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April 27 2012

14:00

This Week in Review: Rupert takes the stand, and the Post’s pressure on young aggregators

Fresh accusations and denials for News Corp.: After several months of investigation, News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch and his son, James, testified this week before the British government’s Leveson inquiry into their company’s phone hacking and bribery scandal. Rupert made headlines by apologizing for his lack of action to stop the scandal and by admitting there was a cover-up — though he said he was the victim of his underlings’ cover-up, not a perpetrator himself (a charge one of those underlings strenuously objected to).

Murdoch also said he “panicked” by closing his News of the World newspaper last year, but said he should have done so years earlier. He spent the first day of his testimony defending himself against charges of lobbying public officials for favors, saying former Prime Minister Gordon Brown “declared war” on News Corp., which Brown denied. James Murdoch also testified to a lack of knowledge of the scandal and cozy relationships with officials.

Attention in that area quickly shifted this week to British Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt, with emails released to show that he worked to help News Corp. pick up support last year for its bid to takeover the broadcaster BSkyB — the same bid he was charged with overseeing. Hunt called the accusation “laughable” and refused calls to resign, though one of his aides did resign, saying his contact with News Corp. “went too far.”

The commentary on Murdoch’s appearance was, perhaps surprisingly, mixed. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple mocked the fine line Murdoch apparently walked in his currying favor from public officials, and the Guardian’s Nick Davies said Murdoch looks vulnerable: “The man who has made millions out of paying people to ask difficult questions, finally faced questioners he could not cope with.” He antagonized quite a few powerful people in his testimony, Davies said, and the Leveson inquiry ultimately holds the cards here.

But Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff said Rupert doesn’t use his newspapers to gain officials’ favor in the way he’s accused of doing, and Reuters’ Jack Shafer argued that there’s nothing really wrong with lobbying regulators to approve your proposals anyway. “Don’t damn Murdoch for learning the rules of the regulatory game and then playing them as aggressively as he can,” he wrote.

Plagiarism and aggregation at the Post: A Washington Post blogger named Elizabeth Flock resigned last week after being caught plagiarizing, but the story went under the radar until the Post’s ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, wrote a column charging the Post with failing to properly guide its youngest journalists. Pexton said he talked with other young Post aggregators who “felt as if they were out there alone in digital land, under high pressure to get Web hits, with no training, little guidance or mentoring and sparse editing.”

Poynter’s Craig Silverman wrote a strong follow-up to the column, talking to several people from the Post and emphasizing the gravity of Flock’s transgression, but also throwing cold water on the “journalism’s standards are gone, thanks to aggregation” narrative. Reuters’ Jack Shafer thought Pexton went too easy on Flock’s plagiarism, but others thought it was the Post he wasn’t hard enough on. The Awl’s Trevor Butterworth said Flock’s mistake within the Post’s aggregation empire shed light on the “inherent cheapness of the product and the ethical dubiety of the entire process. You see, the Post—or any legacy news organization turned aggregator—wants to have its cake and other people’s cake too, and to do so without damaging its brand as a purveyor of original cake.”

BoingBoing’s Rob Beschizza made the same point, criticizing the Post for trying to dress up its aggregation as original reporting. The Raw Story’s Megan Carpentier used the example as a warning that even the most haphazard, thoughtless aggregated pieces have a certain online permanence under our bylines.

Technology, connection, and loneliness: A week after an Atlantic cover story asked whether Facebook was making us lonely (its answer: yes), MIT professor and author Sherry Turkle echoed the same point last weekend in a New York Times opinion piece. Through social and mobile media, Turkle argued, we’re trading conversation for mere connection, sacrificing self-reflection and the true experience of relating with others in the process.

Numerous people disputed her points, on a variety of different fronts. Cyborgology’s David Banks charged Turkle with “digital dualism,” asserting that “There is no ‘second self’ on my Facebook profile — it’s the same one that is embodied in flesh and blood.” At The Atlantic, Alexandra Samuel said Turkle is guilty of a different kind of dualism — an us/them dichotomy between (generally younger) social media users and the rest of us. Turkle, she wrote, “assumes conversations are only meaningful when they look like the conversations we grew up having.”

Like Banks, Mathew Ingram of GigaOM pointed out the close connection between online and offline relationships, and sociology prof Zeynep Tufekci argued at The Atlantic that if we are indeed seeing a loss in substantive interpersonal connection, it has more to do with our flight to the suburbs than social media. Claude Fischer of Boston Review disputed the idea that loneliness is on the rise in the first place, and in a series of thoughtful tweets, Wired’s Tim Carmody said the road to real relationship is in our own work, not in our embrace or denial of technologies.

