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February 08 2012

20:44

Sky and BBC leave the field wide open to Twitter competitors

At first glance, Sky’s decision that its journalists should not retweet information that has “not been through the Sky News editorial process” and the BBC’s policy to prioritise filing “written copy into our newsroom as quickly as possible” seem logical.

For Sky it is about maintaining editorial control over all content produced by its staff. For the BBC, it seems to be about making sure that the newsroom, and by extension the wider organisation, takes priority over the individual.

But there are also blind spots in these strategies that they may come to regret.

Our content?

The Sky policy articulates an assumption about ‘content’ that’s worth picking apart.

We accept as journalists that what we produce is our responsibility. When it comes to retweeting, however, it’s not entirely clear what we are doing. Is that news production, in the same way that quoting a source is? Is it newsgathering, in the same way that you might repeat a lead to someone to find out their reaction? Or is it merely distribution?

The answer, as I’ve written before, is that retweeting can be, and often is, all three.

Writing about a similar policy at the Oregonian late last year, Steve Buttry made the point that retweets are not endorsements. Jeff Jarvis argued that they were “quotes”.

I don’t think it’s as simple as that (as I explain below), but I do think it’s illustrative: if Sky News were to prevent journalists from using any quote on air or online where they could not verify its factual basis, then nothing would get broadcast. Live interviews would be impossible.

The Sky policy, then, seems to treat retweets as pure distribution, and – crucially – to treat the tweet in isolation. Not as a quote, but as a story, consisting entirely of someone else’s content, which has not been through Sky editorial processes but which is branded or endorsed as Sky journalism.

There’s a lot to admire in the pride in their journalism that this shows – indeed, I would like to see the same rigour applied to the countless quotes that are printed and broadcast by all media without being compared with any evidence.
But do users really see retweets in the same way? And if they do, will they always do so?

Curation vs creation

There’s a second issue here which is more about hard commercial success. Research suggests that successful users of Twitter tend to combine curation with creation. Preventing journalists from retweeting  leaves them – and their employers – without a vital tool in their storytelling and distribution.

The tension surrounding retweeting can be illustrated in the difference between two broadcast journalists who use Twitter particularly effectively: Sky’s own Neal Mann, and NPR’s Andy Carvin. Andy retweets habitually as a way of seeking further information. Neal, as he explained in this Q&A with one of my classes, feels that he has a responsibility not to retweet information he cannot verify (from 2 mins in).

Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. But both combine curation with creation.

Network effects

A third issue that strikes me is how these policies fit uncomfortably alongside the networked ways that news is experienced now.

The BBC policy, for example, appears at first glance to prevent journalists from diving right into the story as it develops online. Although social media editor Chris Hamilton notes that they have “a technology that allows our journalists to transmit text simultaneously to our newsroom systems and to their own Twitter accounts”, this is coupled with the argument that:

“Our first priority remains ensuring that important information reaches BBC colleagues, and thus all our audiences, as quickly as possible – and certainly not after it reaches Twitter.”

I’m not entirely convinced of this line, because there are a number of competing priorities that I want to understand more clearly.

Firstly, it implies that BBC colleagues are not watching each other on Twitter. If not, why not? Sky pioneered the use of Twitter as an internal newswire, and the man responsible, Julian March, is now doing something similar at ITV.

Then there’s that focus on “all our audiences” in opposition to those early adopter Twitter types. If news is “breaking news, an exclusive or any kind of urgent update”, being first on Twitter can give you strategic advantages that waiting for the six o’clock – or even typing a report that’s over 140 characters – won’t, for example:

  • Building a buzz (driving people to watch, listen to or search for the fuller story)
  • Establishing authority on Google (which ranks first reports over later ones)
  • Establishing the traditional authority in being known as the first to break the story
  • Making it easier for people on the scene to get in touch (if someone’s just experienced a newsworthy event or heard about it from someone who was, how likely is it that they search Twitter to see who else was there? You want to be the journalist they find and contact)

Everything at the same time

There’s another side to this, which is evidence of news organisations taking a strategic decision that, in a world of information overload, they should stop trying to be the first (an increasingly hard task), and instead seek to be more authoritative. To be able to say, confidently, “Every atom we distribute is confirmed”, or “We held back to do this spectacularly as a team”.

