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July 01 2013

17:45

New York Times launches new interactive ads for mobile

The New York Times is out with some interesting new ad formats specifically tailored for their iPad app. Developed by the Times’ Idea Lab, the new formats emphasize interactivity and a push to connect the app to other features on the iPad, including:

In-App Download: This capability allows for a user to purchase and download any selection of media that is available in iTunes, all within the ad unit. This includes music or video available in iTunes, but also proprietary apps that advertisers might wish to promote to users of The Times’s iPad app.

Direct Coupon Download: Users can download a special offer, ticket or coupon from an ad unit that saves directly to their iPad Photo Stream, resulting in it being saved to the consumer’s other devices, such as an iPhone.

Calendar: Allows users to download and save information directly into their iPad calendar to help them schedule appointments and reminders tied to special offers or events.

Panorama: Users can visually pan around a 360-degree environment using touch and swipe motions. For example, advertisers may use this feature to display a retail location.

A number of other Idea Lab custom units will also now be available in-app for the first time, including Pleats, which offers advertisers four distinct panels to showcase full-screen images in expanded format through an XXL unit; Unveil, which allows users to interact with a brand message by “wiping away” an initial image to reveal another one underneath it; and Product Zoom, a newsroom-inspired ad concept that can showcase a product’s finer details through magnification as a user moves the cursor over the image.

14:59

When building new news products, lightweight experimentation is key

Joey Marburger went into some detail for Source on the creation of The Washington Post’s The Grid. The Grid is meant to be a dynamic and interactive platform for staying up to date on breaking news stories, including an “even mix of photos, instagrams, tweets, articles, videos, animated gifs, quotes, and other content types.”

Marburger explains the collaborative process of building the front and back ends of The Grid and also offers some thoughts on responsive design — but most useful is his explanation of why flexible prototyping is important to building a product that can be widely and productively repurposed.

The media industry has to try new things. When we started conceptualizing The Grid we had no idea where it would take us. Prototyping unlocked more ideas and furthered the concept of The Grid to where it is today. It allows us to try new designs, test new features quickly, and above all, move fast. The Grid changed the culture of how we develop products in the Washington Post newsroom. Yes, the product has been successful, but many more products have been successful because of it. The cultural needle has shifted and that is what technologists do. They change how we work.

14:05

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism won’t be kicked off campus after all

If you missed it over the weekend, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism got a reprieve from the legislative attempt to boot it from its offices at the University of Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker blocked the measure via line-item veto.

Walker said arrangements between the university and private groups should be addressed by the UW Board of Regents, not lawmakers in the state budget.

“If there’s going to be a policy about those sorts of shared agreements or shared arrangements, that should be set by the regents and it shouldn’t be set specific to just this particular program,” Walker said.

We wrote about the initial attempt last month, along with how it fit in the history of public media innovation.

In response, the center is launching a WCIJ Education Fund.

June 28 2013

17:11

How The Texas Tribune kept its servers up as the world watched a filibuster

At Source, the Trib’s Travis Swicegood tells the tale:

Before the night was over we had over 15,000 concurrent users on texastribune.org and more than 183,000 people watching our YouTube live stream on various places around the net as the proceedings wound down shortly after midnight local time (we peaked at 12:03, as the final votes were cast too late).

We handled all of this traffic with no downtime and no additional servers.

The main credit goes to Varnish, a sort of super-charged version of the caching plugins WordPress users will be familiar with, which lets parts of the Trib’s site be served from memory rather than disk.

Protect your application servers. The bottom line is that you can’t handle massive volumes of scale and serve all of your content dynamically all of the time. You don’t have to strip your site down, either, just use what’s available to you. Use Varnish to protect your app servers and make sure that they don’t get slammed. Use external services for the really hard parts so you don’t have to worry about that.

16:00

Douglas Rushkoff on “present shock”

If you enjoyed our Q&A with author Douglas Rushkoff — author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now — you’ll enjoy this video of Rushkoff speaking at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society last week:

The always-on, simultaneous society in which we have found ourselves has altered our relationship to culture, media, news, politics, economics, and power. We are living in a digital temporal landscape, but instead of exploiting its asynchronous biases, we are misguidedly attempting to extend the time-is-money agenda of the Industrial Age into the current era. The result is a disorienting and dehumanizing mess, where the zombie apocalypse is more comforting to imagine than more of the same. It needn’t be this way. Douglas Rushkoff — teacher, documentarian, journalist, and author — discusses insights from his recent book “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now” with David Weinberger and a live audience at Harvard.