New media lessons from academics and news orgs: The University of Texas hosted its annual International Symposium on Online Journalism last weekend, one of the few of the scores of journalism conferences that brings together both working journalists and academics. As usual, University of British Columbia j-prof Alfred Hermida live-blogged the heck out of the conference, and you can see his summaries of each of his 14 posts here.

Several people distilled the conference’s many presentations into a few themes: The Lab’s staff identified a few, including the need to balance beauty and usefulness in data journalism and the increasing centrality of mobile in news orgs’ strategies. At the Nonprofit Journalism Hub, conference organizer Amy Schmitz Weiss organized the themes into takeaways for news orgs, and Wisconsin j-prof Sue Robinson published some useful notes, organized by subject area.

A couple of specific items from the conference: The Lab’s Adrienne LaFrance wrote on a University of Texas study that found that the people most likely to pay for news are young men who are highly interested in news, though it also found that our stated desires in news consumption don’t necessarily match up with our actual habits. And Dan Gillmor touted the news-sharing potential of one of the conference’s presenters, LinkedIn, saying it’s the first site to connect news sharing with our professional contacts, rather than our personal ones.

[Editor's note: Mark's too modest to mention the paper he coauthored and presented at ISOJ.]

Reading roundup: Several interesting debates lurked just a bit under the radar this week. Here’s a quick lay of the land:

— Reuters’ Felix Salmon wondered why the New York Times doesn’t sell early access to its big business scoops to hedge funds looking for a market advantage, as Reuters and Bloomberg do. GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram argued that the public value of those is too great to do that, and Salmon responded to his and others’ objections. The conversation also included a lively Twitter exchange, which Ingram and the Lab’s Joshua Benton Storified.

— The Chicago Tribune announced its decision to outsource its TribLocal network of community news sites to the Chicago company Journatic, laying off about 20 employees in the process. The Chicago Reader and Jim Romenesko gave some more information about Journatic (yes, the term “content farm” comes up, though its CEO rejected the term). Street Fight’s Tom Grubisich called it a good deal for the Tribune.

— In a feature at Wired, Steven Levy looked at automatically written stories, something The Atlantic’s Rebecca Greenfield said she didn’t find scary for journalism’s future prospects, since those stories aren’t really journalism. Nebraska j-prof Matt Waite also said journalists shouldn’t be afraid of something that frees them up to do their jobs better, and GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram tied together the Journatic deal and the robot journalism stories to come up with something a bit less optimistic.

— This week on the ebook front: A good primer on the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit of Apple and publishers for price-fixing, which The Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Crovitz said is a completely normal and OK practice. Elsewhere, some publishers are dropping digital rights management, and a publishing exec talked to paidContent about why they broke DRM.

— Gawker revealed its new commenting system this week — the Lab’s Andrew Phelps gave the background, Gawker’s Nick Denton argued in favor of anonymity, Dave Winer wanted to see the ability for anyone to write an article on it, and GigaOM talked with Denton about the state of tech.

— Google shut down its paid-content system for publishers, One Pass, saying it’s moved on to its Consumer Surveys.

— Finally, a few long reads for the weekend: David Lowery on artist rights and the new business model for creative work, Ethan Zuckerman on the ethics of tweet bombing, danah boyd on social media and fear, and Steve Buttry and Dan Conover on restoring newsroom morale.

Rupert Murdoch artwork by Surian Soosay and texting photo by Ed Brownson used under a Creative Commons license.

April 24 2012

13:57

Human-assisted reporting, mass intelligence, and mobile mobile mobile: What we learned at ISOJ

After attending a conference like the International Symposium on Online Journalism, it can be hard to pinpoint just one major takeaway. ISOJ features a mix of quantitative academic research, practical insights, and data from media companies like CNN, The Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News, and Google News — all assembled by the ace team of Rosental Alves and Amy Schmitz Weiss.

You can check out our complete liveblog from the event; ISOJ has posted recaps of the symposium’s sessions; and Alf Hermida did his usual stellar job blogging everythign in sight. But we also wanted to distill some of what got us thinking.

