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May 27 2011

17:18

#Newsrw: ‘There is no point in having data unless you have context to go with it’

Open data is essential, but useless without context – that was the consensus at the local data session.

A lively debate took place, where delegates heard from a range of speakers and their attempts to fill the niche in local data, creating “open data cities” and encouraging transparency.

Greg Hadfield of Cogapp cited three key elements that were required to create an open data city.

“Data must be made available in a structured format, they must have a commitment to transparency and accountability, and be a city that thinks like the web,” he said.

Hadfield also mentioned the Road Map for the Digital City, a project based in New York headed by Rachel Sterne intended to provide a comprehensive guide to make it the leading digital city.

He also referenced his own experience in trying to transform Brighton into an open data city, saying the only organisation who weren’t part of a conversation that included councils, nhs trusts and businesses were the traditional media.

“Monolithic media is lacking in innovation, is organisationally dysfunctional, careless about readers, users and communities.

“It’s guilty of continuous betrayals of trust at the expense of journalists, communities and shareholders,” he said.

Philip John of the Lichfield Blog confirmed this view, saying that people who ran hyperlocal websites like his were often far more passionate about their local area than journalists who worked for local newspapers.

@philipjohn speaking at #newsrw by JosephStash

The Lichfield Blog was born out of connecting to the community and creating something more in tune with the people who live there.

“There is no point in having data unless you have context to go with it. If we’re talking about journalism, we’re trying to find a story,” he said.

Chris Taggart and Jonathan Carr-West (of OpenlyLocal and the Local Government Information Unit respectively) both touched on the idea of not confusing technology with innovation.

“What matters is not the technology or the tools, but the uses that you put them to. This is the new emphasis on openness,” said Carr-West.

He spoke about finding the right tool for the job, and not thinking there is a one-size fits all solution to finding and releasing data.

Taggart has a background in magazine journalism but identified the lack of local data that was available on the web when he started his OpenlyLocal project.

He spoke about the brilliant stories that journalists can find by digging in councils, and the new opportunities that open local data presented.

“The information is out there, but we have a lack of resources and journalists.

“The opportunity is out there, but we need people to chase it and follow it up,” he said.

13:32

LIVE: Session 3A – Local data

We have Matt Caines and Ben Whitelaw from Wannabe Hacks liveblogging for us at news:rewired all day. You can follow session 3A ‘Local Data’, below.

Session 3A features: Philip John, director, Lichfield Blog; Chris Taggart, founder, OpenlyLocal; Greg Hadfield, director of strategic projects, Cogapp; Jonathan Carr-West, director, Local Government Information Unit. Moderated by Matthew Eltringham, editor, BBC College of Journalism website.

April 13 2011

12:33

Which blog platform should I use? A blog audit

When people start out blogging they often ask what blogging platform they should use – WordPress or Blogger? Tumblr or Posterous? It’s impossible to give an answer, because the first questions should be: who is going to use it, how, and what and who for?

To illustrate how the answers to those questions can help in choosing the best platform, I decided to go through the 35 or so blogs I have created, and why I chose the platforms that they use. As more and more publishing platforms have launched, and new features added, some blogs have changed platforms, while new ones have made different choices to older ones.

Bookmark blogs (Klogging) – Blogger and WordPress to Delicious and Tumblr

When I first began blogging it was essentially what’s called ‘klogging’ (knowledge blogging) – a way to keep a record of useful information. I started doing this with three blogs on Blogger, each of which was for a different class I taught: O-Journalism recorded reports in the field for online journalism students, Interactive Promotion and PR was created to inform students on a module of the same name (later exported to WordPress) and students on the Web and New Media module could follow useful material on that blog.

The blogs developed with the teaching, from being a place where I published supporting material, to a group blog where students themselves could publish their work in progress.

As a result, Web and New Media was moved to WordPress where it became a group blog maintained by students (now taught by someone else). The blog I created for the MA in Television and Interactive Content was first written by myself, then quickly handed over to that year’s students to maintain. When I started requiring students to publish their own blogs the original blogs were retired.

One-click klogging

By this time my ‘klogging’ had moved to Delicious. Webpages mentioned in a specific class were given a class-specific tag such as MMJ02 or CityOJ09. And students who wanted to dig further into a particular subject could use subject-specific tags such as ‘onlinevideo‘ or ‘datajournalism‘.