15:17

“When Editors Design: Controlling Presentation In Structured Content”

Good piece in Smashing Magazine by Lullabot’s Jeff Eaton on how to build a CMS that privileges structured content while also being useful to editors. (This is some of the same turf we covered with Karen McGrane back in January.) Among the highlights:

— Rather than building a manual layout engine, instead create cues for story priority and let the layout be determined by sorting rules.

When we started talking to the editorial team at a major news website, we learned that they wanted to control where articles appeared on the home page — and all of the website’s topical landing pages as well. When we dug deeper and presented simple prototypes, however, we discovered that they meant something different. What the editors really needed were ways to prioritize and organize content on the home page. On their old website, direct manipulation of each page’s layout was the only tool they had, and they were afraid to lose it.

— Use a mixture of in-article shortcodes and custom fields to balance out the requirement for exact asset placement vs. mere association.

— Don’t ruin your core templates to deal with a few oddball pages that don’t fit; let them live off to the side, taxonomically.

Some smart thinking in here. (Jeff Eaton is also host of the Insert Content Here content strategy podcast.)

June 27 2013

17:49

A proof of concept for a news site sending a push notification to a desktop computer

Earlier this month, I wrote about a feature of the upcoming version of Mac OS X (“Mavericks”) that could be of interest to news sites: the ability to send push notifications to users on desktop and laptop computers. You know how CNN can send a news alert to users of the CNN iPhone app? This would enable the same sort of functionality for people who spend their day sitting at a desk, staring at a screen bigger than than their hand.

At 9to5Mac, Scott Buscemi writes about the first proof-of-concept demo of the technology. Its edge over HTML5 notifications: It works whether or not you have your web browser open; it works whether or not you have the news site open in a tab; and it lets you direct the user to a specific webpage — i.e., the breaking news story, to put it in journalism terms.

Here’s a video :

One noteworthy item: Push notifications must be set up by the user in Safari — but once they’re set up, notifications send you to your default browser (Chrome, in my case).

As I said last time, the target audience for these notifications won’t be huge: Just Mac OS X users, just those on the newest version, and just those using Safari. (Here at Nieman Lab, 33 percent of our audience is on Mac OS X; 15.5 percent of our audience is on the current version of Mac OS X; and just 5 percent is on the current version and use Safari. And I’m sure we’re higher than the typical news site on every one of those metrics.)

But push notifications for breaking news are so powerful that I hope we see at least some of the big dogs experimenting with it. Just yesterday, I would have been happy to receive a push from The New York Times about the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions; from The Boston Globe about Aaron Hernandez’ arrest; from ESPN about Roger Federer losing at Wimbledon; and from The Texas Tribune about the abortion filibuster in Austin. If we can eventually move toward a common, cross-browser, cross-platform standard, it’ll be a powerful new tool for putting news in front of users when they want it most.

(For any backend types at news orgs who’d want to play around with this, the vendor that provides your push notifications for iOS can also do this for Safari — Push IO has confirmed they’re on board. And from Apple’s technical docs, if you already roll your own iOS push, making it work in Safari shouldn’t be too difficult. Connor LaCombe, the developer who built the demo above, may put together a tutorial screencast.)

June 26 2013

18:43

Three lessons from ProPublica on how to run a successful journalism Kickstarter

ProPublica’s Blair Hickman writes about what the news nonprofit learned running its first Kickstarter project. (At this writing, with 18 hours left to go, it’s just $521 short of its $22,000 goal, making funding almost certain.)

Twenty-nine days ago, ProPublica launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to hire an intern to help us investigate unpaid internships — an issue that has regained national attention with a flurry of new lawsuits following a key ruling against Fox Searchlight Pictures.