A future of focused brands

What will newspapers and media companies look like in the future? Richard Gingras of Google News said news outlets will continue to move away from being general-interest publications and become more of a “stable of focused brands.” As alternative news channels like Twitter and Facebook continue to grow, and as more and more people get their information on-the-go, Gingras said news companies spend too much time worrying about their home pages and not enough about their article pages. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if there comes a time when a media company opts not to have a homepage at all. (Gingras’ comments echoed the themes in his TechRaking speech, which we shared on April 12.)

Embrace human-assisted reporting

Ben Welsh, who mans the Data Desk at The Los Angeles Times, is a big proponent of using computing power to make reporters’ lives easier. That includes letting robots do some of the writing. (Here’s an example of the kind of stories that algorithms write for the Times.) He also gave one of the most succinct and passionate calls to action of the conference. You can watch his talk here.

Appeal to “mass intelligence”

The Dallas Morning News is shifting the focus of its reporting to appeal to a “mass intelligence” audience rather than a general one, according to publisher Jim Moroney: “When I say a mass intelligence audience I don’t mean elite,” but instead a readership that wants daily intelligence about the community that fits specific interests. (Moroney credits this Economist article for the term.) The Morning News is trying to differentiate itself in two ways: By shifting its production to fit devices like tablets, and by shifting its reporting with a plan they call “PICA,” which stands for Perspective, Interpretation, Context and Analysis.

Take time to play in the news sandbox

Louis Gump, vice president for CNN Mobile, said the company was slow to launch its iPhone and iPad apps because it wanted to figure out the right way to use its vast collection of video and images. CNN provides widely differentiated experiences; consider how different the iPad app looks from the iPhone app from the mobile site from the desktop site. CNN’s iPad app is among the top 10 free downloaded apps, with more than 19.5 million U.S. users in February 2012. Even with that success, Gump said CNN sees the iPad app and other mobile apps as a “sandbox” to test how the audience responds: “You can’t choose between mobile web and apps — like two wheels on a bike, you need both.”

“Survival is success” in online news startups

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, who coauthored a report on the climate of online news startups in France, Germany, and Italy, found a culture similar to its U.S. equivalent. He said former reporters are trying to address perceived gaps in traditional media coverage but struggling to find and grow niche audiences, let alone generating enough revenue to thrive. For the companies he studied, the majority are not breaking even, and most operate at a loss. (Download the report, which goes deep on nine case studies, here.)

The Carvin Factor

In analyzing the tweets of NPR’s Andy Carvin during the Arab Spring, University of British Columbia professor Alfred Hermida found that Carvin overwhelmingly quoted activists, bloggers, and alternative voices. While almost half of Carvin’s tweets and retweets came from people on the ground, they made up just about a quarter of his sources, with the rest being mainstream media and official institutions. In other words, his tweets served as a major amplifier of lesser-known sources. Hermida questioned how this sourcing structure could have influenced the framing and coverage of the events of the Arab Spring.

Build something beautiful

Creating a tablet app is not just a box for news organizations to check. Many of the panelists at ISOJ talked about resisting the urge to transfer web-based design principles to smartphones and tablets. Pedro Doria, digital platforms editor at O Globo (Brazil), showed us how the paper reintroduced the concept of an “evening edition,” providing an update to tablet readers at the end of the day. It’s rich with videos and photos — that what tablets are good at, Doria said — which keeps people in the app longer, and it features content specially designed for a lean-back evening mode of reading. Since the launch of the p.m. edition, Doria said the average time spent daily in the O Globo iPad app jumped from 26 minutes to a staggering 77 minutes.

Don’t just build something beautiful

ISOJ’s all-star data panel made clear there’s a distinction between art and data that sometimes gets blurred at the expense of user experience. Pretty graphics must provide context and useful information to be journalism. Here’s an example that University of Miami lecturer Alberto Cairo gave of data that’s lovely but ultimately not useful.

Execution is key

It takes more than a killer idea to achieve greatness in the newsroom. As Moroney argued, “culture eats strategy,” and he acknowledged it as an area where his paper still had plenty of room for progress. Moroney said that means filling a newsroom with more Tiggers than Eeyores. That drew laughs and tons of retweets, although some said that wasn’t fair to Eeyore.

Mobile will just keep getting bigger

Okay, so we didn’t need a conference to tell us that. Just today we learned more than half of Facebook’s 901 million monthly active users uses it on a mobile device. The Dallas Morning News will shift more of its development resources to tablets, promising a groundbreaking app within a year. And while News Corp. was criticized for its single-platform strategy with The Daily, William Hurley — whose company helped design the iPad newspaper — said someone had to go first. Last year, The Daily was No. 3 on Apple’s list of top grossing apps, behind Smurfs’ Village and Angry Birds. Before diving into mobile, Hurley said, news organizations should consider their audience’s needs. Start with looking at access logs to see what devices people are most commonly using to visit a website.

