one who had talked about scraping at conferences had actually demonstrated the procedure. It seemed to me to be one of the most sought-after skills for any investigative journalist.

Then I tried to do so myself in an impromptu session at the first Data Journalism Conference in Birmingham (#DJUK16) and found out why: it’s not as easy as it’s supposed to look.

To anyone new to data journalism, a scraper is as close to magic as you get with a spreadsheet and no wand. Continue reading