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August 16 2012

08:27

Hyperlocal Voices: Matt Brown, Londonist

The fifth in our new series of Hyperlocal Voices explores the work done by the team behind the Londonist. Despite having a large geographic footprint – Londonist covers the whole of Greater London - the site is full of ultra-local content, as well as featuring stories and themes which span the whole of the capital.

Run by two members of staff and a raft of volunteers, Editor Matt Brown gave Damian Radcliffe an insight into the breadth and depth of the site.

1. Who were the people behind the blog?

Everyone in London! We’re a very open site, involving our readers in the creation of many articles, especially the imagery. But more prosaically, we have an editorial team of 5 or 6 people, plus another 20 or so regular contributors. I act as the main content editor for the site.

We’re more than a website, though, with a weekly podcast (Londonist Out Loud, ably presented and produced by N Quentin Woolf), a separate Facebook presence, a daily e-newsletter, 80,000 Twitter followers, the largest FourSquare following in London (I think), a Flickr pool with 200,000 images, several e-books, occasional exhibitions and live events every few weeks. The web site is just one facet of what we do.

2. What made you decide to set up the blog?

I actually inherited it off someone else, but it was originally set up as a London equivalent of certain sites in the US like Gothamist and Chicagoist, which were riding the early blogging wave, providing news and event tips for citizens. There was nothing quite like it in London, so my predecessor wanted to jump into the gap and have some fun.

3. When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?

It dates back to 2004, when it was originally called the Big Smoker. Before too long, it joined the Gothamist network, changing its name to Londonist.

We now operate independently of that network, but retain the name. It was originally set up in Movable Type publishing platform, but we moved to WordPress a couple of years ago.

4. What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

Obviously, the Gothamist sites originally. But we’re now more influenced by the wonderful ecosystem of London blogs out there, all offering their own take on life in the capital.

The best include Diamond Geezer (an incisive and often acerbic look at London), Ian Visits (a mix of unusual site visits and geeky observation) and Spitalfields Life (a daily interview with a local character). These are just three of the dozens of excellent London sites in my RSS reader.

5. How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?

Complementary rather than competitors. We cover three or four news stories a day, sometimes journalistically, but our forte in this area is more in commentary, features and reader involvement around the news.

And news is just a small part of what we do — most of the site is event recommendation, unusual historical insights, street art, food and drink, theatre reviews and the like. As an example of our diversity, a few months back we ran a 3,000-word essay on the construction of Hammersmith flyover by an engineering PhD candidate, and the very next item was about a beauty pageant for chubby people in Vauxhall.

6. What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?

I think most of these would be technologically driven. For example, when Google mapping became possible, our free wifi hotspots and V2 rocket maps greatly increased site traffic.

Once Twitter reached critical mass we were able to reach out to tens of thousands of people, both for sourcing information for articles and pushing our finished content.

The other big thing was turning the site into a business a couple of years ago, so we were able to bring a little bit of money in to reinvest in the site. The extra editorial time the money pays for means our output is now bigger and better.

7. What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?

We’re now seeing about 1.4 million page views a month. It’s pretty much doubling year on year.

8. What is / has been your biggest challenge to date?

Transforming from an amateur site into a business.

We started taking different types of advertising, including advertorial content, and had to make sure we didn’t alienate our readers. It was a tricky tightrope, but I’d hope we’ve done a fairly good job of selecting paid-for content only if it’s of interest to a meaningful portion of our readers, and then making sure we’re open and clear about what is sponsored content and what is editorially driven.

9. What story, feature or series are you most proud of? 

I’m rather enjoying our A-Z pubcrawl at the moment, and not just because of the booze.

Basically, we pick an area of town each month beginning with the next letter of the alphabet (so, Angel, Brixton, City, Dalston, etc.). We then ask our readers to nominate their favourite pubs and bars in the area, via Twitter, Facebook or comments.

We then build a Google map of all the suggestions and arrange a pub crawl around the top 4.

Everyone’s a winner because (a) we get a Google-friendly article called, for example, ‘What’s the best pub in Farringdon?‘, with a map of all the suggestions; (b) we get the chance to use our strong social media channels to involve a large number of people – hundreds of votes every time; (c) the chance to meet some of our readers, who are invited along on the pub crawl, and who get a Londonistbooze badge as a memento; (d) a really fun night out round some very good pubs.

The next part (G for Greenwich) will be announced in early September.

10. What are your plans for the future?

We’re playing around with ebooks at the moment, as a way to sustain the business directly through content. We’ve published a book of London pub crawls (spotting a theme here?), and a history of the London Olympics by noted London author David Long. Our next ebook will be a collection of quiz questions about the capital, drawn from the numerous pub quizzes we’ve ran over the years.