There’s value in that, and a lot to be admired. I’m not saying that these policies are inherently wrong. I don’t know the full thinking that went into them, or the subtleties of their implementation (as Rory Cellan-Jones illustrates in his example, which contrasts with what can actually happen). I don’t think there is a right and a wrong way to ‘do Twitter’. Every decision is a trade off, because so many factors are in play. I just wanted to explore some of those factors here.

As soon as you digitise information you remove the physical limitations that necessitated the traditional distinctions between the editorial processes of newsgathering, production, editing and distribution.

A single tweet can be doing all at the same time. Social media policies need to recognise this, and journalists need to be trained to understand the subtleties too.

January 27 2012

20:56

December 07 2011

21:41

The rise of local media sales partnerships and 19 other recent hyper-local developments you may have missed

In this guest post Ofcom’s Damian Radcliffe cross-publishes his latest presentation on developments in hyperlocal publishing for September-October, and highlights how partnerships are increasingly important for hyper-local, regional and national media in terms of “making it pay”.

When producing my latest bi-monthly update on hyper-local media, I was struck by the fact that media sales partnerships suddenly seem to be all the rage.

In a challenging economic climate, a number of media providers – both big and small – have recently come together to announce initiatives aimed at maximising economies of scale and potentially reducing overheads.

At a hyperlocal level, the launch on 1st November of the Chicago Independent Advertising Network (CIAN), saw 15 Chicago community news sites coming together to offer a single point of contact for advertisers. These sites “collectively serve more than 1 million page views each month.”

This initiative follows in the footsteps of other small scale advertising alliances including the Seattle Indie Ad Network and Boston Blogs.

These moves – bringing together a range of small scale location based websites – can help address concerns that hyper-local sites are not big enough (on their own) to unlock funding from large advertisers.

CIAN also aims to address a further hyper-local concern: that of sales skills. Rather than having a hyperlocal practitioner add media sales to an ever expanding list of duties, funding from the Chicago Community Trust and the Knight Community Information Challenge allows for a full-time salesperson.

Big Media is also getting in on this act.

In early November Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL agreed to sell each other’s unsold display ads. The move is a response to Google and Facebook’s increasing clout in this space.

Reuters reported that both Facebook and Google are expected to increase their share of online display advertising in the United States in 2011 by 9.3% and 16.3%.

In contrast, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo are forecast to lose share, with Facebook expected to surpass Yahoo for the first time.

Similarly in the UK, DMGT’s Northcliffe Media, home to 113 regional newspapers, recently announced it was forging a joint partnership with Trinity Mirror’s regional sales house, AMRA.

This will create a commercial proposition encompassing over 260 titles, including nine of the UK’s 10 biggest regional paid-for titles. Like The Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL arrangement, this new partnership comes into effect in 2012.

These examples all offer opportunities for economies of scale for media outlets and potentially larger potential reach and impact for advertisers.  Given these benefits, I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see more of these types of partnership in the coming months and years.

Damian Radcliffe is writing in a personal capacity.

Other topics in his current hyperlocal slides  include Sky’s local pilot in NE England and research into the links between tablet useand local news consumption. As ever, feedback and suggestions for future editions are welcome.



 

May 09 2010

07:26

Kay Burley. Discuss.

Some say that journalism students should simply be taught how to ‘do’ journalism rather than spending time analysing or reflecting on it. On Saturday Sky’s Kay Burley showed why it’s not that simple – when she berated someone demonstrating in favour of electoral reform:

This, and the copious other clips of her walking a fine line, are a goldmine for lecturers and journalism students – particularly when it comes to discussing broadcast journalism technique, ethics, and regulation.