For the MA in Television and Interactive Content, then, I simply invented a new tag – ‘TVI’ – and set up a blog using Tumblr to pull anything I bookmarked on Delicious with that tag. (This was done in five minutes by clicking on ‘Customise‘ on the main Tumblr page, then clicking on Services and scrolling down to ‘Automatically import my…‘ and selecting RSS feed as Links. Then in the Feed URL box paste the RSS feed at the bottom of delicious.com/paulb/tvi).

(You can do something similar with WordPress – which I did here for all my bookmarks – but it requires more technical knowhow).

For klogging quotes for research purposes I also use Tumblr for Paul’s Literature Review. I’ve not used this as regularly or effectively as I could or should, but if I was embarking on a particularly large piece of research it would be particularly useful in keeping track of key passages in what I’m reading. Used in conjunction with a Kindle, it could be particularly powerful.

Back to the TVI bookmarks: another five minutes on Feedburner allowed me to set up a daily email newsletter of those bookmarks that students could subscribe to as well, and a further five minutes on Twitterfeed sent those bookmarks to a dedicated Twitter feed too (I could also have simply used Tumblr’s option to publish to a Twitter feed). ‘Blogging’ had moved beyond the blog.

Resource blogs – Tumblr and Posterous

For my Online Journalism module at City University London I use Tumblr to publish a curated, multimedia blog in addition to the Delicious bookmarks: Online Journalism Classes collects a limited number of videos, infographics, quotes and other resources for students. Tumblr was used because I knew most content would be instructional videos and I wanted a separate place to collect these.

The more general Paul Bradshaw’s Tumblelog (http://paulbradshaw.tumblr.com/) is where I maintain a collection of images, video, quotes and infographics that I look to whenever I need to liven up a presentation.

For resources based on notes or documents, however, Posterous is a better choice.

Python Notes and Notes on Spreadsheet Formulae and CAR, for example, both use Posterous as a simple way for me to blog my own notes on both (Python is a programming language) via a quick email (often drafted while on the move without internet access).

Posterous was chosen because it is very easy to publish and tag content, and I wanted to be able to access my notes based on tag (e.g. VLOOKUP) when I needed to remember how I’d used a particular formula or function.

Similarly, Edgbaston Election Campaign Exprenses and Hall Green Election Campaign Exprenses use Posterous as a quick way to publish and tag PDFs of election expense receipts from both constituencies (how this was done is explained here), allowing others to find expense details based on candidate, constituency, party or other details, and providing a space to post comments on findings or things to follow up.

Niche blogs – WordPress and Posterous

Although Online Journalism Blog began as ‘klogging’ it soon became something more, adding analysis, research, and contributions from other authors, and the number of users increased considerably. Blogger is not the most professional-looking of platforms, however (unless you’re prepared to do a lot of customisation), so I moved it to WordPress.com. And when I needed to install plugins for extra functionality I moved it again to a self-hosted WordPress site.

Finally, when the site was the victim of repeated hacking attempts I moved it to a WordPress MU (multi user) site hosted by Philip John’s Journal Local service, which provided technical support and a specialised suite of plugins.

If you want a powerful and professional-looking blogging platform it’s hard to beat WordPress.com, and if you want real control over how it works – such as installing plugins or customising themes – then a self-hosted WordPress site is, for me, your best option. I’d also recommend Journal Local if you want that combination of functionality and support.

If, however, you want to launch a niche blog quickly and functionality is not an issue then Posterous is an even better option, especially if there will be multiple contributors without technical skills. Council Coverage in Newspapers, for example, used Posterous to allow a group of people to publish the results of an investigation on my crowdsourced investigative journalism platform Help Me InvestigateThe Hospital Parking Charges Blog did the same for another investigation, but as it was only me publishing, I used WordPress.

Group blogs – Posterous and Tumblr

Posterous suits groups particularly well because members only need to send their post to a specific email address that you give them (such as post@yourblog.posterous.com) to be published on the blog.

It also handles multimedia and documents particularly well – when I was helping Podnosh‘s Nick Booth train a group of people with Flip cameras we used Posterous as an easy way for members of a group to instantly publish the video interviews they were doing by simply sending it to the relevant email address (Posterous will also cross-publish to YouTube and Twitter, simplifying those processes).

