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May 29 2013

22:16

How does Quartz create visualizations so quickly on breaking news?

If you’ve ever wondered, someone else did on Quora, and the site’s Ritchie S. King responded:

Read Quote of Ritchie S. King’s answer to Quartz: How does quartz – QZ.com create visualizations so fast for developing news stories? on Quora

D3.js is awesome, although it does have a bit of a learning curve. Very smart to create a mediating tool the whole newsroom can use.

21:39

The scariest chart in Mary Meeker’s slide deck for newspapers

I linked earlier to Mary Meeker’s new slide deck. For those who don’t know it, Meeker — formerly of Morgan Stanley, at VC firm Kleiner Perkins since late 2010 — each year produces a curated set of data reflecting what she sees as the major trends in Internet usage and growth. It may be the only slide deck that qualifies as an event unto itself.

Last year’s deck had one slide that I liked to cite when talking about the print advertising prospects for newspapers going forward. It’s this one:

mary-meeker-adshare-2011

The basic idea here is to compare the share of attention in various media to the share of ad spend. (This is U.S. data.) In other words: 43 percent of the time Americans spend consuming media is spent watching television. And 42 percent of the advertising dollars spent in America go towards television advertising. It’s a pretty good balance.

While there’s no ironclad law that ad dollars will always perfectly follow attention, it seems like a pretty good working assumption. And the main takeaways from that slide are (a) that print still gets a wildly disproportionate share of ad spend (25 percent) when compared with time spent (7 percent), and that (b) mobile is in the opposite situation — lots of attention (10 percent) but not many dollars (1 percent).

If you think that, all else equal, ad dollars will tend toward equilibrium with attention, that’s (a) a really scary thought for print — newspapers and magazines both — and (b) a sign that news organizations had better be putting a lot of effort into monetizing mobile.

That was last year’s slide. This is this year’s:

mary-meeker-adshare-2012

This picture isn’t any prettier. Print attention is down one percentage point; print advertising is down two. But the gap between them still yawns. Any time you hear someone be optimistic about the return of print advertising dollars, think about this slide and realize print ad dollars still have a long way to go down.

Meanwhile, mobile is continuing its move in the opposite direction: up 2 percentage points in time spent, and up the same in dollars. Mobile advertising went from a $1.6 billion business to a $4 billion business in a single year. Not much of that went to newspapers.

18:17

It’s time to talk about interns

It’s graduation season, and the end of the academic year means thousands of college students and grads are headed off to their summer internships. Just in time for their departure, David Dennis wrote a piece for The Guardian exhorting the journalism industry to end its reliance on the unpaid intern industry, which Dennis says prevents low and middle-class students from ever achieving media careers, thereby disenfranchising wide swaths of the population.

At the same time, ProPublica has launched Investigating Internships, a crowd funding effort to help pay the salary of an intern who will, in turn, use their time there to “tell the stories of the millions of interns across the U.S.”

We plan to send our intern to college campuses across the country, collecting intern stories in a visual way (think video, animation, graphics). We will be closely involved from ProPublica HQ, training our intern in multimedia, reporting and editing skills while they’re on the road.

These stories are a vital part of this investigation. While our reporters will focus on deep dive watchdog reporting, our intern will help highlight the human side of the issue in a visual, creative way.

However, if we don’t raise the money to cover the salary, travel and production costs, we won’t be able to hire someone.

So if you’re moved by Dennis’s arguments, you can do your part by helping at least one journalism intern get paid this summer.

17:57

Twitter’s Dick Costolo: We’re a complement to news orgs, not a replacement

Also at D11, Twitter’s Dick Costolo talked about the state of the company and platform. That included a bit about the news business. This is from All Things D’s Mike Isaac’s live paraphrasing of Costolo’s on-stage conversation with Kara Swisher:

Kara: Let’s talk about the boston marathon and events like this. Do you have a responsibility here? Are you the new news org?

Dick: About Boston — when events like these happen, my perspective.

In the moment, the horror is very personal. I turned to Twitter to see if friends [like Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley] are safe.

But it’s always been the case that folks are trying to sift through what’s out there and verify what’s true.

The beauty of Twitter today is that when those sorts of rumors surface, the crowd is doing a very good job of sorting out what’s real and what’s rumor very quickly.

We think of ourselves as very complementary to news orgs.

We’re the platform for global information distribution for the people, by the people.

The news orgs are the curators, the editors, the analysts. They do that important work.

Kara: Will you become more of a news org?

Dick: No, I see us partnering more with news orgs to distribute this real-time feed of info, probably working with companies that can help organize that information and dole it out to news org readers.