Basically, we’re looking to be the best organisation for finding out about London in any and every medium we can get our hands on.

08:27

Hyperlocal Voices: Matt Brown, Londonist

The fifth in our new series of Hyperlocal Voices explores the work done by the team behind the Londonist. Despite having a large geographic footprint – Londonist covers the whole of Greater London - the site is full of ultra-local content, as well as featuring stories and themes which span the whole of the capital.

Run by two members of staff and a raft of volunteers, Editor Matt Brown gave Damian Radcliffe an insight into the breadth and depth of the site.

1. Who were the people behind the blog?

Everyone in London! We’re a very open site, involving our readers in the creation of many articles, especially the imagery. But more prosaically, we have an editorial team of 5 or 6 people, plus another 20 or so regular contributors. I act as the main content editor for the site.

We’re more than a website, though, with a weekly podcast (Londonist Out Loud, ably presented and produced by N Quentin Woolf), a separate Facebook presence, a daily e-newsletter, 80,000 Twitter followers, the largest FourSquare following in London (I think), a Flickr pool with 200,000 images, several e-books, occasional exhibitions and live events every few weeks. The web site is just one facet of what we do.

2. What made you decide to set up the blog?

I actually inherited it off someone else, but it was originally set up as a London equivalent of certain sites in the US like Gothamist and Chicagoist, which were riding the early blogging wave, providing news and event tips for citizens. There was nothing quite like it in London, so my predecessor wanted to jump into the gap and have some fun.

3. When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?

It dates back to 2004, when it was originally called the Big Smoker. Before too long, it joined the Gothamist network, changing its name to Londonist.

We now operate independently of that network, but retain the name. It was originally set up in Movable Type publishing platform, but we moved to WordPress a couple of years ago.

4. What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

Obviously, the Gothamist sites originally. But we’re now more influenced by the wonderful ecosystem of London blogs out there, all offering their own take on life in the capital.

The best include Diamond Geezer (an incisive and often acerbic look at London), Ian Visits (a mix of unusual site visits and geeky observation) and Spitalfields Life (a daily interview with a local character). These are just three of the dozens of excellent London sites in my RSS reader.

5. How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?

Complementary rather than competitors. We cover three or four news stories a day, sometimes journalistically, but our forte in this area is more in commentary, features and reader involvement around the news.

And news is just a small part of what we do — most of the site is event recommendation, unusual historical insights, street art, food and drink, theatre reviews and the like. As an example of our diversity, a few months back we ran a 3,000-word essay on the construction of Hammersmith flyover by an engineering PhD candidate, and the very next item was about a beauty pageant for chubby people in Vauxhall.

6. What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?

I think most of these would be technologically driven. For example, when Google mapping became possible, our free wifi hotspots and V2 rocket maps greatly increased site traffic.

Once Twitter reached critical mass we were able to reach out to tens of thousands of people, both for sourcing information for articles and pushing our finished content.

The other big thing was turning the site into a business a couple of years ago, so we were able to bring a little bit of money in to reinvest in the site. The extra editorial time the money pays for means our output is now bigger and better.

7. What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?

We’re now seeing about 1.4 million page views a month. It’s pretty much doubling year on year.

8. What is / has been your biggest challenge to date?

Transforming from an amateur site into a business.

We started taking different types of advertising, including advertorial content, and had to make sure we didn’t alienate our readers. It was a tricky tightrope, but I’d hope we’ve done a fairly good job of selecting paid-for content only if it’s of interest to a meaningful portion of our readers, and then making sure we’re open and clear about what is sponsored content and what is editorially driven.

9. What story, feature or series are you most proud of? 

I’m rather enjoying our A-Z pubcrawl at the moment, and not just because of the booze.

Basically, we pick an area of town each month beginning with the next letter of the alphabet (so, Angel, Brixton, City, Dalston, etc.). We then ask our readers to nominate their favourite pubs and bars in the area, via Twitter, Facebook or comments.

We then build a Google map of all the suggestions and arrange a pub crawl around the top 4.

Everyone’s a winner because (a) we get a Google-friendly article called, for example, ‘What’s the best pub in Farringdon?‘, with a map of all the suggestions; (b) we get the chance to use our strong social media channels to involve a large number of people – hundreds of votes every time; (c) the chance to meet some of our readers, who are invited along on the pub crawl, and who get a Londonistbooze badge as a memento; (d) a really fun night out round some very good pubs.

The next part (G for Greenwich) will be announced in early September.