A few months ago Posterous launched a special ‘Groups’ service that publishes content in a slightly different way to make it easier for members to collaborate. I used this for another Help Me Investigate investigation - Recording Council Meetings – where each part of the investigation is a post/thread that users can contribute to.

Again, Posterous provides an easy way to do this – all people need to know is the email address to send their contribution to, or the web address where they can add comments to other posts.

If your contributors are more blog-literate and want to retain more control over their content, another option for group blogs is Tumblr. Brumblr, for example, is one group blog I belong to for Birmingham bloggers, set up by Jon Bounds. ‘We Love Michael Grimes‘ is another, set up by Pete Ashton, that uses Tumblr for people to post images of Birmingham’s nicest blogger.

Blogs for events – Tumblr, Posterous, CoverItLive

When I organised a Citizen Journalism conference in 2007, I used a WordPress blog to build up to it, write about related stories, and then link to reports on the event itself. Likewise, when later that year the NUJ asked me to manage a team of student members as they blogged that year’s ADM, I used WordPress for a group blog.

As the attendees of further events began to produce their own coverage, the platforms I chose evolved. For JEEcamp.com (no longer online), I used a self-hosted WordPress blog with an aggregation plugin that pulled in anything tagged ‘JEEcamp’ on blogs or Twitter. CoverItLive was also used to liveblog – and was then adopted successfully by attendees when they returned to their own news operations around the country (and also, interestingly, by Downing Street after they saw the tool being used for the event).

For the final JEEcamp I used Tumblr as an aggregator, importing the RSS feed from blog search engine Icerocket for any mention of ‘JEEcamp’.

In future I may experiment with the Posterous iPhone app’s new Events feature, which aggregates posts in the same location as you.

Aggregators – Tumblr

Sometimes you just want a blog to keep a record of instances of a particular trend or theme. For example, I got so sick of people asking “Is blogging journalism?” that I set up Is Ice Cream Strawberry?, a Tumblr blog that aggregates any articles that mention the phrases “Is blogging journalism”, “Are bloggers journalists” and “Is Twitter journalism” on Google News.

This was set up in the same way as detailed above, with the Feed URL box completed using the RSS feed from the relevant search on Google News or Google Blog Search (repeat for each feed).

Likewise, Online Journalism Jobs aggregates – you’ve got it – jobs in online journalism or that use online journalism skills. It pulls from the RSS feed for anything I bookmark on Delicious with the tag ‘ojjobs’ – but it can also be done manually with the Tumblr bookmark or email address, which is useful when you want to archive an entire job description that is longer than Delicious’s character limit.

Easy hyperlocal blogging – WordPress, Posterous and Tumblr

For a devoted individual hyperlocal blog WordPress seems the best option due to its power, flexibility and professionalism. For a hyperlocal blog where you’re inviting contributions from community members via email, Posterous may be better.

But if you want to publish a hyperlocal blog and have never had the time to do it justice, Tumblr provides a good way to make a start without committing yourself to regular, wordy updates. Boldmere High Street is my own token gesture – essentially a photoblog that I update from my mobile phone when I see something of interest – and take a photo – as I walk down the high street.

Personal blogs

As personal blogs tend to contain off-the-cuff observations, copies of correspondence or media, Posterous suits it well. Paul Bradshaw O/T (Off Topic) is mine: a place to publish things that don’t fit on any of the other blogs I publish. I use Posterous as it tends to be email-based, sometimes just keeping web-based copies of emails I’ve sent elsewhere.

It’s difficult to prescribe a platform for personal blogs as they are so… personal. If you talk best about your life through snatches of images and quotes, Tumblr will work well. I have a family Tumblr, for example, that pulls images and video from a family Flickr account, tweets from a family Twitter feed, video from a family YouTube account, and also allows me to publish snatches of audio or quotes.

You could use this to, for instance, create an approved-members-only Facebook page for the family so other family members can ‘follow’ their grandchildren, and publish updates from the Tumblr blog via RSS Graffiti. Facebook is, ultimately, the most popular personal blogging platform.

If it is hard to separate your personal life from your professional life, or your personal hobby involves playing with technology, WordPress may be a better choice.

And Blogger may be an easy way to bring together material from Google properties such as Picasa and Orkut.