17:50

Mary Meeker’s must-read state-of-the-Internet slide deck

At All Things D’s annual conference D11, Mary Meeker debuted her annual, much anticipated slide deck on the state of the Internet today. It’s a great primer on where we stand. Here it is:

Ex-Nieman Labber Zach Seward pulls some of the highlights at Quartz:

More than 500 million photos are uploaded and shared every day. More than half of those are on Facebook.

About 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.

About a quarter of people worldwide say they share “everything” or “most things” online. In Saudia Arabia, India, and Indonesia, at least half say the same thing.

Mobile internet traffic as a percentage of all internet traffic is expected to continued growing one-and-a-half times per year. It’s currently 15%.

In China this year, mobile internet access surpassed PC internet access for the first time.

On Groupon, 45% of transactions are conducted with mobile devices.

Smartphone users check their devices about 150 times a day.

QR code scanning is up fourfold in China from a year earlier.

China now has more users of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems than the United States does.

17:30

The Financial Times accelerates its news with fastFT

The Financial Times launched a new, mobile-friendly news wire today with an emphasis on speed and brevity. It’s called fastFT, and it’s something like a traditional news wire mixed with a Twitter stream, delivered both in a newsfeed on FT.com as well as on a standalone page. Like most content from the FT, fastFT is free to subscribers and available to other users under a meter.

Here’s a screenshot. Compare and contrast with the similar stream model at The Wall Street Journal.

Market-moving news and views, 24 hours a day - FT.com

May 28 2013

18:08

The New York Times experiments with native advertising…on two wheels

I’m not even sure “native advertising” is the right term, exactly; sponsored content works too. But whatever you call it, The New York Times just released an update to its New York City things-to-do app The Scoop that includes a new feature: real-time information on the location and capacity of nearby Citi Bike stations. That’s the new NYC bike-sharing system that debuted yesterday.

nytimes-scoop-citi-bikeBut instead of this being an editorial product — like the rest of The Scoop’s listings of restaurants, coffee shops, and the like — the bike-finding map carries a “Sponsored” label. It’s advertising content provided by Citi Bike. Says the Times press release: “This marks the first time The New York Times will feature content from an advertiser in a mobile application outside of an advertising unit.”

If most native advertising tries to make sponsor-provided content look a bit like a news article, this tries to make it look a bit like a regular ol’ tab in a mobile app. What’s interesting is that the “content” here is less a collection of words and pictures than a real-time data service. It’s a callback to the classic news advertising idea — we assemble the audience, you provide the content, we make a match — in a mobile, apped-up world. It’s a compelling match.

“This is just one example of how we are working more closely with our advertisers to create unique and custom campaigns to help them tell their brand story in innovative ways,” said Denise Warren, executive vice president, Digital Products and Services Group, The New York Times. “The integration of Citi Bike’s robust content complements The Scoop app’s main objective—to serve as a guide to New York City. With these new features we hope to further enhance the experience for users of The Scoop as they explore the city using their iPhone.”

(And one that can go both ways: The Times says that Citi Bike’s own iOS and Android apps will be updated this summer to feature…The Scoop’s listings of restaurants, coffee shops, and the like.)

I’m not sure how far idea could go — most newspapers are tied to a local audience; most digital outlets that might consider from this sort of a deal aren’t. But it’s interesting that the Times, one of America’s least local newspapers, is leading the way in figuring out a way to connect location and ad dollars in this way.

17:07

What’s the next act for The Washington Post and its editor?

National Journal attempts to peel back the curtain to get to know Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron, his plans for the Post, and how the paper stacks up in the digital age.

In Marty’s world, journalism is still practiced more as a sacred ritual than as a Pez dispenser for the BuzzFeed-addled crowd. He’s human Ritalin.

17:06

Sports Illustrated is the latest to go for live video webshows

Josh Sternberg at Digiday has the info:

The Time Inc. sports outlet is rolling out a 30-minute daily live talk show called “SI Now powered by Ford” with the hopes of bringing back some of SI’s swagger. Anchored by SI’s Maggie Gray, the show will broadcast live at 1p.m. EDT, Monday through Friday. It will include commentary and analysis from a roster of SI contributors but also tap into the social world where visitors can log into the site to comment, ask questions, answer polls. After the show airs, it will get a second life on the site where visitors can view on demand.

16:46

A look at the custom tech behind the FT’s HTML5 mobile app

At Smashing Magazine, FT Labs front-end developer Wilson Page details some of the back-end tech behind the Financial Times’ shift from native apps to HTML5 on mobile platforms.

Among the highlights: using flexbox to fill defined vertical space, a JavaScript library called FTEllipsis to manage text flowing in a confined area, icon fonts for retina-ready images, and more natural-feeling scrolling. Much of the new code is open-sourced on the FT Labs GitHub.