10. What are your plans for the future?

We’re playing around with ebooks at the moment, as a way to sustain the business directly through content. We’ve published a book of London pub crawls (spotting a theme here?), and a history of the London Olympics by noted London author David Long. Our next ebook will be a collection of quiz questions about the capital, drawn from the numerous pub quizzes we’ve ran over the years.

Basically, we’re looking to be the best organisation for finding out about London in any and every medium we can get our hands on.

January 07 2012

21:38

London riot rumours: How misinformation spread on Twitter during a time of crisis

Guardian :: A period of unrest can provoke many untruths, an analysis of 2.6 million tweets suggests. But Twitter is adept at correcting misinformation - particularly if the claim is that a tiger is on the loose in Primrose Hill ...

Screenshot of the interactive graphic by Guardian's interactive team. An nice example of visual storytelling and data journalism.

London-riots-jpg

Explore the interactive graphic - Visit Guardian Interactive team | Rob Procter | Farida Vis | Alex Voss, www.guardian.co.uk

May 18 2011

18:40

BBC Social Media Summit: Crowdsourcing a Research Agenda

The BBC College of Journalism is staging a Social Media Summit (hashtag #BBCSMS) in London this week, which will bring together industry leaders, practitioners and academics from around the world, with a view to collaboratively mapping the future of social journalism.

Social media is having a transformative impact on professional journalism. And the speed of the real-time revolution raises significant challenges and opportunities for journalists and their publishers. But it also necessitates a rigorous, industry-relevant academic research agenda.

horrocks_226.jpg

The issues confronting journalism in the social media space include fundamental shifts in the practice of verification, the merger of private lives and professional practice, and the new journalistic role of community engagement.

These themes will be central to the summit, which will culminate in an open forum on Friday, featuring contributions from senior editors at The Guardian, Al Jazeera, NPR and The Washington Post.

Peter Horrocks, BBC head of Global News, said in February 2010 that social media practice for journalists was no longer discretionary. He was right. But this means that the professional training of journalists in social media theory and practice is also essential.

And, fundamental to teaching and training journalists in this new form of "social journalism," should be cutting-edge and industry-relevant academic research in the field of journalism studies.

A collaborative social media research agenda

One of the objectives of the BBC Social Media Summit, which has attracted industry leaders and academics from around the world, will be identifying key areas for research in the field which can assist journalists and media organizations as they adapt to the challenges and opportunities of the social media age.

cojo_oup_graphic.jpg

The process of charting a course for research into journalism and social media at the summit will be collaborative, with researchers in the field (me included) seeking to coordinate an approach that draws on industry expertise and responds to needs identified by the journalists and editors in attendance. We believe journalism research should be informed by journalistic practice and have a professionally relevant purpose. We're also committed to feeding back our research findings -- in an accessible and easily digestible way -- to the broader community for input, in keeping with social media ethos and our belief in practically applicable research.

The Twitterization of Journalism

I'm writing a Ph.D. on the Twitterization of journalism, or the transformative impact of social media on the field. My research has so far highlighted the effect of engagement with sources and Jay Rosen's "people formerly known as the audience," the ways in which professional practice is being reshaped through real-time reporting, increased transparency, and the conflation of private and professional lives in the space.

As I've identified in the course of this research project (some elements of which I've previously explored at MediaShift) there are many rich and important research questions emerging in the field -- almost at the speed of tweets!

Key Research Themes and Questions

Here are some of my contributions to framing a social media research agenda for journalism grouped under key themes I've identified in the process of academic and journalistic research in the field -- a process which has included social media crowdsourcing of responses.

VERIFICATION

• How is social media changing the practices and processes of verification?
• What new methods of verification are emerging? How effective are they?

• What is the impact of changing verification practices -- including crowdsourcing verification -- on accuracy in reporting and journalistic credibility?

CLASH OF THE PROFESSIONAL AND PRIVATE

• What is the impact (personally and professionally) of the merger of journalists' personal and private lives and their professional and public lives on social media sites?
• How do so-called audiences react to the blurring of personal and professional lives by journalists through their social media practice? What impact does it have on their views of journalists who use social media "socially?" Are they more or less likely to collaborate with such journalists?

ENGAGEMENT

• How do journalists' interactions with the "people formerly known as audience" impact their research, reporting, and commentary of issues (including framing, source selection, objectivity and verification)?
• What rules of engagement do journalists bring to social media interaction? With what success/effect?

CONFLICT AND COMPLAINTS

• What are journalists' experiences with being confronted with criticism about their work from colleagues, competitors and audiences on social media sites?
• What views have media organizations formed about the role of individual journalists in complaints handling via social media? What processes and guidelines are being, or need to be, developed?