Company blogs

Likewise, although Help Me Investigate’s blog started as two separate blogs on WordPress (one for company updates, the other for investigation tips), it now uses Posterous for both as it’s an easier way for multiple people to contribute.

This is because ease of publishing is more important than power – but for many companies WordPress is going to be the most professional and flexible option.

For some, Tumblr will best communicate their highly visual and creative nature. And for others, Posterous may provide a good place to easily publish documents and video.

Blogs – flexible enough for anything

What emerges from all the above is that blogs are just a publishing platform. There was a time when you had to customise WordPress, Typepad or Blogger to do what you wanted – from linkblogging and photoblogging to group blogs and aggregation. But those problems have since been solved by an increasing range of bespoke platforms.

Social bookmarking platforms and Twitter made it easier to linkblog; Tumblr made it easier to photoblog or aggregate RSS feeds. Posterous lowered the barrier to make group blogging as easy as sending an email. CoverItLive piggybacked on Twitter to aggregate live event coverage. And Facebook made bloggers of everyone without them realising.

A blog can now syndicate itself across multiple networks: Tumblr and Posterous make it easy to automatically cross-publish links and media to Twitter, YouTube and any other media-specific platform. RSS feeds can be pulled from Flickr, Delicious, YouTube or any of dozens of other services into a Facebook page or a WordPress widget.

What is important is not to be distracted by the technology, but focus on the people who will have to use it, and what they want to use it for.

To give a concrete example: I was once advising an organisation who wanted to publish their work online and help young people get their work out there. The young people used mobile phones (Blackberrys) and were on Facebook, but the organisation also wanted the content created by those young people to be seen by potential funders, in a professional context.

I advised them to:

  • Set up a moderated Posterous so that it would cross-publish to individuals’ Facebook pages (so there would be instant feedback for those users rather than it be published in an isolated space online that their friends had to go off and find);
  • Give the Posterous blog email address to the young people so they could use it to send in their work (making it easy to use on a device they were comfortable with);
  • Then to set up a separate ‘official’ WordPress site that pulled in the Posterous feed into a side-widget alongside the more professional, centrally placed, content (meeting the objectives of the organisation).

This sounds more technically complex than it is in practice, and the key thing is that it makes publishing as easy as possible: for the young users of the service, they only had to send images and comments to an email address. For members of the organisation they only had to write blog posts. Everything else, once set up, was automated. And free.

Many people hesitate before blogging, thinking that their effort has to be right first time. It doesn’t. Going through these blogs I counted around 35 that I’ve either created or been involved in. Many of those were retired when they ceased to be useful; some were transferred to new platforms. Some changed their names, some were deleted. Increasingly, they are intended from the start to have a limited shelf life. But every one has taught me something.

And those are just my experiences – how have you used blogs in different ways? And how has it changed?

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September 21 2010

06:00

Hyperlocal Voices: Philip John (The Lichfield Blog)

Hyperlocal voices - Lichfield Blog

In another Hyperlocal Voices post, Philip John talks about how The Lichfield Blog was launched to address a gap in local news reporting. In less than 2 years it has taken on a less opinionated tone and more “proper reporting”, picking up national recognition and covering its costs along the way.

Who were the people behind Lichfield Blog, and what were their backgrounds before setting it up?

Ross Hawkes founded the blog in January. Ross is a senior lecturer in journalism at Staffs Uni and previously worked at BPM. He started his journalistic career at the now defunct Lichfield Post. There’s also Nick, a semi-professional photographer who helps out with the creative side of things and I look after the techy side of the web site as looking after WordPress is where I specialise. We also have a good group of contributors and a couple of advisors, many of whom are either current or former journalists at local newspapers.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

Ross’ wife heard sirens going past their house one day and was curious as to where they were going. Ross realised no-one was reporting those kind of low-level goings on and that with the beat reporter disappearing there was a gap for community-focused news.

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

Ross started the blog on 19th January 2009 on Blogspot (which you can still see here). I got involved while it was there and persuaded Ross to move to WordPress.com which he did on 24th Feb 2009 (also still there). At first the blog was very blog like, where Ross had a bit of a moan but also asked some good questions of the local authorities and certain attitudes to issues in Lichfield. It was quickly picked up by the Twitter community in Lichfield, including myself and after a tweetup it just sky-rocketed and more people got involved.

