Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

August 13 2012

15:30

In the Philippines, Rappler is trying to figure out the role of emotion in the news

As news organizations fracture and specialize, it’s often suggested that audiences seek out the kind of coverage that reflects their own preconceived perspectives. It’s the idea that right-wingers are watching Hannity while left-wingers are watching Maddow.

But when it comes to how we decide what information to share, there’s more than political ideology at play. Maria Ressa, a longtime TV journalist and CEO of the Manila-based news startup Rappler, has been thinking about the overlap between emotion and social interaction for a while now. Her forthcoming book, From Bin Laden to Facebook, examines social media’s role in the spread of terrorism.

“When you look at how terrorism spreads, you look at how emotions spread through large groups of people,” Ressa told me. “You take the idea that emotions are important in decision making. And on social media, what spreads fastest, it’s actually emotions more than ideas.”

“If you actually go through the exercise of identifying how you feel, you’re more prone to be rational.”

So Ressa had an idea. Why not find a way to track the emotions that news stories elicit from members of an audience? Enter the Rappler Mood Meter, which gives readers the opportunity to click on the emotion that any given Rappler story made them feel. The options: Happy, sad, angry, don’t care, inspired, afraid, amused, or annoyed. (Ressa says Rappler developed the mood categories with the help of a group of psychologists.)

Mood Meters feed into a larger Mood Navigator, which determines the mood of the day and features a visual, story-by-story representation of the mood breakdown. On one recent day, for example, most people were happy — despite one big story that made most people sad, and a couple that made most people angry. Check it out:

Readers can mouse over any of the circles — each one represents an individual story — to see the mood breakdown. For example, a story about Bam Aquino’s 2013 Senate candidacy made most people happy, but even more people were either annoyed or angry:

“The idea behind the Mood Meter is actually getting people to crowdsource the mood for the day,” Ressa said. “If you actually go through the exercise of identifying how you feel, you’re more prone to be rational. If you can identify how you feel, will you be more receptive to the debate that’s in front of you? I hope. That’s really the rationale, aside from the fact that it’s cool.”

The Mood Navigator is also revealing. Rappler’s two most popular stories ever made most people either inspired or sad. The former was a story about a Filipina physicist who helped prove Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity on a cosmic scale. The latter was about how a Filipino-Mexican would have won American Idol had voting not been limited to U.S. residents. Ressa says both stories had “geeky” components to them.

“It’s about trying to understand our world today,” Ressa said. “I think everyone is trying to understand our world today and we’re doing it together. Too few media companies are actually in the space where most Filipinos are going.”

The idea of tying readers’ moods to specific stories isn’t new. NBC’s local O&O station sites debuted them back in 2009, although they disappeared in a later redesign. News.me wants to know if a story elicits a “Wow” or an “Awesome,” while Buzzfeed wants an “LOL,” “OMG,” or “WTF.”

But the Mood Meter, and Rappler more generally, is proving to be a significant new force in the Philippines, where Internet use is not yet mainstream but where the connected are very connected. Only 30 percent of Filipinos reported using the Internet within a four-week span, according to an October 2011 Nielsen study. But those who did reported being online for more than 21 hours per week, among the highest in Southeast Asia. Mobile phones and social media are both hugely popular in the country, which is seeing a rapid shift as more consumers buy multiple devices, including tablets and smartphones with Internet access.

Ressa says the lion’s share of advertising revenue in the Philippines still flows into television, which may help explain why Rappler is a relatively rare online news startup in the region. “In 2010, we were doing very well on television but you could already see the market fragmenting,” Ressa said. “This was really an experiment to see: Could we survive purely online without any ads on print or television? It’s actually much more potent than any of us had expected.”

The country’s largest TV networks and newspapers have web sites, but most have the cluttered design that tends to reflect a supplemental approach to an outlet’s online presence. Ressa credits the site’s web-native DNA for its rapid growth. “In Rappler’s first month, we hit the traffic it took the largest Philippine news group a decade to reach. That’s the power of social media.”

“We’ve moved from the age of authority to the age of authenticity.”

In its first six months, Rappler grew quickly. Its best month of traffic saw nearly 3 million pageviews, with most months clocking between 2 million and 3 million hits. Ressa says most traffic comes through social media channels.

