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December 21 2011

14:00

Emily Bell: 2012 will be the year of the network

Editor’s Note: We’re wrapping up 2011 by asking some of the smartest people in journalism what the new year will bring.

Next up is Emily Bell, formerly the director of digital content for Guardian News and Media and currently the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Making predictions about journalism is a hopeless business: Jay Rosen, who is much wiser than I am said he never does it, and I salute him for that. But like Karaoke, some of the things you end up doing during the holiday period are regrettable but fun.

What we saw in 2011 was a sudden consciousness among news organizations and individual journalists that the network, and the tools which create it, are not social media wrappers for reporting but part of the reporting process itself. The poster child for this is the inimitable Andy Carvin, with his amazingly valuable journalism conducted throughout the Arab Spring. The network sensibility will grow in newsrooms which currently don’t tend to have it as part of their process — it is still seen in the vast majority of places as more of a “nice to have” rather than a “must have.” The strongest news organizations we know are those which can leverage both the real time social web and provide relevant timely context and analysis.

While this use of distributed tools and new platforms continues at speed, I think we will also see some much-needed closer scrutiny on what this new reality means for journalism and its constant redefinition of products and services. Or at least I hope so. While a fan of a networked approach, there are important caveats. It is remarkable how much journalism is now conducted on third party commercial websites which do not have journalism as a core purpose — Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. — and the attendant ignorance of what this means in the long term will begin to be addressed. Issues about privacy and user information, about the protection of sources, about ownership of IP , about archiving, and about how we can have a “fourth estate” in a digital world will all become vital for individual journalists and institutions to understand.

Journalists have always been very skilled at stories and projects and fairly awful at thinking about platforms. We need more engineers who want to be journalists, and we need to teach students more about the implications of publishing in a digital environment — whatever the format their journalism originally takes.

October 04 2011

05:44

NetSquared: Deepening Relationships on the Social Web

One of the things that excites me about being part of the NetSquared community, and particularly about NetSquared Local, is that it engenders spaces where digital innovation actualizes the potential of the social web to address critical social problems offline. In the process, it is also deepening and strengthening - rather than weakening or diluting - the relationships and connections the social web affords us.

I had become habituated (albeit reluctantly) to the idea that I needed Twitter, Facebook and an ever-increasing list of social media networks as intermediaries to stay connected to the work and people I was interested in. It would seem that engagement at the predominant social networks is increasingly not optional. Kind of like having a phone and an email account hasn't really been optional for many years.

Yet, while I was getting “connected” to more and more people (hyper-connected), there was also a disturbing sense of the growing lack of depth in these online social relationships. In other words, my network was growing and weakening at the same time. Further diluting the network were the increasingly blurred lines between ego-centric networks (driven by our needs to be social, to entertain and be entertained, etc.) and cause-centric networks (driven by the need to address social issues).

With my large mix of personal and professional connections, Dunbar’s Number would suggest that I had exceeded the cognitive limit of stable social relationships I could sustain or maintain in any meaningful way. I.e. anything past around 150 was a diluted, weak relationship at best.

Having worked in the social benefit sector for several years, I realized the implications of these weakened relationships were not inconsequential. Along with many other reasons that may burst the social media bubble for the sector, is this simultaneous growth and weakening of networks. More critical for the sector is the resulting breakdown of relationships with and within those networks. I’ll dig into this a little deeper in an upcoming blog post.

For now, on a more personal note, it was not surprising that when I signed out of Twitter, Facebook etc., closed all my social media browser windows, I knew exactly where the efforts and people I was interested in were online. They were not just living as Adrien Short says as the web underclass in a digital serfdom at the mercy of social media outlets.

In a world of overcrowded social media spaces, where the depth of social connections may increasingly be coming into question, it is refreshing to be part of the NetSquared community; a community that is empowered to convene locally, share stories and ideas, co-create knowledge, solutions, and translate deep connections and learning online, into tangible projects for real world impact offline.

While all this might take a little more work than setting up a new profile on Google+, I am guessing that building any sustainable and meaningful relationships requires hard work.

 

September 14 2011

07:51

Newspaper video: Time to reconsider your video strategy?

A few issues have popped up in my reading round the web that make me think that if online video has fallen off your agenda then it may be worth thinking again. A few things make me think that.