What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

Probably the Mercury’s website, thisislichfield.co.uk because they only publish stories on Thursday when they come out in print as well. It was created more out of need than being based upon anything else that was going on. Of course, we later realised just how many people had done exactly the same!

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

I’d say we both have the same aim really – to report what’s going on. But that’s where the similarity ends. We’re not constrained by space – we have a sort of motto that we’ll print anything so long as it’s relevant to Lichfield; it’s why we can have 13 articles in 5 months about lost dogs.

We’re actually in the community too, which means we’re close to the action and can respond quicker, and because we do that we have a following that will gladly provide us with stories. There’s two examples I always use – the story of a fire at a local pub which was on the blog just 3 hours after the call to the emergency services (who were impressed we were on it so quickly), and the story of a body found in Beacon Park which was reported hours later because my house mate alerted me to the Police presence on his way to work enabling me to go and get a photo while Ross phone the Police for details.

We’ve become actively involved in some local events too so we’re not just observing and reporting what’s going on but taking part and people seem to really respond to that. I think it shows are commitment to Lichfield, not just to the success of the site.

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

The first was the move from a blog style to the more straight-laced independent, impartial stance we have now. Without much discussion it was obvious there was a gap for proper reporting and so the blog took a more serious style – we believed that we should provide the info and let the community decide what they think about it, rather than us putting a slant on. That and the acceptance as a news source by the local authorities including the City and District Councils, Staffs Police and our MP.

We’ve also been taken aback by the willingness of local businesses to advertise – we’ve consistently paid our costs through that without having to put any effort into selling the slots.

And we’re starting to generate revenue in other ways now, too, which is helping to make continuing the work worthwhile.

The recognition we’ve had both locally and nationally has been astounding. We’ve been in the national press, on Radio 4 and mentioned in the House of Commons a couple of times as well as being asked to talk about our story at various events and in interviews. It really validates the effort we’re putting in because it shows we’re making some sort of difference to the local media landscape.

July 22 2010

19:08

Some other online innovators for some other list

Journalism.co.uk have a list of this year’s “leading innovators in journalism and media”. I have some additions. You may too.

Nick Booth

I brought Nick in to work with me on Help Me Investigate, a project for which he doesn’t get nearly enough credit. It’s his understanding of and connections with local communities that lie behind most of the successful investigations on the site. In addition, Nick helped spread the idea of the social media surgery, where social media savvy citizens help others find their online voice. The idea has spread as far as Australia and Africa.

Matt Buck and Alex Hughes

Matt and Alex have been busily reinventing news cartoons for a digital age with a number of projects, including Drawnalism (event drawing), animated illustrations, and socially networked characters such as Tobias Grubbe.

Pete Cashmore

Mashable.

Tony Hirst

Tony has been blogging about mashups for longer than most at OUseful.info, providing essential help for journalists getting to grips with Yahoo! Pipes, Google spreadsheets, scraping, and – this week – Google App Inventor.

Adrian Holovaty and Simon Willison

I’m unfairly bunching these two together because they were responsible – with others – for the Django web framework, which has been the basis for some very important data journalism projects including The Guardian’s experiment in crowdsourcing analysis of MPs’ redacted expenses, and Holovaty’s Everyblock.

Philip John

Behind the Lichfield Blog but equally importantly, Journal Local, the platform for hyperlocal publishers which comes with a raft of useful plugins pre-installed, and he runs the West Midlands Future of News Group.

Christian Payne

Documentally has been innovating and experimenting with mobile journalism for years in the UK, with a relaxed-but-excitable on-screen/on-audio presence that suits the medium perfectly. And he really, really knows his kit.

Meg Pickard

Meg is an anthropologist by training, a perfect background for community management, especially when combined with blogging experience that pre-dates most of the UK. The practices she has established on the community management front at The Guardian’s online operations are an exemplar for any news organisation – and she takes lovely photos too.

Chris Taggart

Chris has been working so hard on open data in 2010 I expect steam to pour from the soles of his shoes every time I see him. His ambition to free up local government data is laudable and, until recently, unfashionable. And he deserves all the support and recognition he gets.

Rick Waghorn

One of the first regional newspaper reporters to take the payoff and try to go it alone online – first with his Norwich City website, then the MyFootballWriter network, and more recently with the Addiply self-serve ad platform. Rick is still adapting and innovating in 2010 with some promising plans in the pipeline.