There’s a big world out there

Conferences like ISOJ are a good reminder to sometimes-gloomy U.S. journalists that journalism is well, even thriving, in other markets. Globally, journalists face a slew of different challenges — fellow attendees from places like Argentina and the Philippines reminded us that FOIA protections aren’t universal. But it’s also an environment where international news companies with a bit of money to spare are doing interesting things — which means there’ll be interesting lessons for American companies to bring back from abroad.

April 23 2012

15:36

Slides from ISOJ talk on Andy Carvin sourcing of the Arab Spring

Here is the presentation I gave at the International Symposium on Online Journalism at UT Austin of our paper, Sourcing the Arab Spring: A case study of Andy Carvin’s sources during the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.

The abstract is available on the papers site of the International Symposium on Online Journalism.

April 21 2012

22:15
21:33

Japan tsunami photos highlight human cost, study finds

In the final research panel at ISOJ, Rosellen Downey, Erika Johnson, and Bailey Brewer, University of Missouri, looked at the coverage in photos of the Japanese tsunami.

The study, Through the lens: Visual framing of the Japan tsunami in U.S., British, and Chinese online media, looked at how the Japanese tsunami was reflected in the images of US, British and Chinese media.

The researchers examined at 242 photos, 58 from NPR, 52 from the BBC and 132 from Xinhua. The photos were collected over three days from March 11 to 13,

The study found that two-thirds of the photos had people in them and the majority of people were Japanese.

In photos on the BBC, there were few photos that just had officials. They tended to have a mix of officials and civilians. Xinhua, by comparison, featured mainly civilians

Few photos featured a single individual. Most were of groups.

China had the most visual coverage, due to geographic proximity.

The researchers didn’t find as many officials in the coverage as expected and instead tended to feature civilians and aid workers, highlighting the human dimension of the tragedy.

19:31

WSJ Raju Narisetti on the need to create great news experiences

The last keynote at ISOJ was Raju Narisetti, managing editor, Wall Street Journal Digital Network

Narisetti said the big challenge faces journalism is turning great content into great experiences

He noted that great content is now available in a wide variety of places. So just having smart content is not enough. Instead, he said, we have to create experiences to engage the user.

We are terrible at turning the multimedia parts of stories into a great experience, said Narisetti. There are words, images, perhaps video. But collectively, they do not make for a great experience

For him, a great experience comes at the intersection of technology and content.

Narisetti said that great experiences will not just come from developers or programmers. Instead we should think about embedding the developers in the newsroom.

“The physical architecture of the newsroom matters a lot,” he said. Titles matter now, he added, as a title will affect how journalists in the newsroom perceive and react to a developer.

In his view, a title like frontend developer or backend developer makes it hard for journalists to relate to the work of developers.

Moreover, Narisetti said the credits matter. He recalled how at the Washington Post, a major project credited the journalists but not the developers.

Looking ahead, Narisetti said we need to consider how projects will live on in the future. Is there a shelf-life? Do we post a note to readers, telling them this database is no longer updated?

We have to maintain the experience, he said, or think of the shelf-life of an experience.

In other words, newsrooms must plan for impermanence.

Talking about journalism education, Narisetti asked how students were being taught about engagement, about metrics, about enhancing loyalty to the brand.

One of the things they are doing the WSJ is thinking about the news as a stream of content. He showed an example of the WSJ live coverage of the Oscars.

The WSJ is doing the same thing with market coverage, to have a stream of news and information.

For Narisetti, it is about finding ways of having readers come back to your journalism and your brand.

 

18:35

Study points to prominence of activists in Andy Carvin coverage of Arab Spring

Here’s the media release on the research I presented at the International Symposium on Online Journalism at UT Austin on Saturday, April 21:

A new study shows how far NPR’s Andy Carvin, known as “the man who tweets revolutions,” favoured the voice of protesters in his reporting on Twitter of the Arab Spring.

The rigorous analysis of more than 5,000 tweets found that Carvin’s feed gave higher priority to the messages from citizens in repressive societies who were documenting and expressing their desires for social change on Twitter.

During key periods of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings in early 2011, just under half of the messages on his Twitter stream came from activists and bloggers (48.3%), even though they only made up a quarter of his sources (26.4%).