If our Kickstarter succeeds, our intern will spend the fall semester traveling around the country, tracking these cases and documenting interns’ stories for a microsite on the intern economy. They’ll blog about their journey, the investigative process and their learning experience as an intern — a unique opportunity for our newsroom, and this intern.

We’ll know tomorrow at 9:32 AM ET whether our campaign was a success — as of this writing, we are just over $3,000 away from meeting our goal, and per Kickstarter’s rules, we have to raise the full $22,000, or we get nothing.

Regardless of the outcome, we’ve learned a lot through our first foray into project-based crowdfunding. Here’s some of what we’ve learned:

Your project should be creative and well defined

ProPublica has pondered Kickstarter crowdfunding for years. One of our biggest hurdles is that Kickstarter campaigns work best for concrete, defined projects – a documentary, another season of a podcast or a new level of a video game.

But investigative journalists often don’t know what their reporting will yield. We’re sifting through more than 360 detailed tips from interns or people whose career plans changed because they couldn’t afford to take an unpaid internship, but we don’t yet know exactly what our stories will be.

We were fortunate that for this particular investigation, a substantial piece of the story is hidden in plain sight. Millions of Americans have completed internships, many of which were unpaid. We think capturing their stories and voices through an interactive microsite gives us a tangible way to define the project for our Kickstarter backers and add impact to our overall investigation.

It’s also been tough for us to pitch the internship as an all-or-nothing project — a key Kickstarter funding factor — because we are committed to reporting this story, even if we don’t get to hire our intern. But it’s a Catch-22 we can live with.

(For some other great examples of successful journalism projects, check out Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible, Decode DC and Matter.)

Creative rewards and crunching the numbers

Donor rewards are a crucial part of Kickstarter’s model, and we tried to be creative and strategic about what we offered at different levels. Think $25: get a T-shirt. $50: get early access to a podcast. $5,000: get a project-related celebrity to speak at an event.

The best rewards make backers feel like they’ve benefited from a project they helped make possible. For journalism projects, this could include access to the editorial process, tote bags or t-shirts with custom project designs or special, real-time updates on the reporting.

But you need to make sure to figure out how you’ll pay for your rewards. Does your marketing budget cover them, or will your Kickstarter funds need to cover those costs?

Once you set your fundraising goal, make sure the cost of your rewards fit within your overall budget. If you’re going to offer a T-shirt or a postcard, figure out how much that will cost, including shipping. (We were a bit surprised at how much shipping increased the cost.)

Then compare that unit cost to income projections, and an estimated number of backers. We found it useful to compile all of this in a spreadsheet that let us tweak rewar costs until it fit our budget (we set a limit of 10 percent to be spent on rewards).

Mobilize your readers and networks

How are you going to raise awareness about your Kickstarter campaign? Our game plan included social networking, email outreach and pitching our story as widely as possible. Nearly 90 percent of our donations came from outside the Kickstarter platform, and we had articles or coverage appear in New York Magazine, The Week, Business Insider, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Wire and more.

We sent a minimum of one, if not two project updates via our social media accounts every day. We emailed all of our existing listservs, crafted project updates for our Kickstarter backers and emailed organizations with an interest in the issue asking if they might be willing to share our project with their listservs.

In short: Marketing a Kickstarter is a close to full-time job, so make sure to budget the time.

Fresh stories were also incredibly helpful for building momentum around the Kickstarter campaign. During the past month, we produced seven pieces on internships, linking to the Kickstarter and encouraging people to back the campaign in each.

In the end, our own site was the third-highest source of donations after Twitter and direct referrals.

Based on our experience, Kickstarter can be a great tool for creative, unique projects, but also tricky for those designed around story-driven projects. But if your newsroom has the time, resources and smart idea, it’s definitely worth an experiment.

A huge thank you to everyone who has donated to our Kickstarter so far. If you’ve ever known, or been, an unpaid intern, we’re sure you can appreciate its importance. And if you haven’t already, please donate in the final stretch to help us achieve our goal!

A big thanks to our Kickstarter team, which included News Apps Fellow Jeremy Merrill, Senior Engagement Editor Amanda Zamora, News Applications Director Scott Klein, ProPublica President Richard Tofel and Explainer Music.

