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August 01 2012

17:30

Highlight reel: Some of the best from this year’s International Symposium on Online Journalism

Back in April, we went down to Austin for this year’s International Symposium on Online Journalism. As far as journalism conferences go, this is one of the special ones — highly recommended.

We’ve already written about much of what was covered there, like smart-fridge strategies, O Globo’s crazy-engaging tablet-only evening edition, an examination of journalistic behaviors on Twitter, and a study that pinpointed the most likely demographic to pay for the news. (Check out our roundup of lessons learned from the symposium.)

Now, ISOJ has posted a complete collection of video from the conference. Watch them all. Here’s a smattering to get you started:

Welsh: Let’s get to work

The Los Angeles Times’ Ben Welsh will make you love robots. He’ll also effectively shut down anyone who’s still arguing that computer-assisted reporting is somehow inherently bad for the industry. He’s genuinely passionate, and that’s just fun to watch.

Highlight: Skip to 11:08 to watch a minute-long crescendo that ends with the best F-bomb of the conference.

Boyer: News is a craft, not purely an art

Brian Boyer, who this summer joined NPR’s news apps team, wants you to think about news function. “Data visualizations are not on their own useful,” Boyer says. “If we only make art, we are doing our audience a disservice.”

Highlight: Skip to 3:03 to hear Boyer break down why journalists, engineers, and designers need to learn from one another.

Brown: Don’t fight the audience

University of Memphis journalism assistant professor Carrie Brown-Smith tracked the use of #Memstorm on Twitter during severe weather in her region. She examined the use of hashtags in centralizing real-time news. She also explored what kinds of information was shared, and how journalists’ coverage of the storm fit in. One key lesson for newsrooms: If your audience starts doing something cool, join in.

Highlight: Skip to 3:37 to watch her account of what happened when a local Fox affiliate tried to change the hashtag.

Doria: Make something beautiful

The iPad is special. That’s why Pedro Doria, digital platforms editor for Brazilian newspaper O Globo, wanted to give readers an iPad app that was specially made for the device. Doria felt that the paper’s basic mobile app wasn’t making full use of the platform. (Read our article about the app.)

Highlight: Skip to 8:14 to see Doria break down the numbers about engagement with the app, which jumped from an average of 26 minutes to a mind-boggling 77 minutes.

Gingras: There’s too much news

Anyone else feel like Google’s Richard Gingras is everywhere these days? It’s likely you’re familiar with his views by now. Bottom line, Gingras says, “we have to rethink it all.” To him, print is nothing more than a “derivative mechanism” and the big problem in news is that “there’s too much of it.”

Highlight: Skip to 7:45 to hear someone challenge Gingras on the idea that there are no gatekeepers anymore. Who gets to decide who a news organization is and is not? Audience member: “You do.”

Whurley: You already have the answers

“I don’t do slides, ever,” said Whurley, general manager of Chaotic Moon Labs. So instead, he opted to crowdsource his slides — asking journalists to shout out questions that he addressed later in the presentation.

Highlight: Skip to 6:12 to hear Whurley sum up his experience coding and developing The Daily, and what it demonstrated to him about the fundamental problem in journalism: “What they did is fantastic for one reason, and the reason that we participated was one reason: Nobody wants to be the first.”

April 20 2012

14:28

April 12 2012

17:15

Google’s Richard Gingras: 8 questions that will help define the future of journalism

Editor’s note: At TechRaking 2012 today — a conference at the Googleplex in Mountain View, sponsored by Google and the Center for Investigative Reporting — a group of journalism doers and thinkers will be talking about how news and technology can evolve together.

Opening the gathering was Google’s head of news products, Richard Gingras, a man with longstanding experience in the space where news and tech meet, who provoked discussion by raising eight areas of inquiry that might prove fruitful for the day. Here are those eight, in the form of his prepared remarks.