Carvin also relied mainstream media journalists as sources. While they made up about a quarter of his sources (26.7%), journalists accounted for 29.4% of tweets.

The study, “Sourcing the Arab Spring: A Case Study of Andy Carvin’s Sources During the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolution” by academics in Canada and the U.S., points to the dramatic impact social media is having on journalism and the ways news is being reported.

University of British Columbia professor and lead author Alfred Hermida said: “Our findings suggest a new style of near real-time reporting where journalists tap into social media to include a broader range of voices in the news.”

“The prominence of what many may consider to be rebel voices raises questions about traditional journalistic approaches to balance and objectivity.”

Carvin, a social media strategist for U.S. public service radio broadcaster NPR, rose to prominence during the uprisings in the Middle East for his mastery of aggregating and verifying real-time news on Twitter.

The study shows how his approach to sourcing marks a break with established news practices. Traditionally, journalists cite a small number of sources who hold institutional positions of power and authority, such as government officials, police or business leaders. Journalists rely on these elite sources, shaping what news gets reported and how it is reported.

News coverage quoting ordinary people still fills only a small part of the news. When it comes to covering protests, journalists tend to cite on officials and police, and tend to discredit activists.

The researchers analysed tweets from two periods in 2011, identifying and categorizing Carvin’s top sources (322 in all). The first, from January 12 to January 19, covered the major portion of Tunisian demonstrations leading to the fall of President Ben Ali. The second, from January 24 to February 13, covered the Egyptian protests and subsequent resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

University of Minnesota professor Seth C. Lewis, a co-author on the study, said: “This research focuses on the work of a single person, but it’s a key case study for understanding larger transformations occurring as journalism evolves through social media.”

The study is authored by Alfred Hermida from the University of British Columbia, and Seth C. Lewis and Rodrigo Zamith from the University of Minnesota.

Note to editors:

The results of the study will be presented on Saturday, April 21, at the International Symposium on Online Journalism at 11:15 a.m. CDT (12.15 p.m. EDT). A live video stream of the conference will be available on the symposium website.

The abstract for the paper, “Sourcing the Arab Spring: A Case Study of Andy Carvin’s Sources During the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions,” is available from the symposium website on Friday, April 20.

About the researchers:

Alfred Hermida is an award-winning associate professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia, Canada. His research focuses on social media and emerging genres of journalism. An online news pioneer, he was a founding news editor of BBCNews.com and was a BBC correspondent in the Middle East. He co-authored Participatory Journalism: Guarding Open Gates at Online Newspapers and is currently working on his second book on the impact of social media on the news.

Contact: Alfred.Hermida@ubc.ca - Twitter: @hermida

Seth C. Lewis, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. His research on the changing nature of journalism in the digital era has received several top-paper awards and has been published in leading academic journals. He co-edited two editions of The Future of News: An Agenda of Perspectives, and he is affiliated with Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab. Previously, he was an editor at The Miami Herald and a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Spain.

Contact: sclewis@umn.edu - Twitter: @sethclewis

Rodrigo Zamith is a doctoral student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. His primary research interest is in the interplay between media, public opinion, and policymaking, with a focus on foreign affairs. He has previously worked as reporter at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Contact: zamit001@umn.edu

15:36

Insights into data journalism in Argentina

Angelica Peralta Ramos, multimedia development manager, La Nación in Argentina, gave an insight into the challenges of doing data journalism.

In her ISOJ talk, she explained how La Nacion started doing data visualisations with few resources and in a less than friendly government environment.

Peralta pointed out that Argentina ranks 100 out of 180 in corruption index. The country does not have a freedom of information law and it not part of the open government initiative.

But there is hope said Peralta. La Nacion wanted to do data journalism but didn’t have any programmers so they adopted tools for non programmers such as Tableau Public and Excel.

One of its initiatives involved gathering data on inflation to try to reveal more accurate inflation levels.

The newspaper has been taking public data and seeking to derive meaning from masses of figures.

For example, La Nacion took 400 PDFs with tables of 235,000 rows that recorded subsidies to bus companies to figure out who was getting what.

It is using software to keep track of updates to the PDFs to show how subsidies to the companies are on the rise.

Peralta’s short presentation showed how some media organisations are exploring data journalism in circumstances which are very different to the US or UK.

La Nacion have a data blog and will be posting links to the examples mentioned by Peralta.

15:09

Making data visualisation useful for audiences

At ISOJ, Alberto Cairo, lecturer in visual journalism, University of Miami, raised some critical questions about the visualisation of data in journalism.