We didn’t just want to build a product that fulfilled its current requirements; we wanted to build a foundation that we could innovate on in the future. This meant building with a maintenance-first mentality, writing clean, well-commented code and, at the same time, ensuring that our code could accommodate the demands of an ever-changing feature set.

16:37

Hearst Magazines embrace native advertising

Lucia Moses at Adweek:

Grant Whitmore, vp of digital, said the company had been watching the success of digital-only publishers [read: BuzzFeed, Gawker] that have been made native advertising the cornerstone of their business.

“A lot of those companies are doing really, really well right now,” he said. “So we wanted to understand what we needed to do to keep pace with our newest set of competitors.”

Addressing a common knock that native advertising is unscalable, the units can run across Hearst brands, among them Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Esquire, and the content can run outside Hearst, if the client wishes.

Note that this is just Hearst’s magazine unit, not its newspapers.

May 23 2013

16:45

More on the tech side of the Reuters.com redesign

Building on our piece on the Reuters.com rethink, Source went back to get the nerdier details from Paul Smalera. Of note is that it’s all built on a unified API called Media Connect that generates the content feeds for all its new platforms and products:

The other thing this setup lets us do is show off the depth of Reuters content. We produce, including videos, text, pictures, and other content types, something like 20,000 unique items per day. But our current website really didn’t let us show off the depth of our reporting. So one of the main functions of the CMS is really set up to allow editors to create and curate collections — we call them streams — of stories. This lets us get to the endless-scroll type behavior that Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and the rest have made popular as the new default behavior of the web.

16:37

Pew’s new data blog fills in the contextual gaps between information and stories

The Pew Research Center launched a new blog earlier this week that’s supposed to provide Pew-quality data and information at a real-time pace. It’s called Fact Tank, and it will be a home for what Pew calls it’s “unique brand of data journalism.”

Since Tuesday, they’ve written up data snapshots on topics like Secretary of State John Kerry’s approval rating, American support for drone usage, and media coverage of the Oklahoma tornado. Alan Murray left The Wall Street Journal to head the Pew Research Center in November.

May 22 2013

17:54

Who’s reusing the news?

Derek Willis, interactive news developer for The New York Times, wrote a blog post about a different way to use analytics. Willis says he’s interested in tracking and mapping who is citing and quoting the work of major news outlets (like The New York Times).

The idea behind linkypedia is that links on Wikipedia aren’t just references, they help describe how digital collections are used on the Web, and encourage the spread of knowledge: “if organizations can see how their web content is being used in Wikipedia, they will be encouraged and emboldened to do more.” When I first saw it, I immediately thought about how New York Times content was being cited on Wikipedia. Because it’s an open source project, I was able to find out, and it turned out (at least back then) that many Civil War-era stories that had been digitized were linked to from the site. I had no idea, and wondered how many of my colleagues knew. Then I wondered what else we didn’t know about how our content is being used outside the friendly confines of nytimes.com.

That’s the thread that leads from Linkypedia to TweetRewrite, my “analytics” hack that takes a nytimes.com URL and feeds tweets that aren’t simply automatic retweets; it tries to filter out posts that contain the exact headline of the story to find what people say about it. It’s a pretty simple Ruby app that uses Sinatra, the Twitter and Bitly gems and a library I wrote to pull details about a story from the Times Newswire API.

15:10

How the BBC handles responsive images

On BBC News developers’ posted about how they handle one of the trickiest issues of responsive design — how to deal with images. How can your web page be smart enough to download big, beautiful images when on a big desktop screen and small, optimized ones for a smartphone?

This is an area where standards are still unsettled and there are a lot of competing best practices. The BBC approach involves hardcoding only the first image on a page in the HTML markup and bringing in others selectively via JavaScript. Also:

As the BBC News site publishes MANY articles everyday, many images are published too. BBC News has an automated process to create 18 different versions of each published image.

14:59

Amazon finds a way to monetize fan fiction

Fan fiction — fan-written stories featuring characters drawn from pop culture properties, like a tale in which Chewbacca and Boba Fett become star-crossed lovers in 1950s New Jersey — is a huge phenomenon. On one end of the scale, the Fifty Shades of Grey books started out as fan fiction and became the publishing success of 2012; on the other, hundreds of thousands of people put their favorite characters into unusual situations in stories posted free on hubs like Archive of Our Own and FanFiction.Net.

The problem with fan fiction as a publishing business is that it’s of questionable legality. The creators of those characters — the writers of movies, TV shows, and books, or the corporate entities that control their rights — don’t want people selling new stories involving them. (Chewbacca’s love for Boba Fett was always a forbidden love.) And making the licensing arrangements necessarily to publish fan fiction for a profit was generally too much of a bother for anyone to pursue. The result was that turning fan fiction into a business has been somewhere between impractical and impossible.