On one hand, the Mood Navigator draws people in by “gamifying things a little,” but it also helps demonstrate “the way emotions flow through society.” Inside the newsroom, it helps journalists better understand how to tell stories that resonate with people. “We’ve been journalists a long time,” she said. “And you get tired of telling the same stories without any resolution.”

In future iterations of the Mood Navigator, the plan is to enable people to be able to click on an emotion for a list of mood-customized content. That way, you can create reading lists that include only the stories that made most people happy, or angry, or amused, or whatever other emotion you choose. (The New York Times’ Show Tuner is a niche experiment in the same wheelhouse; it lets users select their moods along a sliding scale from light to dark in order to find targeted theater reviews. Get ready for more filter bubble articles.)

Ressa, who spent more than two decades of her journalism career in television, is excited about opportunities to interact with audiences online. (Perhaps it’s not an accident that both NBC Local and Rappler approach emotion from a broadcast perspective — a medium that’s long been more comfortable with audience emotion than newspapers.) Another crowdsourcing project that Rappler recently launched, #HealthAlert, involves developing a local map of cases of Dengue fever, the potentially deadly mosquito-borne illness that tends to occur in tropical regions during their rainy seasons.

“We know this is a yearly problem, and yet we could never get a map of where it happens,” Ressa said. “Tap the wisdom of crowds to help strengthen government initiatives — actually ask the people who are reading Rappler, ask our community, if there’s an incident of Dengue, map it. The map is simple: It’s a Google map with an Ushahidi overlay. Then we’ll be plugging into the department of health so that they can see, in real time, hopefully, a nationwide map of incidents of Dengue. It then means the authorities, maybe they can more proactive.”

Being proactive is largely what Rappler is about. Ressa says she sees the site as the first “truly multimedia” news organization in the Philippines. What that means is merging journalists with broadcast, print, and tech expertise. Rappler produces news broadcasts that are optimized for mobile devices. (Ressa anchors.)

“We’ve moved from the age of authority to the age of authenticity,” Ressa said. “Professional journalists now have to move from that old ground of authority — because we’re losing ground, and frankly it’s hard to be an authority now. In the areas where breaking news happens, they’ll know more than the professionals. So what can we add to this changing landscape?”

July 30 2011

05:21

Vanity Fair is first out of the gate with phone-hacking e-book

The Cutline | Yahoo! News :: Where are all the rapid-turnaround e-books on the U.K. phone-hacking scandal? - The phone-hacking scandal has so far produced "only" two print book deals. News organizations, which have been quick to churn out electronic treatments of other fast-moving stories, e.g. WikiLeaks, the Arab Spring, the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, as the e-reading market picks up speed, don't seem to be responding. Vanity Fair appears to be the first out of the gate to produce such an offering.

Continue to read Joe Pompeo, The Cutline, news.yahoo.com

July 13 2011

06:13

Flickr, Google, a few social media seconds later - Osama bin Laden hunter ‘CIA John’ identified

Observer :: Anyone who’s ever logged in to a social network while in a jubilant, possibly intoxicated, frame of mind knows the dangers. Sometimes you share something you should maybe keep to yourself, or you forget to check your privacy settings, or you show off a little too much skin. That’s more or less what the U.S. government appears to have done in the heady moments after dumping whatever was left of Osama bin Laden into the churning waters of the North Arabian Sea.

[Aaron Gell, Observer:] Once the photo was out there, of course, it was only a matter of time. But how little time was surprising.

With the help of social media investigative journalism can be easy. Was it made easy?

Aaron Gell, www.observer.com

June 26 2011

19:19

ABC News Teams produces a Vook or video book for iPad, Android, Nook Color

Beet.TV :: ABC News is producing a multimedia offering of text and video reporting in the form of a video book, or "vook" for the Apple iOS devices, Android and Nook Color. ABC is working with the Emeryville, California based company Vook to create the publications around major news events including the capture of Osama Bin Laden and England's Royal Wedding.

Last week, Beet.TV spoke with Vook's head of product Matthew Cavnar.

Watch the interview by Andy Plesser, www.beet.tv

June 03 2011

21:10

The NYT rewards its paying users with subscriber-only content

Subscribers to The New York Times got a surprise in their inboxes this afternoon: a story-behind-the-story about the paper’s coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden, penned by the weekend editor who’d been helming the paper’s news coverage when it was announced that the terrorist leader had been killed by American commandos.