It helps students to look at their own journalistic practice and ask: in trying to please my bosses or meet an idea of what makes ‘good television’, am I crossing a line? How do the likes of Jeremy Paxman manage to dig behind a story without losing impartiality, or becoming the story themselves (do they manage it?) What, indeed, is the purpose of journalism, and how does that carry through into my practice?

Journalism is easy. You don’t need to study it for 3 years to do it. You don’t need a piece of paper to practise it.

But professional journalism is also the exercise of power – “Power without responsibility,” as the quote has it (which continues: “the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”). We expect to scrutinise politicians and hold them to certain ethical standards yet cry foul when the same scrutiny is applied to us. Studying journalism – while doing it – should be about accepting that responsibility and thinking about what it entails. And then doing it better.

So: Kay Burley. Discuss.

May 04 2010

15:14

UK General Election 2010 – Interactive Maps and Swingometers

Tony Hirst takes a look at how different news websites are using interactivity to present different possibilities in the UK election. This post is cross-posted from the OUseful.Info blog:

So it seems like the General Election has been a Good Thing for the news media’s interactive developer teams… Here’s a quick round up of some of the interactives I’ve found…

First up, the BBC’s interactive election seat calculator:

BBC election interactive

This lets you set the percentage vote polled by each party and it will try to predict the outcome…

The Guardian swingometer lets you play with swing from any two of the three big parties to the third:

Guardian swingometer

The Daily Telegraph swingometer lets you look at swing between any two parties…

Telegraph election map

The Economist also lets you explore pairwise swings

Economist - election map

The Times doesn’t really let you do much at all… and I wonder �" is Ladbrokes in there as product placement?!

Time election interactive

Sky doesn’t go in for modeling or prediction, it’s more of just a constituency browser

Sky Election Map

The Sun probably has Tiffany, 23…

From elsewhere, this swingometer from the Charts & numbers �" UK Election 2010 blog lets you model swings between the various parties

Swingometer

As to what swing is? It’s defined in this Parliamentary briefing doc [PDF]

April 30 2010

07:01

UK NATIONAL ELECTION TV DEBATES (3): THE RESULTS

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Cameron and Clegg: neck to neck.

Brown, toasted.

BBC wins versus ITV and SKY on best set and best presenter.

The Guardian, pro-Labour but now pro-Liberal Democrat, makes Cameron the winner with this column written by his associate editor Martin Kettle:

The central character in the three-man drama that has so energised British politics this month is neither Brown nor Clegg but David Cameron. It is Cameron who, after a bad debut two weeks ago came back with a stronger performance last week and who, in Jeremy Hunt’s phrase, faced the most important job interview of his life.

April 15 2010

11:45

LIVE TV DEBATES: THE 76 RULES TO PREVENT REAL DEBATES

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Tonight in Manchester we will have the first Prime Ministerial TV Debates before the UK General Elections.

They will broadcast live… but they will not be real debates.

Just look at these 76 rules and you will understand why politicians rule over TV journalists and the voters.

Audience selection

1. The objective is to select an audience which is broadly a demographic cross section of the country.

2. the audience to be made up of roughly 200 people, subject to venue capacity.

3. ICM has been appointed as an external recruitment agency and the methods of recruitment are based on their expert advice. In broad terms, we will aim to:

4. recruit within a 30 mile radius of the host city, mindful of administrative borders on either side of that radius based on the revised ICM list of constituencies.

5. recruit according to gender, age, ethnicity and social class to best reflect the broader voting-age population. The recruitment procedure will be transparent, and its methodology will be available to the parties for comment.

6. ensure around 80% of the audience is made up of voters who express a voting intention at the time of recruitment.