18:25

Twitter’s planning new ways to “cover” live events

Sarah Perez at TechCrunch reports that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said the platform was working on “better ways to filter the ‘signal from the noise’ during live events, including something he referred to as a ‘DVR mode.’”

“That ability to track and monitor the moments within an event, either as they happen or to catch up with them, is something we want to enhance,” said Costolo. “We want to make that experience even better, curating the moments within the event, the media from it, and making it that much easier to navigate”…

“We’re not in the business of synthesizing and analyzing,” he said of the data on Twitter. “It’s the journalists and the news organizations in the world who will take all this info and analyze and curate it as they’ve always done,” he explained.

To address the signal from the noise problem, Twitter is experimenting with a new live events tool that aims to keep that “roar of the crowd,” while still highlighting the key moments. Right now, keeping track of live events on Twitter is very basic — you’re essentially just following the tweets in reverse chronological order, the CEO explained.

It’s another instance of the eternal web tension between what’s latest and what’s most interesting. I’m curious to see what they come up with.

June 20 2013

18:24

A warning from Matt Waite about data journalism and race

“If you’re expecting talk-radio and television shout fests to talk about how awesome your statistical validity is, you’re an idiot.”

Matt Waite has an excellent post on Source today that tells the story of early data journalism in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. He delves into issues of race and identity, and explains how easily journalists with good sense can mix things up — and miss big stories — because of how quickly numbers can obfuscate reality.

Race and ethnicity are tricky topics with loads of nuance and definitional difficulties. But they aren’t the only places these issues come up. Anytime you’re comparing data across agencies and across geographies, be on high alert for mismatches. Crime is a huge issue—jurisdictions have different definitions of what constitutes a big theft versus a little one, for instance. Driving laws are another—what constitutes reckless driving changes state to state. Budgets are another nightmare—what dollar figure requires a bid or not changes from city to city.

Getting the metadata, getting someone one the phone and basic descriptive statistics will help you avoid traps and hopefully let you avoid getting your butt kicked like I did.

14:13

The New York Times adds a meter to mobile apps

Since 2011, the Times’ web paywall and app paywall have functioned differently. The website gave nonsubscribers a maximum number of articles per month; its apps set aside a subset of top stories that were free to all, but put everything else beyond reach.

The newspaper just announced it would be normalizing that divide, creating a meter for readers of the company’s mobile applications. Starting June 27, nonsubscribers will be able to read three articles per day through the app before being prompted to sign up for a subscription. After that, they’ll still get to browse headlines and article summaries. Videos will remain free inside the app, as Denise Warren, the Times executive vice president of the digital products and services group, previously told the Lab in April.

This spring, Times CEO Mark Thompson promised the company would be introducing a new suite of digital products to broaden its base of readers. But the Times’ mobile meter doesn’t come at a new price point. For an app-centric reader, the cheapest option for reading the Times starts at $15 every four weeks, which provides access to NYTimes.com and smartphone apps.

The timing may just be a coincidence, but the Times’ soon-to-be sold sibling, The Boston Globe, introduced a new mobile app subscription plan Wednesday which will cost readers $3.99 a month.

June 19 2013

18:24

In sports writing, the action’s moved away from columns

At Grantland, Bryan Curtis writes about the slow decline of The New York Times’ Sports of the Times column. But more than one column in one newspaper, Curtis is really writing about a broader shift in what content is valuable in an online age.

First, [Times sports editor Jason] Stallman surveyed his own stable of feature writers. “John Branch wrote a column when he was in Fresno,” he said. “Jeré Longman has written commentary and could be dynamite. But these are guys we have fallen in love with doing distinctive enterprise stories and other investigative types of work. We’re disinclined to put them in a box of just commentary.”

It shows how the MVP of the section is no longer the columnist but the longform writer. In olden times, Branch’s Pulitzer Prize winner “Snow Fall” would probably have been assigned at 1,200 words. “I don’t believe the hierarchy of the New York Times values sports,” said Roberts. “Or I don’t think they value it on a regular basis. I think they value the big, vigorous investigative approach to sports. But the everyday is an afterthought.” It was as if those elephantine features were a way to get the paper’s top editors to finally pay attention.