The story is the first, the email notes, in an ongoing series of occasional newsletters — created for subscribers, and for subscribers alone, as, ostensibly, a “thank you” for their subscriptions. As the Times puts it (we’ll save you the ALL CAPS):

This Story Behind Behind the Story e-mail newsletter from The New York Times newsroom has been prepared exclusively for Times subscribers and is the first of an ongoing series you’ll receive as part of your subscription.

The Times’ pay models, both of them, have been based on the walling-off (or metering-off, as it were) of existing content; this seems to be a case of the Times creating new content only for its subscribers. And it’s meta-content: a story about how the Times reported a story.

I’ve reached out to the Times to learn more about the mechanics of the newsletter, which seems to be dribbling out to (at least) print subscribers this afternoon. (Some of my questions: Is it being delivered to digital Times subscribers too? How often will the newsletters be sent out? Will the stories contained in the letter — the Osama backgrounder looks oddly formatted for the page and PDF-like — live anywhere on the web or in print, or are they email-only? Will there someday be ads against the newsletters?)

I’ll update this when I hear back. Meantime, though, it’s worth noting that the newsletter is launching against the backdrop of a Times digital subscription model that is still, in the scheme of things, nascent. The pitch the paper has been making since March, after all, has been something along the lines of “we’re worth paying for.” Subscriber-only content, however, suggests an addendum to that: “We’ll make the paying-for worthwhile.” It rewards subscription, obviously — but, in that, it also suggests that subscribers are, somehow, insiders. News organizations often default to that “behind the scenes” approach when considering how to reward devoted readers: Intimacy, after all, can be a good complement to loyalty.

It’s also worth noting why the Times can reward its subscribers via email. One advantage of the paper’s paid-content model — besides, you know, getting your readers to pay for the content they consume — is how it incentivizes subscribers to connect their digital and print accounts. (Print subcriptions get digital access, but only if they connect the two.) The Times can reach its subscribers (and reward them, then, however it sees fit) in some part because the paper has their digital information in the first place. Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson noted last month that 728,000 print subscribers had connected newsprint to website. Users have given the Times their data; the Times has used those data, in turn, to thank them.

In that, the newsletter seems to be a step toward the Times converting its subscriber base into something that looks more like a community. The Times itself has, in the past, considered “membership” as the proper metaphor for a paid-content strategy — remember those rumors of Gold and Silver offerings? While it ultimately opted for a subscription-driven approach rather than a membership-driven one, the special-for-subscribers content tips a hat to the core ideas of media membership. It’s a like a tote bag in story form.

And that’s significant. The conventional wisdom, after all, tends to be that creating community around news content is the first step toward monetizing that content. The Times’ pay meter has so far bucked that assumption, making its pitch mostly about the paper’s value to consumers on an individual level. Today’s inaugural newsletter suggests, though, that the paper is still actively exploring the more communal aspects of paid content — in this case, bolstering its brand by rewarding the people who prove willing to pay to keep it around.

May 24 2011

15:41

Three 3D Newsgames Produced Within a Week of Bin Laden Raid

In the course of researching newsgames over the past few years, we've been able to roughly categorize them into certain types, which we've previously written about on Idea Lab. These categories were based on how genres of games are able to support types of news stories. Current event games tend to be short, 2D, and built with Flash because it's easy to produce something playable quickly. Documentary games are often 3D and highly visual because they can afford longer production times.

So while it was no surprise that a number of Osama bin Laden games were released soon after the U.S. military operation that successfully located and killed the terrorist leader, it was unusual that all three of these current event games were built in three-dimensional environments. What was it about this story that had three different teams working with 3D tools to recreate the raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan?

The three newsgames in question are News + Gameplay's Bin Laden Raid, Kuma Games' Kuma\War Episode #107: The Death of Osama Bin Laden, and the Counter-Strike: Source maps fy_abbottabad and de_abbottabad.

Each was released May 7 -- exactly one week after the tactical operation -- but produced under different circumstances.