Engagement with HTML5 by publishers means that the idea of cross platform (web, tablet etc) video becomes a reality. The recent announcement by FT that they were moving away from the apple fold to deliver their apps from a web base shows a certain maturity in that area. It may not be universal but those publishers who engaged with apps with half an eye to html5 and associated tech are starting to see the benefit. They also have an exit route from Apple’s walled garden.

The announcement that the WSJ is upping it’s online video would, on the surface, seem to be a simple illustration of the point. But theres a bit more to it:

The Journal has expanded its video content in spite of its contract with CNBC, the leading business news network on television, and in spite of the fact that The Journal’s parent has its own business network, Fox Business.  The CNBC contract expires in about 15 months, but already Journal reporters tend to appear more often on Fox than on CNBC.

The shifting approaches of print in particular to the challenge of keeping your voice in a spreading market, often rests on the idea of impartiality. An alignment to Fox is as blunt a move to prove the point as you can get. But if you want to establish a ‘voice’ then video can be a key part of that changing ‘brand’.

Newsless broadcast

But there is also a shift on the other side of that relationship. There is a very clear by broadcasters towards product and not a service focus. That will leave a gap that print will have to backfill. Yes there is a big investment in online delivery services but the commercial driver is very much a product proposition. Most of the large broadcasters are seeing a real benefit in exclusive and value-added programming online. The ‘watch again’ of the iplayer-like channels, the webisodes and web exclusive episodes are all examples of how broadcast has ‘finally’ found its feet online.

I think that news is low on the agenda in a broadcasters strategy. For broadcasters, news is very much a service. It’s often something they have to do as a requirement to a license or a sop to public service. It’s easier to advertise around the x-factor than it is news at ten and that’s where the money will go. Non-broadcast providers will pay the price for that.

If you buy in your video from a third party, expect the prices to go up and the quality, range and relevance to go down. 

LocalTV

Here in the UK, we also have the looming Spector of localTV. There is obviously a new market to explore there. I’m skeptical about the range, depth and return that market will have for journalism but, hey, it never hurts to consider it.

So video gives you a good opportunity to extend your identity and cut free those ties with an increasingly newsless broadcast sector. Just invest a little in understanding the technology underlying the new platforms.In the long run it might be a better investment than simply paying to be on those platforms.

 

June 26 2011

05:03

On Twitter, Facebook - BET aims for ‘most social awards show ever’

Lost Remote :: The 2011 BET Awards will kick off this Sunday night at 8 ET with multiple levels of social engagement. BET’s new director of social media, JP Lespinasse (formerly with the NBA), says the network’s “mission is to make this the most social awards show ever.

BET targets the needs of young Black adults from, as they say "an authentic, unapologetic viewpoint of the Black experience."  In addition, outstanding mega-specials such as the BET AWARDS, which is the #1 Awards Show on Cable Television, keeps viewers regularly tuned in for the latest and greatest in black entertainment.

Continue to read Natan Edelsburg, www.lostremote.com

June 14 2011

07:19

Al-Jazeera English: "revenue is not a driving force right now"

AdAge :: Al-Jazeera English may be one of the only fast-growing networks that doesn't want to tell potential sponsors its growth story. The global news network has seen its profile escalate in recent months due to its leading coverage of major events such as the Japan earthquake and uprisings in the Middle East. Web visits in April 2011 surged past 66 million -- 42% from the U.S. -- and talks to expand its limited distribution in major territories such as the U.S., U.K. and India have accelerated.

Continue to read Andrew Hampp, adage.com

June 17 2010

16:47

Seeking Professional Pro Bono Communications and New Technology Consultant at ESCR-Net

The International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) is currently looking to partner with a consultant in the area of new technologies and advancing communications for the Network. ESCR-Net is the largest network of groups and individuals from around the world working to secure economic and social justice through human rights. Please help us circulate to anyone who may be interested in taking on some pro bono work in this area.  You can view the announcement and full job description on the ESCR-Net website here: http://www.escr-net.org/about/about_show.htm?doc_id=1256687

June 09 2010

14:21

SB Nation CEO on how we’re fans of teams, not sports, T.V. shows, not T.V., and what that means for news

SB Nation — short for Sports Blog Nation — just announced it’s launching 20 new regional sports sites, with Houston and Dallas launching tomorrow aimed at competing with local newspapers’ sports sections and the new wave of local sports competitors like the ESPN local sites. SB Nation is a network of over 250 sites, most of them written by fans now paid on a contract basis. The vast majority of those writers have day jobs outside blogging. (Most common: lawyer.) Individual member blogs focus on one team or one sport, while the flagship site covers news of national interest.