7. These will be subdivided into ratios which reflect a ratio of 7 Labour, 7 Conservative, 5 LibDem .The political ratios will take precedence over the demographic in the final selection of the audience by ICM.

8. within the 80% (see point 6) the broadcasters retain the right to recruit some audience members who express an intention to vote for smaller parties.

9. ensure that around 20% of the audience will be undecided but will be politically engaged. ICM’s definition of undecided voters to be the basis of this selection.

10. reserve a small number of seats for participants from outside the ICM selected audience, whose questions have been pre-submitted and selected by the broadcaster’s editorial panel. The broadcasters may use a variety of methods to encourage the submission of such questions from across the UK in the build up to the debates.

11. the number of questions from outside the ICM selected audience will be a maximum of four per debate.

12. over-recruit by a small margin to accommodate “drop outs” or “no shows”

13. issue audience members with a protocol of rules, including security procedures for entry and conduct during the debates. The protocol will be agreed by the parties.

Audience role

14. The objective is to ensure maximum debate between the party leaders — the distinctive characteristic of these programmes — whilst allowing the audience’s voices to be heard directly posing questions.

15. Each broadcaster will nominate a panel to choose the questions for its debate. The panel’s membership will be public, but they will meet in private.

16. Each selection panel will include a member to oversee compliance. List of names of panel members attached 17. The objective of each panel shall be to ensure fair question selection in order to frame a balanced debate within the rules of our agreements.

18. The panel will meet confidentially in the weeks running up to their debate.

19. All questions submitted by the ICM selected audience will be seen by a member of the panel. Email questions will be sifted and a selection given to the panel.

20. Initially, each panel will sift through a selection of questions drawn from those submitted by members of the public.

21. They will narrow down their selections in a series of meetings up to and including the day of the debate.

22. Each panel will have five to seven members, including a designated chair who would have a casting vote if necessary.

23. The panel cannot be quorate with fewer than three of its members present.

24. In selecting its questions, the panel will take full account of the following:

25. each question will be relevant to all three party leaders.

26. no question shall focus on one party or one leader.

27. all questions will be based on election issues

28. audience members will be made aware of these rules before submitting their final questions.

29. half the programme will be based on the agreed theme. Within that portion of the programme, a maximum of three questions will be selected on a single sub-theme (as listed in point 65 of this document).

30. half the programme will be unthemed. In this portion of the programme, a maximum of two questions will be selected on a single subject.

31. the range of questions chosen will reflect the broadcasters’ legal and compliance responsibilities for due impartiality and fairness.

32. the panel will use its editorial judgement to select questions and will take into account factors such as the prominence of certain issues in the campaign, the distinctiveness of the different parties’ policies on election issues, voters’ interest and issues relevant to the role of the Prime Minister.

33. Within these rules, the editorial independence of the panel shall be paramount, because each broadcaster is answerable to its regulator for its programme content.

34. Questions may be selected by the editorial selection panel up to the start of the debate.

35. The selected questions will not be shown to anyone outside the editorial team in advance of the programmes.

36. Members of the audience will ask their questions. The moderator will ask the leaders to respond. The moderator may read email questions.

37. All questions will be addressed to and answered by all three leaders.

38. The audience members will be restricted to asking the selected questions.

39. There will be an option of viewer involvement via emails read by the moderator.

40. In order to maximise the time available for viewers to hear the leaders discussing election issues with each other, the studio audience will be asked not to applaud during the debate. There will be opportunities to do so both at the beginning and at the end of each programme.

Structure of programme

41. the programme will start with all three leaders on set and standing at their podiums.

42. The moderator will have a podium/desk and will move within a small area to allow eyeline with the audience and the leaders.

43. The moderator will introduce the leaders.

44. The first half of the programme will be on the agreed theme but with the agreement of all the parties, in case of a major national or international event not included in the theme of the debate, the moderator will ask the leaders for their reaction to the development at the start of the programme before moving on to the theme.