Bin Laden Raid

binladen-raid.jpg

News + Gameplay's Jeremy Alessi and his team of two other developers coded, scripted and built models for hours on end to release their first foray into the world of newsgames. Bin Laden Raid was built using the openly available Unity authoring tool. It was likely chosen not only because of Unity's sophisticated 3D engine, but because a Unity web player plugin is available for all major browsers on Windows and Mac OS X, meaning the game doesn't have to go through a lengthy install process. Bin Laden Raid positions the player as one of the special operatives raiding the compound and tasks him with killing bin Laden and all insurgents inside the building, collecting intelligence in the form of laptops scattered throughout the complex, and finally blowing up the downed helicopter before taking off with bin Laden's body in tow.

The Death of Osama Bin Laden

bin-laden-kuma.jpg

Kuma Games' interpretation of the mission is bound by the constraints of its existing platform. The Kuma\War series uses Valve's Source engine and a custom, old version of the Steam distribution platform to release downloadable episodes of its games. The Death of Osama bin Laden is a multiplayer scenario in which players can choose either side of the fight. As terrorists, players must prevent the special operations forces from completing their objectives for five minutes. As special ops, players go through the same mission points as Bin Laden Raid: kill, collect intel, blow up the helicopter, and escape. It's possible to play the episode with artificial intelligence controlling the enemy, but the AI isn't particularly sophisticated.

Counter-Strike: Source maps

binladen-cs.jpg

Lastly, a Counter-Strike player named Fletch released a multiplayer map for Counter-Strike: Source called fy_abbotabad. The prefix "fy" refers to "frag yard" and implies that the map is intended for traditional death-match style play. This setup in Counter-Strike usually means there are two distinct sides for the terrorists and counter-terrorists, and most combat occurs as the two sides meet in the middle. A few days later, Fletch released an updated version of the map called de_abbotabad. The prefix "de" stands for "bomb defusal" -- the classic match setup that involves counter-terrorists preventing terrorists from planting C4 explosives or defusing those bombs once they've been placed. The map has nothing to do with the operation against bin Laden's compound beyond loose similarities in its architectural layout.

When you consider these three games, reasons for building 3D environments are rather obvious. The scenario of the military operation is reminiscent of modern first-person shooters on videogame consoles. And it's not just that many games are about war. War is immensely complex. But games about war don't demonstrate this complexity. Instead, they're scripted so that the player succeeds against all odds -- often as an army of one or in a small squad. 

A fight without conflict

Jean Baudrillard argued that the Gulf War did not take place because it was a fight without conflict. Its tactical execution and televised mediation made it seem unreal to all but those who were directly involved in it. He further argued that Operation Desert Storm was a pre-written script that only needed execution to be successful. The coalition might was overpowering in both physical force and military imagery.

The Gulf War has often been called the "videogame war" because it seemed like a military simulation depicted through powerful imagery. But the bin Laden operation is even closer to a videogame: The success of the SEALs is reminiscent of superhero-like accomplishments in games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.  Of course, this assessment is only true knowing now the operation was successful.

binladen-helicopter.jpg

Of the three games, Bin Laden Raid is the closest depiction of the rhetoric that positions the SEALs as invincible heroes. The mission presents no threat of failure. The enemies are easy to kill; you cannot be killed; and there is no time limit. All the player has to do is go through the motions to be successful. But this game only represents what happened, not what could have happened. In that way, it trivializes the accomplishments of the highly trained special ops. But it's unclear whether the reality it depicts was intended or emerged from the constraints of a quickly produced game.

Spatial reality: Recreating environments

Bin Laden Raid was most concerned with accurately recreating the layout of the compound, Alessi told me in an email exchange. In our analysis of documentary games in "Newsgames: Journalism at Play," we discuss three kinds of documentary reality: spatial, operational and procedural. Spatial reality recreates environments and architecture to develop an understanding of what it was like to be in a certain place in time. Similarly, Alessi's team took satellite images of the compound, photographs of the aftermath, and dimensions from the training model to produce their 3D rendering. "As a side note," Alessi said, "most shooter games scale interiors up by 150 percent. We did not do that here which, combined with the FOV, makes the space look cramped, but it is to scale according to the information available at the time." The game does certainly feel more cramped than the traditional first- or third-person shooter.

binladen-compound.jpg

The Kuma website tells a similar tale of rendering the mise-en-scene of a space:
"We are sticking to our retelling of real-world events, and that means a lot of reading and research, as well as talking with sources so we can get it right, " Mike Thompson, project lead at Kuma, explains on a post on the game company's web site. "It's not fun telling an artist to start a model over after an all-nighter because someone found a mysterious tail rotor, but that's what we do to get the job done." Kuma's episode, built with an engine used primarily to develop shooting games, looks more like a familiar first-person shooter. It doesn't have the accuracy of scale of Bin Laden Raid, but the threat of being killed during the mission better addresses the reality of the situation.

