Tag Archives: Independent

The Independent’s Facebook innovation


The Independent newspaper has introduced a fascinating new feature on the site that allows users to follow articles by individual writers and news about specific football teams via Facebook.

It’s one of those ideas so simple you wonder why no one else appears to have done it before*: instead of just ‘liking’ individual articles, or having to trudge off to Facebook to see if there’s a relevant page you can become a fan of, the Indie have applied the technology behind the ‘Like’ button to make the process of following specific news feeds more intuitive.

To that end, you can pick your favourite football team from this page or click on the ‘Like’ button at the head of any commentator’s homepage. The Independent’s Jack Riley says that the feature will be rolled out to columnists next, followed by public figures, places, political parties, and countries.

The move is likely to pour extra fuel on the overblown ‘RSS is dying‘ discussion that has been taking place recently. The Guardian’s hugely impressive hackable RSS feeds (with full content) are somewhat put in the shade by this move – but then the Guardian have generated enormous goodwill in the development community for that, and continue to innovate. Both strategies have benefits.

At the moment the Independent’s new Facebook feature is plugged at the end of each article by the relevant commentator or about a particular club. It’s not the best place to put given how many people read articles through to the end, nor the best designed to catch the eye, and it will be interesting to see whether the placement and design changes as the feature is rolled out.

It will also be interesting to see how quickly other news organisations copy the innovation.

*If I told you I said this deliberately in the hope someone would point me to a previous example – would you believe me? Martin Stabe in the comments points to The Sporting News as one organisation that got here first. And David Moynihan points out that NME have ‘Like’ buttons for each artist on their site.

More coverage at Read Write Web and Future of Media.


UK general election 2010 – online journalism is ordinary

Has online journalism become ordinary? Are the approaches starting to standardise? Little has stood out in the online journalism coverage of this election – the innovation of previous years has been replaced by consolidation.

Here are a few observations on how the media approached their online coverage: Continue reading

Twit-Fit of the Week: It’s Monday, so let’s Wibble about Twitter…

Articles in newspapers complaining about bloggers and twitter users seem to come along like bills from the taxman – at a rate of about 5 a week.

We have had the remarkable exhibit of Janet Street-Porter (or “Janet Self-Publicist”) complaining about “publicity seeking bloggers“, and more recently Rachel Sylvester starting a pop-psychology consultancy practice for sad and lonely individuals possessed by the Twitter demon.

Last Monday, Nicholas Lezard, the usually literate writer for the Guardian and the Independent, had what I would call a “Twit-Fit”, wibbling furiously for an entire 700 words against Twitter – here.

This is my commentary cum translation. A little light relief for a Sunday, and I hope that Paul Bradshaw doesn’t give me an ASBO.

So you’re eating lunch? Fascinating

(I only read boring Twitter accounts)

Stephen Fry … Twitter

(faux introductory wibble … let’s set up the target)

I have nothing against Stephen Fry

(lots of my friends use Twitter, so I am not prejudiced … I have the right to quibble wibble)

but I CERTAINLY have something against Twitter

(pop-polemical wibble)

The name tells us straightaway

(pop-etymological wibble)

it’s inconsequential, background noise, a waste of time and space

(unintentionally self-revelatory wibble)

Actually, the name does a disservice to the sounds birds make, which are, for the birds, significant, and, for the humans, soothing and, if you’re Messiaen, inspirational

(arty-farty-Primrose-Hill-party wibble)

But Twitter? Inspirational?

(well, it isn’t when you can’t hear for your own ranting)

The online phenonemon is about humanity disappearing up it’s own fundament, or the air leaking out of the whole Enlightenment project

(I just managed to look over Nigel Molesworth‘s shoulder, and I cribbed a bit from his 2nd year philosophy test, Hem-Hem)

It makes blogging look like literature

(I have a whole quiverful of cookie-cutter stereotypes, and boy am I going to use them)

It’s anti-literature, the new opium of the masses

(Clickety-click! I taught Blue Peter how to prepare things earlier, and this one is from 1843)

It’s unreflective instantaneousness encourages neurotic behaviour in both the Tweeter and the Twatters

(Dear Damien Hirst, can I be your Press Officer ? )