Cairo explained that an information graphic is a tool for presenting information and for exploring information.

In the past, info graphics were about editing data down and summarising it. But this worries me, he says, as it is just presenting information but does not allow readers to explore the data.

Today we have the opposite trend and often ends up as data art which doesn’t help readers understand the data.

Cairo cited a New York Times project mapping neighbourhoods which he said forced readers to become their own reporters and editors to understand the data.

We have to create layers, he said. We have the presentation layer and we have the exploration layer, and these are complementary.

But readers need help to navigate the data, he said. Part of the task is giving clues to readers to understand the complexity of data.

Cairo quoted a visualistion mantra by Ben Shneiderman: “Overview first, zoom and filter, then details-on-demand.”

His approached echoed earlier comments by Brian Boyer, news applications editor, Chicago Tribune Media Group. Boyer said that we should make data beautiful, inspirational but make it useful to the audience.

 

14:29

April 20 2012

22:27

Study of Samoa Topix finds local news forum falls short

Linda Jean Kenix of University of Canterbury in New Zealand presented the results of a study of Samoa Topix at ISOJ.

The study,with Christine Daviault, asked the question, Is this the future of online news? An examination of Samoa Topix.

Topix describes itself as a place for people to share and talk about the news.

The about page says ”Topix is the leading news community on the Web, connecting people to the information and discussions that matter to them.” Topix ”redefines what it means to create, edit, share and make the news.”

The researchers explored how far Samoa Topix was a forum for news for a country with a patchy record in press freedom and when many  Samoans live abroad.

They found that the level of debate on the site “wasn’t pretty” said Kenix. The more discussion there was on a story, the more nasty the discussion became.

The forum were largely a space to voice ethnic views and overwhelming reliance on racial slurs, they found.

Only about a quarter of the content was news and there was no evidence of the forum generating news content.

Rather, the researchers found that stories mainly functioned as a catalyst for people to vent.

Moreover, many of the news stories on Samoa Topix did not relate to Samoa.

And there was very little overlap with the main Samoan newspaper, the Samoa Observer, and the content on Samoa Topix.

Kenix concluded by suggesting that simply creating spaces for people to make the news does not mean that this is what will actually happen.

 

21:47

The challenges for journalism start-ups in Europe

Online journalism start-ups in Europe are struggling, according to a report from the Reuters Institute for the study of Journalism.

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen presented the results of the study, Survival is Sucess, co-authored by Nicola Bruno, at ISOJ.

They found that journalism start-ups are facing a challenging time.

First, news is still dominated by legacy businesses, with national differences. In Germany, there is a strong but declining legacy news media, whereas in France and Italy, there is a weak and rapidly declining legacy media.

Secondly, the market for online advertising is tough, with low Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM) rates. And it is dominated by a few very large US-based players which capture much of the search and display advertising in Europe.

The journalism start-ups found it hard to survive just based on advertising. The report suggests that “though internet use and online advertising is growing rapidly across Europe, it is not clear that this alone will provide the basis for a new generation of innovative and sustainable journalistic start-ups.”

There are individual examples of success, such as Mediapart, an investigative news website operating behind a paywall in France. But the track record in Europe has been less than inspiring, said Nielsen.

The report concludes:

Based on the countries and cases examined here it seems that at this juncture the journalistic start- ups most likely to thrive are those that deliver a distinct, quality product, operate with lean organisations, have diverse revenue streams, and are oriented towards niche audiences poorly served by existing legacy media.

 

20:42

The inside story of a local newspaper’s cafe project

At ISOJ, John White, deputy editor for online, Winnipeg Free Press, Canada, outlined the paper’s News Café.

A year ago, the Free Press created the café downtown, a space co-managed by a news organisation with a journalist in residence.

Part of the reason was that the paper itself moved out of town to an industrial park. But another reason was to broaden the audience for the paper, which is mostly 55 plus.

However, White noted that not everyone at the paper was behind the idea of a news café. He said resistance came from the board of directors and owners of the paper.

So he worked on a business plan to sell the idea to the Free Press. The plan stressed that the café had to be unique. The harder sell, though, was convincing journalists to work in the cafe and meet with the public.

The café would also break down barriers with the public, but also be a place to cultivate sources and get story ideas, given its central location downtown.

The location was also important as the café is in what used to be the newspaper centre of Winnipeg, so it was a good opportunity to reestablish the paper as a community focal point.