It really is remarkable, for those of us who grew up reading sports columnists in our local daily, how much the institution turned out to be an artifact of what turned out to be a temporary news ecosystem. The broad journalistic conceit of objectivity — which made the owner of forceful opinions stand out that much more. The general pushing down of regular reporters’ individuality — which turned columnists, whether sports or metro or editorial, into stars. The ways in which newspapers’ organization around geography, particularly metro areas, pushed college and pro sports teams to the fore as subjects of journalism.

And, of course, the near monopoly that most U.S. newspapers had on opinionated voices in their cities — which made even the hackiest of sports columnists into giant personalities.

The rise of sports radio helped push back on that monopoly, but the Internet finished the job. I don’t believe there is a class of reporter that has seen its value fall in the past 10 years as much as the hack print sports columnist, who (at least in the major pro and college ranks) faces more competition than ever. (Rick Reilly used to be a god.) Grantland’s been running parodies of hack newspaper sports columns lately, and they’re uncomfortably dead on.

Stallman says there’s nothing wrong with a good column, obviously, but that investigative reporting, aggressive beat reporting, and long-form features are where the action’s at.

“Maybe through the Lance Armstrong saga, we’d like to have had a columnist laying in properly. But I look at it that we have Juliet Macur completely setting the agenda on the story, so I’d much rather have that than a columnist.”

One other line worth noting:

Stallman doesn’t believe “Sports of the Times” is anachronistic. Even with a paltry word limit in a web ocean of “longform”; even with its early print deadline while the rest of us work through the night.

Think about that: “a web ocean of ‘longform.’” Remember that whenever someone says that the web is all about short and quick and 140 characters. Who’d have thought five years ago that “there’s too much longform” would even be conceived of as a competitive factor for journalism online? (It’s noteworthy that Grantland was started within ESPN by Bill Simmons, whose shaggy 12,000-word epics are as responsible as any for shifting the center of what writing about sports looks like.)

15:01

Not feeling up to speed on drone journalism?

“New perspectives from the sky,” a study by Dr. Mark Tremayne and Andrew Clark published in Digital Journalism, can help you with that.

The two University of Texas at Arlington researchers lay out eight case studies of drone use, from tornado coverage to paparazzi to self-surveillance and the Occupy movement.

The eight cases identified raise a host of legal, ethical and moral questions which were raised in this report. As previous research on surveillance technologies has suggested, UAVs equipped with cameras will further blur the public–private distinctions understood by earlier eras (Ford 2011; Thompson 2011). How will the public react? Interestingly, the answer is not obvious. Technologies that seem intrusive to some are readily accepted by others, especially when they have become accustomed to surveillance or feel some remaining degree of control (Humphreys 2011; Meyrowitz 2009). The right to privacy has been diminishing over the past 100 years due to issues such as the growth of government, the growth of the mass media and technological innovations that make it possible to see and hear things that would not have been possible even a few years ago.

June 18 2013

18:17

The Times of London has built “The retweeter” to get its journalists to push its stories in social media

We posted a piece this morning on one way The Times of London tried, without much success, to get its (hard-paywalled) content noticed by the non-subscribing world. The paper’s Ben Whitelaw just posted about another.

The idea here is that, with the paywall, the newspaper’s journalists have to do extra-heavy duty promoting stories in social media, because the general web audience can’t be counted on to do it on their behalf. So The Times built a simple tool that, when an important story is published, sends an email to Times reporters asking them to please retweet it:

Owning an story can be hard on social media when you operate a subscription model…We thought about how we could change this and realised that our best weapon was our journalists, each with their own network of followers and fans. But we were asking a lot to expect them to keep track of stories breaking on social media (especially when on deadline) so we knew we needed a way of making it easy for them…

[Developer Alex Muller] then created an HTML template to display a single tweet inside an email, and used Twitter’s Web Intents to add links to simplify the process for journalists and others to retweet — one click in the email, and then one confirmation click on twitter.com to complete the action…

The result of using ‘The retweeter’ is that our big stories reach more people. For example, The Sunday Times Insight team had a big story on lobbying in Westminster which was retweeted by 30 people, most of whom were Sunday Times staff. Twitter analytics showed us that this tweet had reach three times greater than our usual tweets.