INDUSTRIAL/LOGISTICAL ISSUES

• What are the impacts on journalists' workload, productivity and well-being of 24/7 real-time social media practice and engagement?
• What systems and procedures are media employers putting in place to address the issues of workload, time management and risks associated with social media?

NETWORKING, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT & GLOBALIZATION

• Explore the role and impact of cross-cultural and transnational communication via social media on journalists and their subjects
• Explore mentoring, networking, and employment patterns among professional journalists through social media

ROUNDS & BEATS

• Develop case studies of best-practice approaches to social media strategies in reporting rounds such as health, education, courts, emergencies, politics
• Explore the role of social media in public journalism projects

JOURNALISM EDUCATION

• How should social media be incorporated into university and professional training courses?
• Measure outcomes/impacts of training

TECHNOLOGY

• Explore cross-disciplinary approaches to problem-solving, involving computer scientists, journalists/journalism researchers (et al.) in development of industry-applicable resources and programs applicable to aiding reporting via social media, measuring social media impacts, verification, etc.
• Platform-specific research, e.g., How is Facebook changing journalism?

LEGAL/REGULATORY ISSUES

• How are courts and governments around the world responding to the challenges posed to publishing laws presented by real-time "masses media?"
• What are the implications for media freedom/freedom of expression of attempts to regulate the social web?

Share your ideas, help frame the research agenda

So, that's my contribution to framing the research discussion at the summit. But what ideas would you like to throw into the mix? And what research approaches would you suggest, with what estimated value? We are particularly interested in hearing from journalism professors and researchers in the field.

There are three ways you can get involved. 1) You can contribute your ideas directly by participating in the summit in London this week; or 2) you can contribute your ideas and express interest by commenting on this post; or 3) you can participate remotely in the open conference session on Friday, May 20, by contributing to the Twitter discussion curated under the #BBCSMS hashtag.

We look forward to hearing your ideas and working together to chart the future of journalism research in the field of social media.

Julie Posetti is an award-winning journalist and journalism academic who lectures in radio and television reporting at the University of Canberra, Australia. She's been a national political correspondent, a regional news editor, a TV documentary reporter and presenter on radio and television with the Australian national broadcaster, the ABC. Her academic research centers on journalism and social media, on talk radio, public broadcasting, political reporting and broadcast coverage of Muslims post-9/11. She blogs at J-Scribe and you can follow her on Twitter.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

March 14 2011

07:46

Hyperlocal Voices: Darryl Chamberlain, 853 Blog

853 blog

Having worked for the BBC News Entertainment website for a decade, Darryl Chamberlain took voluntary redundancy and set up the widely successful 853 Blog. As part of the Hyperlocal Voices series he shares some of the secrets of his success.

1) Who where the people behind the blog, and what where their backgrounds?

853’s all mine. My background’s actually in showbiz news. I worked for the BBC News website’s entertainment desk for a decade in a variety of roles – mainly sub-editing and being the daily editor, but also reporting and feature writing.

I took voluntary redundancy and a career break in 2009 – standing in a council election in May 2010, and doing odd bits of freelance work. While standing in an election will probably leave me hopelessly biased in many eyes, it helped introduce me to local issues which simply weren’t being touched, and potential contacts of all political hues. After my glorious defeat, I realised I could do a bit more for my local area by sticking to what I was good at – finding things out and writing about them.

I have lived in the Greenwich area all my life, and it’s an under-reported patch, so here was my chance to do something about it. 853’s helped me keep my hand in the trade, too, which has been a nice spin-off.

More recently, I’ve set up a truly hyperlocal blog, the Charlton Champion , for the area where I live . I’m hoping to get more people involved in it, though, so it develops a different voice and its own distinctive identity. I’ve a few other people on board, but it’s very early days.

I’m also involved in a new project, The Scoop, about London news and politics.

2) When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?

I’d blogged under a pseudonym on a couple of other sites for about five years – the usual “have a go at everyone/everything” stuff – before my impending redundancy convinced me I should try something under my own name.

I set 853 up in October 2008, using a basic WordPress template. Originally, it was going to be a showcase for my writing – I had all kinds of plans to go travelling. But the travel stuff only ended up being a small part of what the site became. Maybe I’ll pack my bags again one day and add a bit more travel.

3) What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

I’ve always thought a blog should tell you something you don’t know, instead of parroting the same old stuff. So I’ve always been in awe of Diamond Geezer , who’s looking at London’s lesser-known aspects for nearly nine years now.