SB Nation CEO Jim Bankoff is a former AOL executive with big plans for the site; at AOL, he was involved in the growth of prominent sites like TMZ and Engadget. I spoke with Bankoff this week about SB Nation’s expansion in the context of what news organizations can learn from the success of his project. “I actually think there is a bigger media story here,” Bankoff told me; he sees an opportunity for media companies to borrow some of SB Nation’s ideas. Here are a few.

Voice and perspective

SB Nation tosses aside the idea of objectivity. The premise of the site is to get sports fans hooked on their blogs written by sports fans. “We actually embrace fan bias and fan perspective,” Bankoff told me, adding that doesn’t mean they’re always cheerleaders: “Fans can be the most vocal critics of a team.” Writing with a point of view is still contentious in traditional newsrooms. It also helps that SB Nation sites focus on aggregation of and commentary on other people’s reporting than its own original work.

Focused content

Think of a typical newspaper sports section. It covers everything sports. Football, baseball, soccer, gymnastics — whatever season it is, that’s what you get. There’s a regional emphasis, but still, golf and ice skating live on the same pages. Bankoff’s approach is to think about people’s habits, rather than a broad topic. “We’re not fans of sports — we’re fans of teams,” Bankoff says. “We’re not fans of television. We’re fans of shows.” Are we interested in health? Perhaps, but we’re definitely interested in a disease, when we have one. Creating a community around a topic online needs to be sharply focused and relevant to readers.

Leverage repeat visitors

The potential to update a story in realtime is one of the great promises of the web. SB Nation has developed a good way to present updates, not unlike a tag page but with a sharper design. “One of our key innovations is the ’story stream,’” Bankoff told me, urging me to browse to the front page of his flagship. There I noticed several ongoing stories noting the number of updates posted, plus some links with time stamps. Clicking the update bar takes the reader to a stream of posts, organized by time stamp. An individual update provides the reader a link to the stream. Bankoff said it’s particularly handy for users following a story on a mobile device. (And repeat readers who keep hitting “Reload” for the latest updates are obviously appealing from an advertising perspective.)

“It was a little bit of an experiment,” Bankoff said. He wanted to improve on the various ways bloggers have updated stories in the past: the long single post with many updates pasted on top of each other, the tag (that is not immediately obvious to users), the disconnected posts that might appear in a “related posts” section. Those models have their merits but can be “clunky” and difficult for the user to navigate, he said. Bankoff said user feedback to the format has been positive.

Scalability

SB Nation has another advantage: It’s designed to expand. It’s the same instinct behind AOL’s hyperlocal project Patch (which hopes to launch “hundreds” of sites by the end of the year) and, on a smaller scale, the Gothamist or Gawker sites: Leverage the cost of the overhead of one site by running many. This is particularly important when you’ve invested in technology. SB Nation has a team of half a dozen developers who’ve built a shared platform that allows hundreds of users to contribute to the network sites at once, plus tools like the story stream and mobile products. With the technology in place, expansion becomes much less expensive. “We can expand in many directions,” Bankoff said.

March 24 2010

15:42

NetSquared Local: What, why and how to get connected locally

NetSquared Share Build CollaborateNetSquared works on and offline to connect the global community at the intersection of technology and social change. The website and Community Blog are your online spaces to connect, share ideas, and collaborate. Offline we take things local!

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March 23 2010

21:48

Attend a Workshop to Help Develop the ISHub 2.0

The IS Hub is a collaborative concept that, if achieved, will create a cohesive network of web platforms to help improve the lives of people all over the world.  You are invited to collaborate at an upcoming workshop on April 8 in Utrecht to help shape the future of this technology. The goal of the workshop is to share the IS Hub externally to find people to help develop it further. Rooted in the 2.0 philosophy, the organizers hope that by sharing the idea they can join forces to create something extraordinary.

Here is an explanation of the IS Hub from the workshop coordinators:

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