Bravo for figuring out a tool to simplify the process, although (a) 30 retweets for the lead Page 1 story for The Sunday Times still seems a little underwhelming, and (b) I imagine promotion by your own journalists, while valuable, can only go so far when your story itself is stuck behind a paywall.

Today's front page: Top Tory in new Lobbygate row http://t.co/3gZHhosFXv #WestminsterforSale pic.twitter.com/0wqf5OuiqK

— The Sunday Times (@thesundaytimes) June 9, 2013

17:44

“Having compelling content is one thing, but if you provide that, the reader will have to pay more”

Paul Godfrey has been CEO of Canada’s largest newspaper chain, the Postmedia Network, for three years. In that time he’s cut more than 2,000 jobs, made two-thirds of content replicable across papers, hiked the cost of subscriptions, and rejiggered the business model toward earning roughly 50 percent of revenue from ads and 50 percent from circulation. In Canada’s Marketing magazine, he discusses his plans for his next three years in charge.

“We will continue over the next three years to downsize the legacy costs [and] outsource where we can,” said Godfrey. “We are going to be a much smaller revenue company and a very much smaller expense company by living with a smaller number of staffers and people doing more. Hopefully we’ll be a more profitable company as a result.”

Postmedia, which owns what used to be the Canwest chain of Canadian newspapers, owns major papers in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, and other Canadian cities, along with the National Post.

17:28

“Does that worry you, about newspapers dying?”

The New Republic‘s Isaac Chotiner was hellbent on asking the the tough questions when he interviewed Politico founders John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei. There’s a feisty exchange about the work environment at Politico, especially for their female employees, but the Beltway gentlemen also get into the site’s role in the broader media landscape, as well as where they plan to head with their content.

IC: Is there a story that you are most proud of?

JH: I think of us more in terms of reporters and our young staff, and I think about that in terms of the broader business. It’s crumbling! Carrie Budoff Brown came to us from the Philly Inquirer. It was a shell. The Washington Post is still a strong newspaper, but no one there would say it is providing the number of opportunities for young journalists that it was able to do when I was there.

IC: Does that worry you, about newspapers dying?

JH: Sure, and there are lots of implications there about the future: Who fills in the foreign coverage and local news as they retreat? I’m proud of the role we play in answering questions about the future of our own field. But let’s face it, most stories on any given day are perishable.

IC: This interview will last.

JH: I agree. This will be one for the ages.

June 17 2013

14:01

Know code, and want to know news? Apply for a Knight-Mozilla Fellowship

My second favorite journalism fellowship program (behind only the Nieman Fellowships, of course) has opened up for applications again, and if you think you’re qualified, you should apply.

The Knight-Mozilla Fellowships, now in their third cycle, embed civic-minded coders into some of the world’s top news organizations to do work that can reach big audiences and have a real impact on people understand the world around them:

Knight-Mozilla Fellows spend 10 months embedded in partner newsrooms. They are paid to work with the community inside and outside of their newsroom to develop and share open-source projects that help to transform journalism on the web.

This cycle, the newsrooms are The New York Times, ProPublica, the Texas Tribune, La Nacíon in Argentina, and, excitingly, a joint fellowship between Ushahidi and Internews Kenya in Nairobi.

I wrote about the last cycle a year ago if you want some more detail. The fellows who’ve moved through Knight-Mozilla in the past have done some inspiring work connecting journalistic values and a coder’s instincts. I have a suspicion there’s someone reading Nieman Lab today who’d make for a great fellow — if that’s you, go for it.

June 11 2013

17:52

How media companies can step up their ad sales game

A Swedish media consultant Otto Sjöberg writes for INMA about Amazon’s quick rise up the rungs of the ad sales business. CEO Jeff Bezos is apparently hyper-attuned to the value of the data Amazon owns about shoppers.

“Key to further growth will be the plethora of consumer purchasing data Amazon gathers through its core business, retail sales. Ad-selling competitors such as Google and Facebook lack such data — and therefore its targeting potential,” eMarketer concludes.

The key takeaway from the story of Amazon is for news media companies to be experts at gathering not only information but data, and to use that data to venture into new revenue streams.