The Counter-Strike maps, on the other hand, use the layout of the compound as merely a starting point to produce something unconcerned with journalistic integrity. de_abbotabad is tabloid in nature. If players don't specifically search the current multiplayer games ongoing in CS: Source for the map, they might stumble upon a ripped-from-the-headlines scenario and try it out. But the story it tells -- counter-terrorists and terrorists engaged in a bomb defusal scenario -- is not even closely related to news reports that inspired it. The maps are not masquerading as newsgames, but for some players, a few rounds in de_abbotabad may give them a picture of what it was to be a Navy SEAL moving through the compound with the threat of violence lurking around every corner.

Beyond simple, playable Flash

Three military games set in the same 3D space released on the same day produced three different experiences. Each presents a particular reality based on its interpretation of the space. They all fall into the current event games category we described in "Newsgames: Journalism at Play," but they go even further since most of the ones we looked at for our research were simple, playable Flash games. 

The designers of these three games undertook the difficult tasks of quickly rendering a 3D world based on interpretation and conjecture. But is a spatial reality -- the accurate recreation of a place in time -- the most important part of the story? And to what extent is accuracy important? Does an exact recreation of a building provide a commensurate experience? Or is there a point in which accuracy matters less than recreating the operational reality of what it was like to be there? If so, perhaps the Counter-Strike maps, which are void of content from the story, actually represent the threat of danger, the deliberateness of movement, and the skill of execution better than the games that chose to recreate the event as it unfolded. 

The answer to these questions lies somewhere in the middle: striking a balance between modeling what happened, where it happened, and how it happened. Because events like the operation against Osama bin Laden are complicated, designers will find that recreating a building brick-for-brick or tasking the player with the mission objectives may not be the best way of telling the story after all.

Perhaps the most illustrative game, then, would involve President Obama waiting anxiously for the results of an unknown outcome. Press A to sit pensively. Press B to engage in daily activities while knowing in the back of your mind a historical military operation is unfolding.

May 13 2011

14:00

This Week in Review: New business models and traffic drivers in online news, and wrangling over app ads

Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news.

Leaving the old ad model behind: Much of the commentary about digital news this week was generated by two big reports, one on the business of digital journalism and the other on its consumption. We’ll start on the business side, with the Columbia j-school’s study on what we know so far about the viability of various digital journalism business models. As Poynter’s Bill Mitchell suggested, the best entry point into the 146-page report might be the nine recommendations that form its conclusion.

Mitchell summed the report up in three themes: The audience for journalism is growing, though translating that into revenue is a challenge; the old model of banner ads isn’t cutting it, and news orgs need to look for new forms of advertising; and news orgs need to play better with aggregators and sharpen their own aggregation skills. In his response to the study, Reuters’ Felix Salmon focused on the advertising angle, arguing that journalism and advertising have too long been linked by mere adjacency and that “when you move away from the ad-adjacency model, however, things get a lot more interesting and exciting.”

The New York Times’ story on the report centered on advertising, too, particularly the growing need for journalists to learn about the business side of their products. (That was media consultant Mark Potts’ main takeaway, too.) Emily Bell, a scholar at the center that released the study, said that while journalists need to understand the business of their industry, integrating news and sales staffs isn’t necessarily the way to go.

The J-Lab’s Jan Schaffer recommended that news orgs respond to their business problems by learning from smaller startups and incorporating them more thoroughly into the journalism ecosystem. And paidContent’s Staci Kramer advised news orgs to focus on regular audiences rather than fly-by visitors: “Outwardly we like to complain about content farms; in reality, a lot of what news outlets are doing to the side of those front-page stories isn’t very different.”

Facebook’s growth as news driver: The other major report was released by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and looked at how people access news on the web. This study, too, found that despite a small core of frequent users, news sites are dependent on casual users who visit sites infrequently and don’t stay long when they’re there. Poynter’s Rick Edmonds conveniently distilled the study into five big takeaways.