Seriously, the Americans have proposed that “twatted” should be the past participle of “tweet”

(Obviously there are 300 million identical cardboard-cut-out idiots across the pond. Perhaps “stereotroped” should be the past participle of “stereotype”)

It encourages us in the delusion that our random thoughts, our banal experiences, are significant

(I want to be Alain de Botton when I grow up, Blankety-Blank)

It is masturbatory and infantile, and the amazing thing is that people can’t get enough of it – possibly because it IS masturbatory and infantile

(or ############, Yankety-Yank)

(redacted to avoid being sued by a certain award-winning journalist)

Oh God, that it should have come to this. Centuries of human thought and experience drowned out in a maelstrom of inconsequential rubbish.

(Does Andrew Keen or David Aaronovitch need a ghost-writer for when they are on holiday? )

Don’t tell me about Trafigura – one good deed is not enough

( don’t tell me about the hundreds of other achievements either; the last thing I need is facts – or reality – interfering with my opinions)

(My Rachel Sylvester piece includes a list of about 10 examples of how Twitter can be used positively that I compiled last March).

and an ordinary online campaign would have done the trick just as well

(bollocks …. no other online forum has anything like the permeability or reaction speed of Twitter)

It is like some horrible science-fiction prediction come to pass: it is not just that Twitter signals the end of nuanced, reflective, authoritative thought – it’s that no one seems to mind

(pleeeeeeeease … SOMEBODY … I’ll even write leaders for the Daily Mail)

And I suspect that it’s psychologically dangerous

( Was it Twitter that did for Gordon Brown?)

We have evolved over millions of years to learn not to bore other people with constant updates about what we’re doing,

(I didn’t consult my partner before writing this column)

and we’re throwing it all away

(which is what would have happened if I had consulted my partner)

Twitter encourages monstrous egomania, and the very fact that Fry used Twitter to announce that he was leaving Twitter shows his dependence on it.

(Unlike being an opinionated columnist, of course, Hem Hem)

He was never going to give it up. He’s addicted to it.

(And – finally – did I tell you that I am a self-qualified Doctor able to diagnose from afar)


Wrapping Up

I really have trouble understanding why some people just do not seem to appreciate the positive side of Twitter, although many of them seem to be general commentators inside the London media bubble.

I suspect that it could be that the main benefits of Twitter (and blogging) have made to make politics and media more permeable, and have made it possible for a far wider group of people to engage in the political debate without going through the media filter.

The point is that if you are inside the bubble and already get politicians reply to your emails in person because you work for an organisation they have heard of, then all of these seem to be unwelcome threats, rather than benefits or opportunities.

Bye-bye media bubble, I hope.

@Guardiantech accounts for 78% of the growth in national newspaper Twitter accounts

National UK newspapers had 1,665,202 followers of their Twitter accounts at the start of October – an increase of 193,266 on September 1st (when they had 1,471,936).

The rate of growth has slowed, however. This is a monthly increase of 13.1%, compared with 17% from August 1 to September 1, and also from July 1 to August 1.

What’s more, 151,555 of the increase (or 78% of the total) is down to just one account – that of @guardiantech (which owes its popularity to its place on the Twitter Suggested User List). Indeed, of the 131 accounts I’m tracking, 51 have fewer followers than me (@malcolmcoles)!

You can see the full table here, or below (although the iframe isn’t behaving properly, so you’re better off clicking here).
Continue reading

Cervical cancer jab: how the newspapers have learned nothing from MMR

The UK media have learned nothing from the debacle over the MMR vaccine – where they relentlessly covered stories doubting the safety of MMR, putting the lives of children at risk (this is cross-posted from my blog).

They are continuing their habit of undermining public-health initiatives with their latest scare story about the safety of the cervical cancer jab, after the tragic death of a schoolgirl who had the vaccine the same day.

I’ve given each of the mainstream media an irresponsibility rating below – the Mail and Express are the worst scaremongers, followed by the Mirror and Times.