May 30 2013

17:17

New HQ reflects NPR’s shift into multimedia

Interior Design has a feature on NPR’s brand new headquarters, including all the digital bells and whistles:

Inside and out, the project is designed to tell the 43-year story of NPR the public-supported multimedia company, from its radio roots to present-day video, apps, and photojournalism. Visitors can hang out on a landscaped plaza and watch headlines scroll across the LED “ticker” mounted above the setback entrance. Or step inside the lobby, where a digital “media mosaic” is composed of floor-to-ceiling LED panels. Like oversize Android phone apps, LED tabs flash programming by and about NPR.

Behind this dynamic feature wall is  Studio One, NPR’s largest production space. At 2,400 square feet, it can be used to broadcast concerts, lectures, and theater-in-the-round or to host staff meetings—heck, perhaps badminton. Maple acoustical panels, harvested from the previous building, give a sense of warmth as they moderate the energy of the sound waves.

Tags: Link post
14:00

Which news moves stock prices?

Editor’s note: This summary of this interesting paper by Boudoukh et al. was written by Matt Nesvisky for the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) Digest. The paper asks the question: Through textual analysis and by tying news events to stock data, can we determine how news stories about companies are digested by the market?

In “Which News Moves Stock Prices? A Textual Analysis,” Jacob Boudoukh, Ronen Feldman, Shimon Kogan, and Matthew Richardson maintain that common business news sources, such as The Wall Street Journal and the Dow Jones News Service, contain many stories that are not relevant in terms of company fundamentals. They conclude that what is important for stock prices is the type and tone of the news. By applying advanced textual analysis to the actual language of news articles, they discern a strong relationship between information and stock price changes.

Boudoukh and his co-authors combine a dictionary-based sentiment measure, an analysis of phrase-level patterns, and a methodology for identifying relevant events for companies (broken down into 14 categories and 56 subcategories). Over the sample period of 2000-2009 for all S&P 500 companies, the Dow Jones Newswire produced over 1.9 million stories, but the researchers identify only about half of them as relevant events. This breakdown into “identified” and “unidentified” news makes a difference to the analysis, as does using a more sophisticated textual analysis, rather than a simple count of positive-versus-negative words.

Classifying articles into topics such as analyst recommendations, financial information, and acquisitions and mergers, the researchers compare days with no news, unidentified news, and identified news. They show that stock-level volatility is similar on no-news days and unidentified news days, which is consistent with the idea that the intensity and importance of information arrival is the same across these days. In contrast, the volatility of stock prices on identified news days is over twice that of other days.

Furthermore, the results are consistent with the idea that identified news days contain price-relevant information. Another finding is that deals and partnership announcements tend to have very positive effects, while legal announcements tend to have negative effects. Moreover, some topics, such as analyst recommendations and financials, are much more likely to appear on extreme return days. This suggests that different topics may have different price impacts.

Boudoukh, Feldman, Kogan, and Richardson conclude that their methodology may be useful for a deeper analysis of the relationship between stock prices and information, especially on the behavioral side. “There is a vast literature in the behavioral finance area,” they write, “arguing that economic agents, one by one, and even in the aggregate, cannot digest the full economic impact of news quickly. Given our database of identified events, it is possible to measure and investigate ‘complexity’ and its effect on the speed of information-processing by the market.

Here’s the abstract of the paper:

A basic tenet of financial economics is that asset prices change in response to unexpected fundamental information. Since Roll’s (1988) provocative presidential address that showed little relation between stock prices and news, however, the finance literature has had limited success reversing this finding. This paper revisits this topic in a novel way. Using advancements in the area of textual analysis, we are better able to identify relevant news, both by type and by tone. Once news is correctly identified in this manner, there is considerably more evidence of a strong relationship between stock price changes and information. For example, market model R-squareds are no longer the same on news versus no news days (i.e., Roll’s (1988) infamous result), but now are 16% versus 33%; variance ratios of returns on identified news versus no news days are 120% higher versus only 20% for unidentified news versus no news; and, conditional on extreme moves, stock price reversals occur on no news days, while identified news days show an opposite effect, namely a strong degree of continuation. A number of these results are strengthened further when the tone of the news is taken into account by measuring the positive/negative sentiment of the news story.

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