The study also found that while Google is still the top referrer to major news sites, Facebook is quickly emerging as a significant news driver, too. University of British Columbia j-prof Alfred Hermida said this lines up with recent research he’s done among Canadians, and GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram said it showed that while Google is a dominant source for online news now, Facebook is primed to succeed it.

Meanwhile, the study also found that surprisingly little traffic to news sites is driven by Twitter. Lauren Dugan of All Twitter said this finding casts some doubt on the idea that Twitter is “a huge link-sharing playground,” though the Wall Street Journal’s Zach Seward said the study misses that Twitter referrals are undercounted.

The Twitter undercounting was one of several problems that TBD’s Steve Buttry had about the study, including inconsistent language to characterize findings and a bias toward large news organizations. “This study probably has some helpful data. But it has too many huge holes and indications of bias to have much value,” Buttry wrote.

Pricing ads and subscriptions on tablets: Condé Nast became the third major magazine publisher to reach an agreement with Apple on app subscriptions, and one of the first to offer an in-app subscription, with The New Yorker available now. (Wired subscriptions are coming next month.) Time Inc., which reached a deal with Apple last week, clarified that it won’t include in-app subscriptions, which would be where Apple takes that now-infamous 30% cut. The Financial Times, meanwhile, is still negotiating with Apple.

Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici explained why publishers may be warming to Apple’s deal: Turns out, more people are willing to share their personal data with publishers feared. Still, Mathew Ingram of GigaOM used iFlowReader’s bad Apple experience as a warning to other companies about the dangers of getting into bed with Apple.

Now that Apple-publisher relations have thawed, the New York Times’ David Carr moved to the next issue: Negotiations between publishers and advertisers over how valuable in-app ads are, and how much those ads should cost. Time.com’s Chris Gayomali wondered why magazines are more than giving away app subscriptions with print subscriptions, and concluded that it’s about getting more eyeballs on the print product, not the app, in order to maintain the all-important ad rate base.

In other words, Carr said in another post, publishers are following the old magazine model, where the product is priced below cost and the money is made off advertising instead. He questioned the wisdom of applying that strategy to tablets: “the rich advertising opportunity that will produce may be a less durable and less stable business than grinding out highly profitable circulation over the long haul.”

A postmortem on Bin Laden coverage: It’s now been close to two weeks since the news of Osama bin Laden’s death broke on Twitter, but plenty of folks were still discussing how the story was broken and covered. Gilad Lotan and Devin Gaffney of SocialFlow put together some fascinating visualizations of how the news spread on Twitter, especially the central roles of Donald Rumsfeld staffer Keith Urbahn and New York Times reporter Brian Stelter. Mashable’s Chris Taylor concluded from the data that trustworthiness and having active followers (as opposed to just lots of followers) are more important than ever on Twitter.

Media consultant Frederic Filloux was mostly reassured by the way the traditional news outlets handled the story online: “For once, editorial seems to evolve at a faster pace than the business side.” There were still folks cautioning against going overboard on Twitter-as-news hype, while the Telegraph’s Emma Barnett wondered why pundits are still so surprised at the significant role Twitter and Facebook play in breaking news. (“It’s exactly what they were designed for.”)

New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane gave the blow-by-blow of how his paper responded to the story, highlighting a few tweets by Times reporters and editors. Reuters’ Felix Salmon chastised Brisbane for not including Brian Stelter’s tweets, which were posted a good 15 minutes before the ones he included. The exclusion, Salmon surmised, might indicate that the Times doesn’t see what Stelter did on Twitter as reporting.

Google News founder Krishna Bharat compared the way Google handled 9/11 and Bin Laden’s death, marveling at how much more breaking-news coverage is available on the web now. The Lab’s Megan Garber used the occasion to glean some insights from Bharat about trusting the authority of the algorithm to provide a rich palette of news, but at Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan used the Bin Laden coverage to point out some flaws in Google News’ algorithm.

Reading roundup: Lots of interesting little rabbit trails to choose from this week. Here are a few:

— ComScore’s April traffic numbers are out, and there were a number of storylines flowing out of them: Cable news sources are beating print ones in web traffic, the New York Times’ numbers are down (as expected) after implementation of its paywall, and Gawker’s numbers are starting to come back after dropping last year with its redesign.