I freely admit that these are based on my personal perspective and knowledge. And yes, lists are pointless, and linkbait.

June 21 2010

14:59

Hyperlocal wars: commenters defend online local news sites

As my colleague Laura mentioned in a news article earlier today, a blog post on the Manchester Evening News’ website by chief reporter David Ottewell, written in defence of the Salford Star, raises concerns about new hyperlocal sites. An extract:

There is a lot of talk these days about ‘hyperlocal’ sites. The idea is that journalists working in a small community can cover stories that might get lost at, say, a regional or local level.

Too often, though, these sites disappoint. They end up simply regurgitating press releases, or ripping off stories from local newspapers, because they are one-man bands run by amateurs who don’t have the time, resources, or sometimes skills to dig out the news.

As Ottewell probably could have anticipated, this has sparked off some lively and heated comment. Hyperlocal trainer and publisher Will Perrin answers with examples of his favourite local news sites. Philip John, the developer behind Journal Local and the Lichfield Blog, raises an important point about future collaboration with Trinity Mirror (something Trinity Mirror’s head of regional multimedia David Higgerson talked about at last week’s Polis/BBC College of Journalism conference):

We are also now actively talking with Trinity Mirror publications about collaboration and I know we’re not the only ones. I mention it specifically because they’re your ‘sisters’ within the TM family now and you might want to ask why they are so openly embracing hyperlocal.

Nigel Barlow, the co-founder of the Manchester site InsidetheM60 also responds, inviting Ottewell to further discuss these issues:

The spirit of your blog is not really in the best interests of what David Higgerson has for some time been promoting as cooperation between the main stream media and the Independents.

You have to recognise that there are some endemic problems within the media industry which local and regional papers seem to be bearing the brunt of. Not all their fault I accept but stances like yours do not help. Attack is not always the best form of defence but I take heart from the fact that you notice us. If we weren’t on your radar then surely we would be of no concern to you.

Sarah Hartley, who formerly worked at the MEN and now edits Guardian Local, says:

…your (probably) link bait assertion about what hyperlocal sites do ‘too often’ shouldn’t be left unchallenged. There’s heaps of sites up and down the country doing the sort of scrutiny you should applaud and unearthing stories of genuine importance to their communities – and that’s the point ‘their communities’. Maybe those stories don’t appeal to your professionalised view of journalism? I know not. Rather than generalise about these sites, perhaps some credit where it’s due and then name names if you have examples where churnalism is going on rather than tarring everyone with the same brush.

It has generated commentary away from the MEN site too; Philip John has a link round-up here.

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June 10 2010

08:00

Salon Sunday June 13 8pm: Philip John of the Lichfield Blog

Salon Sunday is an experimental live chat on the Wardman Wire blog at 8pm on Sundays, aiming to encourage conversations across politics, media, technical and other online niches.

q-photo-lichfield-sammyThis Sunday our interviewee will be Philip John, who founded the Lichfield Blog. The blog is a local news blog opened after the local newspaper closed down, and focuses on “all things Cathedral city since January 2009“. The site has three main editors, a host of contributors, and currently attracts a readership in excess of 10k unique visitors each month. You can read more about the site here, or follow on Twitter at lichfieldblog or philipjohn.

Phil also has an interest in the future of news media – for example what is going to happen to local media, and what opportunities will be opened up when Rupert Murdoch introduces the Times Online paywall – and is convenor of the West Midlands Future of News group.

I’ll publish a longer profile of the blog on Friday at around lunchtime at the Wardman Wire.

If you have any questions to put down in advance, or want to be kept up to date by email, please make a comment below, please leave a comment below.

I’ve tried a couple of different formats for these experimental webchats – one heavily Twitter based, the other having a podcast interview published first followed by an informal chat. This week I’m announcing the interviewee a bit earlier in the week.

This week the pattern, starting at 8pm, will be:

  1. 20-30 minutes interview about the Lichfield Blog.
  2. 30 minutes follow up conversation.

Any help in promoting the event is welcome.

April 21 2010

09:46

I’ve moved my blog – here’s why

In the past few days the Online Journalism Blog has moved to hosting on Journal Local, a platform primarily aimed at hyperlocal publishers.