It’s calculated as follows:

  • A headline suggesting a causal link between the vaccine and the girl’s death – there is no evidence of this so far, the two events just occurred on the same day: 20 points
  • The use of a photo or words in the headline casting doubt on the safety of the vaccine itself (as opposed to, say, this being a one-off allergic reaction): 20 points
  • Calls for the vaccine to be banned: 20 points
  • No mention of how many lives the vaccine will save: 20 points.
  • Separate comment piece doubting the safety of the vaccine, or emphasis of other stories about vaccine problems: 10 points
  • Ill-informed user comments adding to the suggestion of unsafety. 10 points

Daily Mail: 90% irresponsible

Headline: First picture of girl, 14, who died after being injected with cervical cancer jab from ‘rogue batch’

  • The headline suggests a causal link. It makes claims of a ‘rogue batch’ in quotes where the only use of those words in the story are the journalist’s own.
  • It’s running a poll: “Should the cervical cancer vaccination be suspended”.
  • There are a lot of figures about side effects – no mention of actual lives saved.
  • The best rated comment is currently “Chemical experiments on our children.” The worst rated is “Many more deaths may occur without the vaccine to guard against HPV.” The comments section is appalling, frankly – full of ill-informed anti-vaccine scaremongering.

Express: 80% irresponsible

Headline: Girl, 14, dies after taking cervical cancer vaccine Continue reading

How newspapers SEOed Patrick Swayze’s death

When news breaks, if you want to do well in Google for relevant searches, publish early, publish often and put your keywords at the front.

The Guardian's Patrick-Swayze tag page

The Guardian's Patrick-Swayze tag page

From an SEO point of view, the more stories you can pump out targeting different (or even the same) keywords, the more chance you have of appearing at the top of Google’s search results – and scooping up the traffic.

Get it right, and you can appear twice in the web results – and twice in the news results that Google often shows above them for breaking-news-related searches.

Some of the newspapers may have taken this a little bit far with news of Patrick Swayze’s death

  • The Guardian published 15 stories today (Tuesday 15th), all available from its existing Patrick Swayze tag page. Do we really need 15 stories on this?!? About half had a title that began with ‘Patrick Swayze’.
  • The Telegraph published 10 pages, and while it doesn’t have as many tag pages as the Guardian, it did feature one of its two obituaries (here and here) as a link from its ‘hot topics’ list on its home page, giving it a boost in Google’s web-result rankings. The screenshot, below, shows that it may have run out of ideas to get to 10 pages – the two bottom ones shown are very similar. Also, nine out of 10 of these stories have a title beginning with ‘Patrick Swayze’. The other is just called ‘Dirty Dancing – time of your life’. Now that is front-loading keywords.
  • The Mirror pumped out 5 pages today, and also set up a tag page at some point during the day (they didn’t have one before lunch), hoping to target the searches for ‘patrick swayze’ (yes, they forgot to capitalise it in their haste to set it up). The titles of all 5 begin with ‘Patrick Swazye’.
  • The Independent published 4 pages.
  • The Times managed just 3 pages – maybe with a paywall coming they are less interested in SEO these days ..
  • The Sun published only 2 pages.
  • The Mail published just 1 massively long story – on top of its  existing tag page for the actor. Interestingly, the paper recently claimed it wasn’t interested in celeb stories to drive traffic (although I claimed Michael Jackson was behind its June ABCe success).

The papers weren’t all that successful in their SEO efforts.

The 4th and 5th most viewed stories seem a little bit similar ...

The 4th and 5th most viewed stories seem a little bit similar ...

US sites dominated Google’s results for a search on ‘Patrick Swayze’ and ‘Patrick Swayze death’. The Telegraph did though take the top two web search spots for a search on ‘Patrick Swayze obituary’.

Keith Floyd has also died – and it was a similar story in terms of volume of stories. The Telegraph, for instance, has published 8 stories and the Guardian, via its tag page, published 9. The Guardian pipped the Telegraph to win the results for a search on ‘Keith Floyd obituary’.

If you ever want to target what people are searching for around breaking news, I recently compared the different Google tools for a search on X-factor related terms. And if you want to see SEO taken to the dark side, check out this method of newspapers and paid links.

UK newspapers add 213,892 Twitter followers in a month

National UK newspapers had 1,471,936 Twitter followers at the start of September – up 213,892 or 17% on August 1 (when they had 1,258,044 followers).

You can see the September figures (orignally posted here) below or here.

I have more Twitter statistics here.