“Our readership is dying, literally dying,” said White, so the café was seen as a way of reaching a different demographic.

White admitted that despite his business arguments, the café was a hard sell. The turning point was meeting a restauranteur who wanted to open a new outlet.

The lure for the restauranteur was a link with an established brand in the city, with built-in marketing reach.

Today, the Free Press news café will host comedians or bands, and events will be streamed live.  The place will be packed, said White, and journalists can conduct interviews and create content.

 

19:58

The six traits of successful entrepreneurs

Mark Briggs, author of Entrepreneurial Journalism and director of Digital Media at KING 5, Seattle, got people thinking at ISOJ by going over the six traits for entrepreneurs.

First of all, you have to be able to get some funding. You need to be able to make the ask, said Briggs, or you are not an entrepreneur.

Then you need to be able to sell, convince others about the value of your idea or proposal.

Briggs said to be successful you needed to be open.  Traditionally journalists tend not be open about their story ideas and more. But as a entrepreneur, said Briggs, you have to be able to socialise your idea, get feedback and collaborate.

The fourth trait was failure. Briggs said failure was inevitable and failure leads to success.

Five, you need partners – people to work with who can bring your idea to fruition.

And finally, Briggs said you have to be able to innovate.  You have to embrace and understand innovation.

And with that quickfire talk, Briggs wrapped up his talk at ISOJ.

 

19:32

Local media as news for a mass intelligent audience

The afternoon keynote at ISOJ was by Jim Moroney, publisher & CEO, Dallas Morning News, and chairman of the board, Newspapers Association of America

He started off by insisting there was a connection between the two aspects of the title of his talk, Becoming The Economist of Metro Newspapers and the Pursuit of the Tablet Audience. 

Moroney said the goal of journalism remained the same – an informed public that can make wise decisions to govern itself.

But what had changed was the dramatic fall in print advertising, halving between 2007 and 2011 to $20.6bn.

“We are no longer publishing to a mass audience,” said Moroney. We are publishing for a “mass intelligent audience”, a term he borrowed from The Economist.

Moroney doesn’t mean publishing for elites but for smart people who are interested in the world around them.

The mass intelligent audience reads the Atlantic or the New Yorker, but also mix in US Weekly, Pop Idol or The Simpsons, he said.

The basis of there business is based on the existence of a sufficient audience for intelligent reporting, curating and aggregating of hews and information.

He pointed to the success of Harry Potter, HBO and the King’s Speech as evidence there was a market for smart content.

The value of content is measured by relevance and differentiation.

Today, who, what, where and where are commodities, said Moroney. You have to have breaking news but you cannot win on this particular kind of news.

In his view, the value today is in the how, why and what does it mean for me.

At the Dallas Morning News, they use the acronym PICA: Perspective, interpretation, context and analysis.

What it means for the newsroom is a need for beat reporters, columnists and subject matter experts, said Moroney. It also means going deep into certain subjects and focusing on 10-12 categories to go deep.

The problem facing newspapers is declining print advertising revenue, and Moroney does not believe that digital publishing will be enough to support journalism. Instead there is a need for models to cross-subsidize journalism, beyond advertising.

The experiment going on, said Moroney, is finding ways to have audiences pay for journalism.

And with that comment, he switched to talking about the opportunities offered by tablets.

Figures suggest that people will read long-form on tablets. Moroney cited a figure showing 43% of tablet news readers regularly read in-depth articles.

But for now, 92% of the news audience in the US is still using the web, rather than smartphone or tablet apps.

Moroney’s strategy is focused on a smaller audience that will pay for high-end journalism and that this audience will be accessing the news on a tablet, and for now, that’s the iPad.

16:49

Study into Twitter as a community reporting tool

The first academic presentation at International Symposium on Online Journalism came from Carrie Brown of the University of Memphis.

For her study, #Memstorm: Twitter as a community-driven breaking news reporting tool, she looked at real-time flow of information on Twitter during the storms that hit the region.

She highlighted how the hashtag, #Memstorm, did not come from the news outlets but from the public.

Fox tried to created its own hashtag to brand the storms, but Brown noted there was an audience backlash against Fox.

The most common type of tweets were direct observation, essentially eye-witness reports. There were also examples of people asking questions about reports and rumours to verify information.

For retweets, Brown found there was also a significant amount of material from the media, especially TV stations.

Brown found there was a sense of people commiserating with each other on Twitter, expressing emotion and sympathy.

There were also attempts at humour around the storm on Twitter.