These are extraordinary times. These are exciting times. There has been tremendous disruption, but let’s consider the huge positives that underly that disruption. There are no longer the same barriers to publishing: everyone has a printing press, and there are no gatekeepers. There are new ways for people to both consume and share news. There are powerful new technologies that can change what journalists do and how they do it. In my view, the future of journalism can and will be better than its past.

While technology holds great promise, it’s important to recognize that while technology has value it has no “values.” Technology, in and of itself, is not the solution. Yes, it can provide the means for solutions, but it is up to us to determine how to make it so.

We need to rethink every facet of the journalism model in light of the dramatic changes in the architecture of the news ecosystem. I’m not suggesting that everything must change, but a comprehensive rethinking is a necessary and valuable intellectual process.

I would therefore like to start out today by proposing several themes and questions to guide us at TechRaking and more broadly.

1. Addressing content architecture

The architecture of news content has barely changed. It continues to mirror the edition-oriented nature of the prior media forms — streams of articles that appear one day and drop into the archive the next. Can we better explore and adopt new approaches that, like Google’s earlier experiments with “the living story,” maintain the full expression of a reporter’s efforts in one place behind a persistent URL?

2. Evolving the narrative form

As McCluhan said, “Every new medium begins as a container for the old.” While early radio news began with readings from the newspaper, that model was quickly superseded by a shorter crisper style and form appropriate to the radio medium. In an evolving culture dominated by updates, posts, and bullet points, are there approaches to conveying in-depth journalism that extend beyond 5,000-10,000 word articles?

3. Creating the Reporter’s Notebook 2.0

We now have, effectively, no limit on publishing capacity and no technical barriers to realtime publishing. Since our medium can accommodate the full expression of the reporter’s work, is there not significant value in developing new tools to support a reporter’s day-to-day efforts?

4. Rethinking organizational workflow

Given current and future advances in how news is gathered, organized and presented, that also suggests a rethinking of editorial roles and organizational workflow? Are there new approaches that let news organizations leverage the assistance of the trusted crowd (e.g., Josh Marshall)? Might we benefit from systems that allow smaller news organizations to work together?

5. Exploring computational journalism

One major technological impact is the opportunity to use computer science to assist with reporting efforts, to parse massive data sets, to monitor public sources of data. Can investigative journalism aggressively leverage computational journalism to not only help with stories but eventually become persistent, automated investigative reports?

6. Leveraging search and social

Search continues to be a central source of news discovery, and social sources are quickly becoming important drivers of incoming traffic to news. Are there better ways to use search and social to not only drive audience engagement but inform them? Can we learn from the approach of sites like ProPublica that create a series of social posts, each disclosing an additional nugget of journalistic knowledge and wisdom?

7. Rethinking site design

Four years ago, many news sites saw half their traffic come to the homepage. Today, due to continued growth in traffic from search and social, homepage traffic is typically 25 percent of inbound audience. That means 75 percent of inbound traffic is going directly to story pages. How do changes in audience flows impact site design? Indeed, how do they cause reconsideration of the very definition of a website? Should we not flip the model and put dramatically more focus on the story page rather than the home page? Or, for that matter, that corpus of content and media we call a “story”?

8. Shifting to a culture of constant product innovation

The pace of technological change will not abate. If anything, it will continue to increase. To think of this as a period of transition from one state to another is unwise. This might not be easy to address but it needs to be addressed. How do we staff news organizations with the appropriate kinds of resources and the appropriate mindset such that constant innovation is imbued into an organization’s DNA and into the role of every participant?

With great technological change comes great opportunity, and with great opportunity comes greater responsibility. Our society’s need for credible journalistic knowledge and wisdom has never been greater. While the evolution of the web has been primarily beneficial, it also raises the bar. Among its many powers, the Internet has the ability to provide support for any opinion, belief or fear and give it greater volume. Sadly, political entities, interest groups, and media companies appear to know all too well that affirmation often sells better than information. The future of journalism can and, I believe, will be better than its past, but this will only be the case to the extent that all of us work to make it so.

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