45. The time taken for the reaction to such an event will be added to the time available for the themed part of the debate, unless the event is clearly part of the theme of the debate, in which case the reaction will be counted as part of the time allotted to the theme.

46. Each leader will make an opening statement on the theme of the debate lasting for 1 minute. After the three opening statements the moderator will take the first question on the agreed theme. There will be closing statements of 1 minute 30 seconds from all three leaders at the end of the 90 minutes.

47. Each leader will have 1 minute to answer the question.

48. Each leader will then have 1 minute to respond to the answers.

49. The moderator may then open the discussion to free debate between the leaders for up to 4 minutes on merit.

50. The length of the debate on each question will be decided by the programme editor.

51. The programme editor will use their best endeavours to keep to the 4 minute time allowance but it may need to be extended in the interest of equality of treatment.

52. Questions will be taken on the theme until around half way through the programme, depending on timing and ensuring fair treatment of all three leaders.

53. At the end of the themed period, the moderator will open the debate to general questions selected by the broadcaster’s panel from the audience or via email.

54. The same timing format will apply to the general questions i.e. each leader will have 1 minute to answer the question. Each leader will then have 1 minute to respond. The moderator will then open the discussion to free debate between the leaders for up to 4 minutes on merit

55. There will be a clock indicating the time remaining for statements, answers to questions and responses. This will be visible to the candidates and moderator but not to the audience in the debate or on screen.

56. The order of speakers, based on an agreed grid, has been determined by the parties drawing lots.

57. At the end of the programme the three leaders will shake hands (Oh, boy!)

Role of the moderator

58. To moderate the programme

59. To keep the leaders to the agreed time limits

60. To ensure free-flowing debate being fair to all candidates over the course of the programme.

61. To ensure fairness on the direction of the programme editor

62. To seek factual clarification where necessary 63. It is not the moderator’s role to criticise or comment on the leaders’ answers.

64. The candidates accept the authority of the moderator to referee the rules on stage and ensure a free flowing, fair debate conducted within the agreed rules

Themes

65. Order of themed debates. The order of the themes for the first half of each programme was determined by the broadcasters drawing lots. The order is as follows:

1. Domestic affairs including but not exclusively: NHS; Education; Immigration; Law and Order; Family; Constitution; Trust in politics; Political reform;

2. International affairs including but not exclusively; International relations; Afghanistan; Iraq; Iran; Middle East; UK defence; International terrorism; Europe; Climate change; China; International Development

3. Economic affairs including but not exclusively: financing of public services; Taxation; Debt; Deficit; Public finances; Recession; Recovery; Banking and finance; Business; Pensions; Jobs;

Set

66. The leaders will stand at podiums throughout the debate. The positions of the three leaders during the debates are to be determined by agreement with all parties.

67. The moderator will have a podium/desk and will move within a small area to allow eyeline with the audience and the leaders.

68. Each broadcaster responsible for their own titles, music, branding etc.

Audience cutaways

69. The purpose of the programmes are for the viewers to see and hear the party leaders engaging in debate with each other and answering questions from the audience. The audience is a key element of the programmes and has to be seen by the viewers but there will not be undue concentration of the reactions of individual audience members.

70. There will be a close up of the questioner while he/she is asking a question.

71. There will be no close-up cutaways of a single individual audience member while the leaders are speaking.

72. However if one of the leaders directly addresses an individual audience member, a close-up shot of that individual can be shown e.g. if a leader answers a question by directly addressing the questioner.

73. There may be group shots and wide shots of the audience during the programme.

74. The programme will be confined to events inside the debate studio.

75. Breaking News straps will not be put over live coverage of the debate. On news channels (Sky News, BBC News channel), the scrolling news tickers will offer other news but will not cover breaking news lines from the debates while the debates are taking place.

76. Each party will have the right to recall the negotiating panel made up of representatives from the broadcasters and the parties, during the campaign to discuss issues arising from the debates.

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