Jason Cobb’s Onionbagblog was a huge influence – like me, he never set out to scrutinise his local council, but found himself doing it when nobody else was. I’m sure the leadership of Lambeth Council are breathing a sigh of relief now he’s chronicling life on the Essex coast instead.

Adam Bienkov has shown the benefits of persistence and building up good contacts in his chronicle of life at City Hall, while Brockley Central has become the model for just about anybody wanting to set up a hyperlocal blog.

My fellow Greenwich blogger The Greenwich Phantom has a distinctive take on local life which means we don’t tread on each other’s toes, Greenwich.co.uk has shown there is a demand for local news and information, while Transpontine is essential reading if you’re interested in south-east London’s music, culture and history. London SE1 is a fantastic news source which puts the big operators to shame, while Chislehurst News is a newcomer to the SE London scene which is well worth a look.

There’s a loose network of bloggers in south-east London and beyond which has been a great source of inspiration and support.

4) How did- and do you- see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?

In south-east London, the hyperlocal blogs are partly filling a gap that’s come about because of market failure. The Greenwich area’s been largely abandoned by the big operators, leaving a couple of freesheets whose editorial is shared with neighbouring Lewisham.

The two boroughs are fairly similar socially but wildly different politically, despite both being Labour areas, and that’s where they hit problems. Combined, those freesheets are struggling to serve an area with the same population of Liverpool against a lack of interest from their proprietors – Tindle’s Mercury has great reporters but is horribly under-resourced and doesn’t even have a proper website, while Newsquest’s News Shopper is based far out in the suburbs and really doesn’t understand the area.

That said, I’d rather 853 complemented rather than competed with them – so when I deal with news I’m concentrating on council-related matters because that’s what’s getting neglected. But it still contains lots of opinion on other issues and anything else that takes my fancy.

5) What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?

The turning point was going to a Greenwich Council meeting in July 2009 and watching a member of the public hectored by the mayor because he was having trouble asking a question about a housing development that affected him. It was horrifying to watch but here were no reporters there to see this – the entire meeting went unreported beyond my site.

Greenwich.co.uk’s Rob Powell asked me to cover a few meetings for him after this, and I’ve continued doing this on 853. A lot of the blog’s opinionated, but on council issues the facts usually speak for themselves.

More recently, revealing the closures of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel and the council pulling its funding from fireworks on Blackheath – claiming cuts-induced poverty despite blowing £30,000 on a mayor-making ceremony have been important moments for the blog.

Following the ongoing story of the cuts is going to become more important as time goes on – 853 was the first place to report on the initial swathe of Greenwich’s cuts and the Charlton Champion’s revealed the threat to a local petting zoo.

Covering the problems of the Southeastern train company whose press office refuses to deal with blogs – has been a boost for traffic; again, it’s an issue that’s often poorly covered elsewhere.

My background on the BBC News website’s served me well – I get frustrated if I’m not first to a story!

6) What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?

Traffic has doubled over the past year or so – it tends to go up in spurts with big stories.

July 09 2010

17:22

EXCLUSIVE CONTENT FOR PAID WEB SUBSCRIBERS

MANDELSON TIMES

I got a few minutes ago this message from The Times of London.

Well Lord Mandelson, “The Princess of Darkness” (a poor soul now trying to stay under the political sun after losing the power) sells excerpts of his memories to The Times, not to The Guardian or The Observer.

And Rupert Murdoch plays in a big way this exclusive content adding some extra video and graphic features in order to tell the market that if you are a “club member” you have some “membership perks”.

Good move!

June 30 2010

09:47

ONLY IN THE TIMES OF LONDON

vuvuzela

Today, in a letter to the editor:

“Sir, Has the World Cup been a disaster? Yes, it has. My parrot has learnt to mimic the vuvuzela”

Dr. Alun Stedman Stevenage.

June 03 2010

08:55

Digital Strategy: Why Camden council is moving into hyperlocal websites

Thoughtful piece explaining why Camden Council, with the help of community media and communications project Talk About Local, is planning to launch some hyperlocal websites to give local residents “a voice online” and allow the council to encourage them to speak about issues in their communities, without necessarily controlling that conversation.

Talk About Local founder Will Perrin explains the work TAL is doing with Camden Council far more eloquently in this video. But it’s interesting to consider how such developments might affect the local media landscape, especially with many UK newspaper groups investing in ‘hyperlocal’ networks? Will there be resistance to such plans from local media, as has been the case with council-run newspapers; or is there a space for these websites alongside local news media, which as Perrin suggests will also cover civic issues and news?

Full post at this link…

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April 20 2010

08:52

January 20 2010

14:25
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