Amazon took a big step toward slicing that Gordian Knot today by announcing it had made licensing agreements with three fanfic-popular properties — Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Vampire Diaries — that will allow fics for those properties to be published for the Kindle, with revenue split between the author and the rightsholder. More deals are on the way.

The new Kindle Worlds platform will enable any author to publish stories based on these characters and then make them available for purchase through the Kindle Store. Amazon will then pay royalties both to the author of the fan fiction and the original rights holder. The standard author’s royalty rate — for fiction that is at least 10,000 words in length — will be just over a third (35 percent) of net revenue.

This has major monetization potential — if fan fiction communities used to getting their fix for free (and in an open, episodic environment) buy into the idea of paying for it.

Family self-promotion alert: If you’re interested in the subject of fan fiction, you should look into Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by University of Utah professor Anne Jamison, which will be published later this year. (And edited by my wife, Leah Wilson.)

May 21 2013

18:44

Internet Archive plans to grow its TV news catalog

Thanks to new funding from Knight Foundation, the Internet Archive is expanding its collection of TV news broadcasts. The archive also plans to build a better search and user experience around the clips, which can only be viewed online and not downloaded.

The expansion plan is being supported by $1 million in funding from Knight Foundation. With this support, we will grow our TV News Search & Borrow service, which currently includes more than 400,000 broadcasts dating back to June 2009, to add hundreds of thousands of new broadcasts. This means helping inform and engage communities by strengthening the work of journalists, scholars, teachers, librarians, documentarians, civic organizations and others dedicated to public benefit.With TV News Search & Borrow, these folks can use closed captioning that accompany news programs to search for information. They can then browse short-streamed video clips and share links to specific ones.

18:11

Web video doesn’t always have to be short

David Campbell’s post pulls together some interesting stats on online news consumption, in particular video:

News is a popular category on YouTube (it was the most searched for item in four out of 12 months in 2011)

There is no strict correlation between length of video and popularity — one-third of popular videos were 2-5 minutes in length, and nearly one fifth were longer than 5 mins

Oyala, a large video streaming platform, reported that long form videos of 10 minutes+ accounted for 57% of viewing time on tablets they served

Multimedia completion rates can also be good: MediaStorm says that more than half, and often two-thirds, of those viewing their stories online stay with them to the end, even when stories run up to 20 or more minutes.

18:08

Twitter builds internal guidelines for handling legal battles over patents

Twitter officially patented its “pull-to-refresh” technology for streaming on its mobile app today, The Verge reports. But Twitter also has an original, internal approach to patent applications.

All Twitter’s patents include a contract in which the company agrees to engage in patent litigation only if they are sued first. The contract is meant to deal with the concerns of the engineers whose work is being patented, and who feel the definition of defensive litigation can be fuzzy.

“[Engineers] were going around saying we’re worried about what patents mean,” said Twitter IP attorney Ben Lee, who drafted the IPA and guided it through the revision process. “The IPA is an expression of the values of the company.”

Lee’s work on the IPA began during his initial job interview with Twitter general counsel Alex Macgillivray in November of 2010. “The notion of trying to come up with new ways of handling patents was a major reason for me coming to Twitter in the first place,” he said. “I don’t think it was that long after that we were already having significant conversations with the engineers and senior management about some things we could do.”

Unfortunately, work on the IPA was put on hold not long after Lee joined Twitter — a patent troll had sued the company over a junk patent on “virtual communities,” and Lee spent serious time living in a Virginia hotel room as the case went to trial. “We’ve seen the negative impact” of patent abuse, he says. “And we’re a young company.”

May 20 2013

16:00

Isolating the elements of compelling graphic design

What kind of response do we want readers to have? When you build an informative and elegant visualization, how are you hoping they’ll react?

These are questions that Amanda Cox of The New York Times’ graphics desk asks herself on a regular basis. In a recent analysis of their popularity on social media, Cox tried to locate what makes a graphic popular.

1. “development.really.hard”
2. “big.breaking.news.big.breaking.news.adjacent”
3. “useful”
4. “explicitly.emotional…atmospheric”
5. “surprise.reveal”
6. “comprehensive”

Unsurprisingly “difficult” topics — mostly related to war, violence, climate change, and other highly complex issues — performed least well, but “takeaway” pieces with an obvious message also performed poorly as a class. In contrast, visualizations that requires extensive technical resources tended to perform particularly well, as did features Cox classed as emotional and useful — and, of course, those closely tied to breaking news.

In the wrap-up of her analysis, Cox considered the problem of indicating importance to the paper’s readership across platforms: “How do you signal that something is important? You do that by using the resource that is scarce.” In print, the Times can use scarcity to indicate importance by giving an important graphic a desirable spot on a “good page.” On the web, the equivalent scarce resource isn’t placement, but the allocation of valuable internal tech/development hours.

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