— Last week, ESPN columnist Rick Reilly told graduating students at the University of Colorado’s j-school to never write for free. That prompted Jason Fry of the National Sports Journalism Center and Craig Calcaterra of MSNBC.com’s Hardball Talk to expound on the virtues of writing for free, though Slate’s Tom Scocca took Reilly’s side.

— Late last week, Google lost an appeal to a 2007 Belgian ruling forcing it to pay newspapers for gaining revenue for linking to their stories on Google News.

— Finally, two thoughtful pieces on brands and journalism: Jason Fry at Poynter on assessing the value of organizational and personal brands, and Vadim Lavrusik at the Lab on journalists building their brands via Facebook.

May 11 2011

15:40

Much Ado About Obama's Birth Certificate on DocumentCloud

As we watched traffic stats skyrocket last month as newsroom after newsroom uploaded President Obama's birth certificate to DocumentCloud and then embedded it, my reaction was hardly one of joy.

Why on Earth is a birth certificate more interesting than, say, the pages and pages of receipts documenting some outrageous meals (15 steaks, two orders of fish and a lamb chop -- for five people submitted by National Grid to the Long Island Power Authority after their Hurricane Earl cleanup)?

I like to think these are the documents we built DocumentCloud for -- that we're here to give a leg up to reporters scrutinizing spurious spending reports (reporting that prompted a formal state investigation) or documenting patent dishonesty and the unusual lengths one California town went to in order to conceal extraordinary salaries paid to city officials.

Vote of Confidence

obama birth certificate.jpg

Forgive me if I was underwhelmed by all the attention that the birth certificate got. My esteemed colleagues, however, helped me see the bright side of the flurry. For one thing, it was fast. Within minutes, 10 different newsrooms had uploaded the birth certificate and embedded it.

That says a lot: It says that when they have something they know their readers want to see, reporters turn to DocumentCloud. That's a huge vote of confidence in us. Plus, we didn't falter under the weight of the tenfold increase in traffic -- that's solid architecture for you. We built DocumentCloud with the hope that we could improve the way newsrooms share source documents with their readers, and at that, we're thrilled to be succeeding.

Increasingly, DocumentCloud is a resource for breaking news. When the news broke that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a town called Abbottabad, a search for "Abbottabad" turned up some pretty rich stuff, most notably that a former Gitmo detainee led U.S. authorities to the Pakistani town back in 2008.

New Feature Roundup

Meanwhile, we're still listening to our users and looking for more ways to make DocumentCloud easier to use and to help reporters give their readers the documents behind the story.

We're looking forward to seeing what our users do with our new tool that lets you embed a single annotation, and we're excited to watch the great uses newsrooms have put document sets to.

From embedding documents accumulated over two decades spent covering an Oregon commune where things went horribly awry to sharing the documents detailing the Federal Reserve's support for ailing financial institutions, or the background material from coverage of a profoundly embarrassed local philanthropist, reporters seem to be getting the hang of embedding document sets.

So we have a question for the reporters who have been using DocumentCloud already: What would have made this even easier for you?

May 05 2011

16:15

Why the man who tweeted Osama bin Laden raid is a citizen journalist (but why he might not care)

There of interest in @ReallyVirtual at the moment. Sohaib Athar an IT consultant in Abbottabad Lahore Pakistan. That’s right. The fella who ‘inadvertently’ live tweeted the raid on Bin Laden’s compound. I don’t need to say much more.

The way twitter responded to the event threw up some interesting areas to ponder.

  • How could a journalist new to twitter build a network that would key them in to this kind of thing?
  • How much the discussion on twitter must have been like a the discussion in the newsroom
  • How amazing networks are.

The way the network raised Athar in to the view of more than just his own part of the twitterverse is explored in an interesting article by Steve Myers who traces back through his own network to try and get to where Athar came from.

But it’s the followup article (whose title I hijacked for the title of this one) that caught my attention. Myers writes:

When I wrote earlier this week about how quickly people around the world learned that Sohaib Athar had “live tweeted” the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, I thought carefully before calling him a citizen journalist.

He was prompted to explore that further by an article refuting the claim that twitter has replaced CNN by Dan Mitchell.

Steve Myers of The Poynter Institute declares that Sohaib Athar, a guy who lives near bin Laden’s compound, is a “citizen journalist.” Athar, an IT consultant, wondered what the hell was going on when the helicopters arrived in Abbottabad. Because he wondered on Twitter, in real time, now he’s a “citizen journalist.”