I’ve moved the blog for a number of reasons. Firstly, the platform offers specialist support that doesn’t appear to be available anywhere else. Philip John, who built Journal Local, is an experienced hyperlocal publisher (of the Lichfield Blog) himself, and he knows his stuff. He has already been able to provide technical assistance on all sorts of things I don’t always have the time to look into, from themes and plugins to sorting things out when the blog has been the target of hackers.

In fact, just having someone around who knows when the blog is being targeted by hackers is going to give me a bit more peace of mind.

Secondly, I want to support what Philip is trying to do. Journal Local is an attempt to find one sustainable business model for hyperlocal publishing. It’s not only well thought-out and executed but, for me, could make it easier for hyperlocal publishers generally to continue to operate both editorially and commercially.

It’s a freemium service, with a free, bespoke platform for those who are trying out hyperlocal publishing, but also – in the premium version – more control and support for existing publishers who are looking to make their operations more professional. Both are expanding markets.

And although Journal Local hasn’t yet officially launched, already North West Sheffield News and Inside the M60 have signed up.

A key element for me is that Journal Local isn’t just a technical service but an information service as well. If you’ve met Philip, you’ll know he’s an important part of the hyperlocal movement and always ready to offer help to other bloggers and publishers. I think that’s key in any new media business – that it’s a vocation for the founder.

Particularly interesting are the features tailored to hyperlocal site owners and online journalists. The basic setup comes with plugins that pull from TheyWorkForYou.com, WriteToThem.com and Opening Times – as well as an Addiply plugin that allows publishers to instantly sell advertising. The service will also be bolstered in the near future by features that take advantage of such great tools as OpenlyLocal and Patient Opinion, among others.

In that context, I’d much rather give the money I currently pay on hosting and domain name registration to Journal Local. It’s a no-brainer.

And I may well start recommending that students running their own hyperlocal operations use the free version of the service.

In the meantime, I guess if you want to use it yourself you’d need to contact Philip John on Twitter or something.

February 03 2010

09:05

January 19 2010

10:54

JournalLocal: ‘Is social enterprise the future of local media?’

Philip John, one of the Lichfield Blog team, highlights remarks made by Derek Wyatt, Labour MP for Sittingbourne & Sheppey, during a recent parliamentary debate:

[He] made reference to the The Guardian’s status as the subsidiary of a charity, the Scott Trust as opposed to its rivals who are for-profit ventures. He went on to propose the model for local media as an answer, whether in part of whole, to the trouble facing newspapers.

Wyatt said, “There will be a Guardian alternative locally for groups of people wanting to set up not for profit newspapers often online but need funding.” The suggestion here is that at a local level the answer might be the Guardian-style of ownership whereby the media is part of a charitable trust or social enterprise, and a not-for-profit operation.

Full post at this link…

PS. Happy Birthday to the Lichfield Blog – it’s one year old today!

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January 11 2010

15:37

New ebook for hyperlocal bloggers

Multimedia journalist Adam Westbrook has today released a new ebook about hyperlocal newsgathering, drawing on his experiences as a local reporter.

Its introductory price is £4.99 and Westbrook is optimistic people will pay: “I’ve purposefully kept it at a low price so its not a big investment even for someone just toying with the idea of starting a hyperlocal blog,” he told Journalism.co.uk.

“I think ebooks have a lot of potential because they have a quick turnaround. Any physical book on journalism is usually out of date before it hits the shelves!

“To that end I will be updating the book with collaborations with other bloggers, and hopefully producing at least one new title.”

And what exactly is ‘hyperlocal’? After all, Westbrook covered three counties during his time as a reporter. “I think the power of hyperlocal is in doing a small area really well,” he said.

“In my experience even local papers can’t really drill into a single community and often cover several towns. I think the typical hyperlocal will cover a single town or single village. It will need to have the same journalistic ambitions as a paper but with very few people and little or no budget. That’s why I wrote the book, to show people they don’t need a big newsroom to do big news.

Lichfield blogger Philip John has reviewed the book for his site JournalLocal, at this link. While John has some criticisms, he says that the book, ‘Newsgathering for Hyperlocal Websites,’ “is definitely a good start in helping hyperlocal owners to organise themselves and make sure they have all the information they need to serve their community”.

Both Philip John and Adam Westbook will be talking at Journalism.co.uk’s news:rewired event on 14 January.

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November 20 2009

12:23
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