She suggested the role for journalists in an ambient journalism environment was verification, amplification of the best stuff, engaging with audiences and providing very specific location information.

15:49

Global insights into the mobile media revolution at ISOJ

The second session at International Symposium on Online Journalism focused on the impact of mobile and tablet.

A common theme was the need to tailor content for different mobile platforms to account for different audience needs and behaviours.

Pedro Doria, digital platforms editor, O Globo newspaper, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, started off by explaining how the company developed the iPad edition of the newspaper.

The iPad edition was based on understanding that readership on a tablet works differently from a news website, with reading mostly in the evening.

The iPad edition bundles news in brief, strong image, three or four long-form stories, some shorter articles and then cultural tidbits, and goes live at 6 p.m.

Before the iPad edition was launched in February, people would spend on average 26 minutes on the app.  After the revised evening edition was released, the average time went up to a hour and 17 minutes.

Impact of mobiles in Africa

Next up was Harry Dugmore, professor at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. He spoke about how the massive uptake of mobiles Africa had led some to hope the technology would help democracy flourish.

But, said Dugmore, we were wrong.

The technological environment in Africa has evolved, starting off with mobiles with small screens, slow speeds and sky-high subscriptions. This was still the situation in many places, with only one of every 100 phones in Africa being an iPhone.

The result was a focus on SMS services to keep people inform and in touch.

Mobile technology is moving towards better speeds, more competition and more powerful phones, said Dugmore. But costs are still high and net access can be intermittent.

Now, tablets and smartphones are starting to appear but are in a minority.

Some of the biggest changes, said Dugmore, have been the provision of free access to Facebook and Wikipedia on mobiles.  Facebook zero means anyone can access Facebook on a mobile, even if they don’t have any credit.

Twitter, too, Dugmore added, was emerging as a source for news, with two-thirds of Kenyans saying they get international news from Twitter.

CNN’s approach

Next up Louis Gump, vice president of CNN Mobile talked about the the mobile web as the hub of his unit’s business, with a portfolio of apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and more.

CNN Mobile reached 19.5 million users in the US in February, with over 17 million apps downloaded across platforms worldwide. This compares to around 100 million people that CNN reaches overall on digital.

Gump said CNN made a decision to take some time to think about its iPad app and see what resonates with consumers.

He concluded by highlighting imperatives for success: having a first-rate mobile website, a range of core apps, employing mobile professionals and understanding that mobile is different.

Mobile in the Philippines

A different perspective came from JV Rufino, head of Inquirer Mobile and Books, Inquirer Group, Manila, Philippines.

He comes from one of the largest media groups in the Philippines.

Rufino explained that the Philippines was largely a TV market, but that most people have several mobiles.

One of the ways The Inquirer uses mobile is by sending ad-supported news headlines by SMS, but it also has a premium news alert SMS service.

Its mobile apps are also sponsored but have to work on older Nokia smartphones too, Rufino explained.

As with other media organisations, The Inquirer has developed a range of tablet apps as premium products.

Rufino explained how the company has collated its news articles as ebooks, including aggregating romance columns and producing court transcripts.

 

14:28

April 17 2012

16:08

Get ready for the 2012 International Symposium on Online Journalism

One of my favourite conferences takes place this week at Austin, Texas, the International Symposium on Online Journalism.

It stands out by bringing together practitioners and academics, mixing experiences from the newsroom with research from universities. It also has an international outlook, with journalists and academics from Brazil, Finland, Spain, Australia and New Zealand to name a few.

Among the keynote speakers is Richard Gingras, head of news products for Google, and there are sessions on portable devices, social media, entrepreneurship, and database reporting.

Alongside, some twenty-two academic papers were accepted after a rigourous peer-review process, including one I co-authored on Andy Carvin’s use of Twitter during the Arab Spring. I’ll be posting more about our Carvin paper in the coming days.

Research topics range from entrepreneurial news ventures to tablets to social media. The papers will be posted to the website on Friday 20 April.

The conference is now in its 13th year and takes place on April 20-21, 2012 in the auditorium at the Blanton Museum of Art on The University of Texas at Austin campus.

For those who can’t make it to Austin, the conference will be live-streamed from Friday, when the link will be posted to the ISOJ’s website.

There is also likely to be a lively backchannel on Twitter using the hashtag #ISOJ. Every year, the symposium sparks more than 4,000 tweets, adding a layer of discussion and context to the talk in Austin.

April 04 2011

21:48
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