Even Athar, who had 750 followers as of Sunday night and now has tens of thousands,knows this is ridiculous.

Indeed. Although I think Mitchell uses Athars tweet (below) a little out of context to suit his point.

There was a problem with the blakbirdpie shortcode

All of the articles are worth a read. Myers deconstruction of Athar’s tweets is particularly good. But there is one thing that is ignored.  It’s alluded to. But never asked. Does Athar care?

Does Athar care that he is a citizen journalist or otherwise? Is it important to him.

Pondering that one just reinforces my view that the only people who have a problem with the phrase are the people who use it most – journalists.

I did tweet Athar to ask him if he thought he was a citizen journalist. I don’t expect an answer. His twitter stream make it clear that he’s very busy with interviews.

I suppose one thing you can say for certain in that whether or not he’s a citizen journalist he’s certainly a celebrity.

 

Related articles
Enhanced by Zemanta

May 02 2011

21:36

A Twitter Timeline on the Killing of Osama Bin Laden

[View the story "Timeline of Tweets Around Death of Osama Bin Laden" on Storify]

Did you see any other key tweets around the news of Bin Laden's killing? Share them in the comments below and I'll add them to the timeline above.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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

19:20

At the NYT, no paywall exemption for Bin Laden

When The New York Times announced its pay meter back in March, publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. also announced that — along with the many, many other pores and passages the paper had built into its gate — the Times had built into its new system the ability to open the gate for breaking-news stories that were, essentially, must-reads. “Mr. Sulzberger wanted a flexible system,” the paper reported at the time, “one that would allow the company to adjust the limit on the number of free articles as needed — in the case of a big breaking news event, for example.”

Or, as Sulzberger told Times reporter Jeremy W. Peters:

“Let’s imagine there’s a horrifying story like 9/11 again,” [Sulzberger] said in an interview. “We can — with one hit of a button — turn that meter to zero to allow everyone to read everything they want,” he said. “We’re going to learn. We built a system that is flexible.”

Last night’s news about the death of Osama bin Laden would seem to qualify as one of those big must-read stories. So it’s interesting to note that the Times’ coverage of the news — all of its articles and blog posts — remained behind the paper’s gate last night. And they’ll remain there. “There are no current plans to open up the news and features about Bin Laden for free on NYTimes.com,” a Times spokesperson told me. “As you know, readers get 20 articles free each month, and they can access Times content through other means, such as blogs, social media and search.”

The Bin Laden story broke on May 1, just a few hours after all non-subscribing Times readers had seen their monthly 20-article count reset to zero. Barring a big Sunday-morning reading binge, most were probably still at the very beginnings of their monthly allotments. And while “any decision to make any content free on NYTimes.com will be made on a case by case basis,” the spokesperson notes, “in this case in particular, the fact that the story broke on May 1 was certainly a factor.”

The Times’ pay meter is probably the most analyzed edifice in the news industry at the moment. And it’s not as if there were nowhere else online (or on television, or in print) to learn about the bin Laden raid.

Still, it’s remarkable how little we know about how the paywall’s breaking-news caveat works. The notion of stories that are so big that they shouldn’t be paid for — or, more accurately, so big that the Times shouldn’t require people to pay for them — is a complicated, but also crucial, one, particularly considering the careful balance the Times has struck between business interest and public interest in its rhetoric about its pay scheme.

If and when a story is taken from outside the wall, who makes the decision about the exemption? Is it someone on the business side or the editorial side— or a collaboration between both? Is the exemption something that the Times will announce publicly, or something it will simply enact, without comment? And if the day of the month on which a story breaks is a factor, as it was in this case…on what day would a big story become exemption-worthy?

The biggest question, though: If Osama’s demise didn’t make the cut, what story would?

14:13
03:40

First reports of Osama bin Laden’s death on Twitter

It looks like the first reports of Osama bin Laden’s death came not via online news sites or cable TV but via Twitter. Keith Urbahn, Donald Rumsfeld’s chief of staff, reported on Twitter at about 10:30 pm ET, “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”

A few minutes later, CBS News producer Jill Jackson confirmed the news with this tweet: “House Intelligence committee aide confirms that Osama Bin Laden is dead. U.S. has the body.”

 

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl