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May 21 2013

22:02

Two pieces of information

Two pieces of information that came to my attention today:

Firstly, from a piece of research on aspiring journalists in France:

“Students from the least privileged social sectors are more socially committed and more aware of their civic responsibility: These students want “to reveal cases of corruption, show realities that are unknown to the general public, and to do investigative journalism”.

“The students belonging to disadvantaged social classes value the profession of journalism the most, and have a culture of effort and selflessness, which has been inherited from their families. The force lifting the social elevator to access an intellectual profession like journalism is their constant effort. They consider journalism to be a “useful and noble” profession. They have a more romantic and social view of the profession: they want to be a real communication channel for the village people, the forgotten, and the voiceless … However, these students practice self-censorship by not working in recognised and prestigious media, unlike the students from more privileged social classes who do so because they have greater social capital and contacts in the profession of journalism thanks to their families.”

Secondly, from a number of sources on Twitter:

“Independent.co.uk is offering a rare opportunity to an aspiring young journalist. We’re looking for an exceptionally motivated, intelligent and organised undergraduate with a passion for our brand, the world of news, and student life, to come and gain work experience within our Digital team for three months this summer 2013.

“You must be able to work from Monday 17 June through to 30 August 2013. This is work experience, so it is not a paid opportunity, but your travel and lunch expenses will be covered. You will need to provide a letter from your university, confirming that this work experience placement is beneficial and supports your course.”

Over to you.

22:02

Two pieces of information

Two pieces of information that came to my attention today:

Firstly, from a piece of research on aspiring journalists in France:

“Students from the least privileged social sectors are more socially committed and more aware of their civic responsibility: These students want “to reveal cases of corruption, show realities that are unknown to the general public, and to do investigative journalism”.

“The students belonging to disadvantaged social classes value the profession of journalism the most, and have a culture of effort and selflessness, which has been inherited from their families. The force lifting the social elevator to access an intellectual profession like journalism is their constant effort. They consider journalism to be a “useful and noble” profession. They have a more romantic and social view of the profession: they want to be a real communication channel for the village people, the forgotten, and the voiceless … However, these students practice self-censorship by not working in recognised and prestigious media, unlike the students from more privileged social classes who do so because they have greater social capital and contacts in the profession of journalism thanks to their families.”

Secondly, from a number of sources on Twitter:

“Independent.co.uk is offering a rare opportunity to an aspiring young journalist. We’re looking for an exceptionally motivated, intelligent and organised undergraduate with a passion for our brand, the world of news, and student life, to come and gain work experience within our Digital team for three months this summer 2013.

“You must be able to work from Monday 17 June through to 30 August 2013. This is work experience, so it is not a paid opportunity, but your travel and lunch expenses will be covered. You will need to provide a letter from your university, confirming that this work experience placement is beneficial and supports your course.”

Over to you.

April 02 2013

10:43

Book Review: Data Visualization: a successful design process by Andy Kirk

Data Visualization CoverMy next review is of Andy Kirk’s book Data Visualization: a successful design process. Those of you on Twitter might know him as @visualisingdata, where you can follow his progress around the world as he delivers training. He also blogs at Visualising Data.

Previously in this area, I’ve read Tufte’s book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and Nathan Yau’s Visualize ThisTufte’s book is based around a theory of effective visualisation whilst Visualize This is a more practical guide featuring detailed code examples. Kirk’s book fits between the two: it contains some material on the more theoretical aspects of effective visualisation as well as an annotated list of software tools; but the majority of the book covers the end-to-end design process.

Data Vizualisation introduced me to Anscombe’s Quartet. The Quartet is four small datasets, eleven (x,y) coordinate pairs in each. The Quartet is chosen so the common statistical properties (e.g. mean values of x and y, standard deviations for same, linear regression coefficients) for each set are identical, but when plotted they look very different. The numbers are shown in the table below.

Anscombe Quartet Data

Plotted they look like this:

Anscombe's QuartetAside from set 4, the numbers look unexceptional. However, the plots look strikingly different. We can easily classify their differences visually, despite the sets having the same gross statistical properties. This highlights the power of visualisation. As a scientist, I am constantly plotting the data I’m working on to see what is going on and as a sense check: eyeballing columns of numbers simply doesn’t work. Kirk notes that the design criteria for such exploratory visualisations are quite different from those highlighting particular aspects of a dataset, more abstract “data art” presentations, or a interactive visualisations prepared for others to use.

In contrast to the books by Tufte and Yau, this book is much more about how to do data visualisation as a job. It talks pragmatically about getting briefs from the client and their demands. I suspect much of this would apply to any design work.

I liked Kirk’s “Eight Hats of data visualisation design” metaphor; which name the skills a visualiser requires: Initiator, Data Scientist, Journalist, Computer Scientist, Designer, Cognitive Scientist, Communicator and Project Manager. In part, this covers what you will require to do data visualisation, but it also gives you an idea of whom you might turn to for help  –  someone with the right hat.

The book is scattered with examples of interesting visualisations, alongside a comprehensive taxonomy of chart types. Unsurprisingly, the chart types are classified in much the same way as statistical methods: in terms of the variable categories to be displayed (i.e. continuous, categorical and subdivisions thereof). There is a temptation here though: I now want to make a Sankey diagram… even if my data doesn’t require it!

In terms of visualisation creation tools, there are no real surprises. Kirk cites Excel first, but this is reasonable: it’s powerful, ubiquitous, easy to use and produces decent results as long as you don’t blindly accept defaults or get tempted into using 3D pie charts. He also mentions the use of Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape to tidy up charts generated in more analysis-oriented packages such as R. With a programming background, the temptation is to fix problems with layout and design programmatically which can be immensely difficult. Listed under programming environments is the D3 Javascript library, this is a system I’m interested in using  –  having had some fun with Protovis, a D3 predecessor.

Data Visualization works very well as an ebook. The figures are in colour (unlike the printed book) and references are hyperlinked from the text. It’s quite a slim volume which I suspect compliments Andy Kirk’s “in-person” courses well.


August 02 2012

14:41

Hate transcribing audio? Crowdsource it instead

For journalists who don't mind getting their hands dirty, Amazon's Mechanical Turk service can be a cost-effective way to avoid one of the least thrilling parts of the reporting process: transcribing. Read More »

July 26 2012

11:54

Analyzing documents with the help of the crowd

A Duke computer scientist and his graduate students are hoping their FirstPass project will help journalists analyze massive dumps of public records by harnessing the power of the crowd with Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Read More »

March 28 2012

12:06

Reduced Relevance – the downside of social, mobile news

Facebook Activity PluginNews moves so quickly that your Facebook ‘friends’ just can’t keep up.

In a guest post for OJB, Neil Thurman highlights a new research report that suggests the increased availability of news on mobile platforms, and its harnessing of social networks—like Facebook—to power recommendations, comes at a price: stories that are less relevant to readers’ interests than those recommended by editors and found on news providers’ traditional websites.

Given the modern software platforms that mobile devices offer and their ability to be location-aware, when my co-author, Prof Steve Schifferes, and I started work on this report we were expecting news providers’ mobile editions and ‘apps’ to be highly personalizable. In fact we found they offered, on average, 13 times fewer forms of personalization than news providers’ full web editions.

We think this might be a result of the relatively early stage of development of mobile news apps but also because mobile devices—like the iPad—are often used for passive rather than active consumption. We reached the conclusion that if you like to get your news filtered to your preferences you’re better sticking to news providers’ main websites.

We also found that social filters performed poorly against editors in their choice of stories readers wanted to see. Specifically the Facebook plug-in some news sites have used hasn’t done a good job of predicting readers’ interests.

News moves so quickly that your Facebook ‘friends’ just can’t keep up, and we have fewer overlapping interests with those ‘friends’ than we think. Professional editors can still better predict the stories you’ll want to read than the social filters currently available on some news sites.

Although journalists have thus-far retained their gate keeping role, we do believe that social media is going to be increasingly crucial to the future of news. Our evidence suggests that there still is a gap in the market for effective social news filters, which research projects and commercial companies have not yet filled.

Our report surveyed eleven national news websites in the UK and US over a three and a half year period.

February 10 2012

18:00

Still shaping the way people think about news innovation? A few reflections on the new KNC 2.0

As someone who probably has spent more time thinking about the Knight News Challenge than anyone outside of Knight Foundation headquarters — doing a dissertation on the subject will do that to you! — I can’t help but follow its evolution, even after my major research ended in 2010. And evolve it has: from an initial focus on citizen journalism and bloggy kinds of initiatives (all the rage circa 2007, right?) to a later emphasis on business models, visualizations, and data-focused projects (like this one) — among a whole host of other projects including news games, SMS tools for the developing world, crowdsourcing applications, and more.

Now, after five years and $27 million in its first incarnation, Knight News Challenge 2.0 has been announced for 2012, emphasizing speed and agility (three contests a year, eight-week turnarounds on entries) and a new topical focus (the first round is focused on leveraging existing networks). While more information will be coming ahead of the February 27 launch, here are three questions to chew on now.

Does the Knight News Challenge still dominate this space?

The short answer is yes (and I’m not just saying that because, full disclosure, the Knight Foundation is a financial supporter of the Lab). As I’ve argued before, in the news innovation scene, at this crossroads of journalism and technology communities, the KNC has served an agenda-setting kind of function — perhaps not telling news hipsters what to think regarding the future of journalism, but rather telling them what to think about. So while folks might disagree on the Next Big Thing for News, there’s little question that the KNC has helped to shape the substance and culture of the debate and the parameters in which it occurs.

Some evidence for this comes from the contest itself: Whatever theme/trend got funded one year would trigger a wave of repetitive proposals the next. (As Knight said yesterday: “Our concern is that once we describe what we think we might see, we receive proposals crafted to meet our preconception.”)

And yet the longer answer to this question is slightly more nuanced. When the KNC began in 2006, with the first winners named in 2007, it truly was the only game in town — a forum for showing “what news innovation looks like” unlike any other. Nowadays, a flourishing ecosystem of websites (ahem, like this one), aggregators (like MediaGazer), and social media platforms is making the storyline of journalism’s reboot all the more apparent. It’s easier than ever to track who’s trying what, which experiments are working, and so on — and seemingly in real time, as opposed to a once-a-year unveiling. Hence the Knight Foundation’s move to three quick-fire contests a year, “as we try to bring our work closer to Internet speed.”

How should we define the “news” in News Challenge?

One of the striking things I found in my research (discussed in a previous Lab post) was that Knight, in its overall emphasis, has pivoted away from focusing mostly on journalism professionalism (questions like “how do we train/educate better journalists?”) and moved toward a broader concern for “information.” This entails far less regard for who’s doing the creating, filtering, or distributing — rather, it’s more about ensuring that people are informed at the local community level. This shift from journalism to information, reflected in the Knight Foundation’s own transformation and its efforts to shape the field, can be seen, perhaps, like worrying less about doctors (the means) and more about public health (the ends) — even if this pursuit of health outcomes sometimes sidesteps doctors and traditional medicine along the way.

This is not to say that Knight doesn’t care about journalism. Not at all. It still pours millions upon millions of dollars into clearly “newsy” projects — including investigative reporting, the grist of shoe-leather journalism. Rather, this is about Knight trying to rejigger the boundaries of journalism: opening them up to let other fields, actors, and ideas inside.

So, how should you define “news” in your application? My suggestion: broadly.

What will be the defining ethos of KNC 2.0?

This is the big, open, and most interesting question to me. My research on the first two years of KNC 1.0, using a regression analysis, found that contest submissions emphasizing participation and distributed knowledge (like crowdsourcing) were more likely to advance, all things being equal. My followup interviews with KNC winners confirmed this widely shared desire for participation — a feeling that the news process not only could be shared with users, but in fact should be.

I called this an “ethic of participation,” a founding doctrine of news innovation that challenges journalism’s traditional norm of professional control. But perhaps, to some extent, that was a function of the times, during the roughly 2007-2010 heyday of citizen media, with the attendant buzz around user-generated content as the hot early-adopter thing in news — even if news organizations then, as now, struggled to reconcile and incorporate a participatory audience. Even while participation has become more mainstream in journalism, there are still frequent flare-ups, like this week’s flap over breaking news on Twitter, revealing enduring tensions at the “collision of two worlds — when a hierarchical media system in the hands of the few collides with a networked media system open to all,” as Alfred Hermida wrote.

So what about this time around? Perhaps KNC 2.0 will have an underlying emphasis on Big Data, algorithms, news apps, and other things bubbling up at the growing intersection of computer science and journalism. It’s true that Knight is already underwriting a significant push in this area through the (also just-revised) Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project (formerly called the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership — which Nikki Usher and I have written about for the Lab). To what extent is there overlap or synergy here? OpenNews, for 2012, is trying to build on the burgeoning “community around code” in journalism — leveraging the momentum of Hacks/Hackers, NICAR, and ONA with hackfests, code-swapping, and online learning. KNC 2.0, meanwhile, talks about embracing The Hacker Way described by Mark Zuckerberg — but at the same time backs away a bit from its previous emphasis on open source as a prerequisite. It’ll be interesting to see how computational journalism — explained well in this forthcoming paper (PDF here) by Terry Flew et al. in Journalism Practice — figures into KNC 2.0.

Regardless, the Knight News Challenge is worth watching for what it reveals about the way people — journalists and technologists, organizations and individuals, everybody working in this space — talk about and make sense of “news innovation”: what it means, where it’s taking us, and why that matters for the future of journalism.

January 17 2012

10:10

10 reasons Ph.D. students fail

"Read on for the top ten reasons students fail out of Ph.D. school." This is a GREAT list! I think it's missing one thing: (11) Focus on your teaching/TA duties to the detriment of your own research.

December 21 2011

15:20

October 09 2011

06:02

Tools (US) - NewsLibrary provides ($) access to more than 173m news articles

NewsLibrary (US) is a huge archive of news articles. The service provides paid access to more than 173 million articles (of course growing), to thousands of newspapers, publications and other news sources, and more than 32 years of newspaper coverage. 

According to their website (as of today) you can conduct searches for free. For retrieval and more membership is required. Membership features: $2.95 per article, $19.95 a month (25 articles), and $199.95 a year (500 articles).

 

Visit the site NewsLibrary.com

July 09 2011

17:24

Seasonal business? - IDC: Tablet shipments fell 28 percent, below lofty expectations

ZDNet :: Global tablet shipments in the first quarter fell -28 percent from the fourth quarter and failed to hit expectations, according to research firm IDC. Specifically, tablet shipments were 7.2 million units worldwide. Although that tally failed to meet expectations, IDC still raised its 2011 shipment forecast to 53.5 million from 50.4 million.

[Jennifer Song, Research Analyst:] Although media tablet sales were not as high as expected in 1Q11 due to slower consumer demand, overall economic conditions, and supply-chain constraints, we believe with the entrance of competitive new devices in second half of 2011, the market will sell close to 53 million units for the year and continue to grow long-term.

Continue to read Larry Dignan, www.zdnet.com

Continue to read IDC, www.businesswire.com

June 30 2011

10:35

Big society research

About 12 months ago I was asked by a colleague if I’d like to participate in a project called Big Society research.

After the political rhetoric in the run up to the election last year it seemed at the very least like an opportunity to find out how the legacy of people working together to create better neighbourhoods, improve public services and adapt to constantly changing economic, social and cultural situations was somehow different to the way they might do that in Cameron’s so called ‘Big Society’.

Four themed workshops for researchers and none academics aim to collect together the raft of existing research which might provide some pointers to what Big Society might be about – whilst recognising that the vast majority of work in this area substantially pre-dates attempts by any political party to badge it as a policy initiative. And this is where most of the tension lay as researchers and others disassociate themselves with the party political posturing in order to get on with the business of collating evidence through past papers, case studies, interventions and ongoing projects by people who never thought they were doing was anything other than trying to work out why things don’t work as well as they might – and in some cases – how this could be changed so they did.

Amidst the media ripples of discontent among colleagues in the research community over the relative distance between central government (funding) and researchers in relation to ‘Big Society’ a friend of mine offered some helpful thoughts. His view was that intellectually he could not ignore the possibilities of new thinking purely because he was extremely uncomfortable with the ‘language of the right’. He gave me a concrete apolitical example from work he’d been doing in India where villagers – not health professionals – support new mothers and babies. His work identified the response of the villagers as cultural. There to deepen the ties of existing relationships and encourage others to share responsibility for care. Uncovering the essence of how this practice emerged and how it continues is surely a worthwhile intellectual pursuit regardless of its apparent mapping with the cost saving agenda of policy makers. Not exactly a justification for research into ‘Big Society’ but a compelling argument nevertheless and one that ought to persuade some that perhaps the biggest challenge of this new context is how to retain the integrity of work in this area for its own sake and how to frame and present it in such a way that it cannot be hi-jacked by ‘policy wonks’ and political band wagoners to further a spurious cost saving agenda.

May 19 2011

18:45

How journalists are using Twitter

survey of nearly 500 journalists across 12 countries offers some insights into what reporters are doing on Twitter.

It found that nearly half of respondents (47 per cent) said they used Twitter to source new story angles, compared to 35 percent who used Facebook.

But conventional PR sources far outweighed the use of social media for story ideas, with 62 per cent of journalists sourcing stories from PR agences and 59 per cent from corporate spokespersons.

Journalists seemed more reluctant to turn to social media to help them with stories they were already working on.  The survey found that only a third used Twitter to verify stories and just a quarter turned to Facebook.

In contrast, the use of traditional channels was far higher, with 61 per cent saying they used PR agencies for verification and 57 percent cited corporate spokespeople. The report by the Oriella PR Network concludes:

Social media are playing an increasingly vital role in news-gathering. Nonetheless, if a journalist needs to check a fact or verify a story, brands and their agencies remain the first ports-of-call.

So while social media is becoming part of the toolkit of some reporters, the media is still places greater value on traditional PR and corporate channels.

The findings suggest journalists may be uneasy about turning to networks such as Twitter to verify information, perhaps out of concerns the authenticity of a tweet.

But this also ignores that Twitter is not a faceless medium. As Paul Bradshaw has suggested, “every piece of information, and every person, leaves a trail of data that you can use to build a picture of its reliability.”

The reticence of journalists to use social media for verification is reminiscent of the initial response to the telephone.

In his post, Bradshaw recalled how journalists were sceptical about the use of the telephone, worrying about how verify that the person at the other end of the line was who they purported to be.

There is always a process of negotiation that accompanies the introduction of new communication technologies into the newsroom.

This results in a contested process, particularly when it comes to disruptive technologies such as social media.

Journalists tend to transfer their existing ways of working to new platforms, rather than rethink how their reporting might change in the open, public and highly connected spaces created through social media.

May 12 2011

14:16

Meta research on online journalism

Usually I do not write about research here, but a new publication prompts me to note that now — almost 20 years after the first “online newspapers” made their debut — some research is beginning to appear about the research that has been done to date.

This is great news, because it lays a foundation for better and more focused research in the future.

The most recent article appeared in Journalism Studies 12(3): Online Journalism and the Promises of New Technology, by Steen Steensen (DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2010.501151). He looked at how “technological assets,” including interactivity, multimedia and hypertext, have been discussed and examined in the scholarly literature about online journalism.

Steensen points out that definitions are murky and imprecise — what one study defines as “hypertext,” another study defines as “interactivity.” (This has annoyed me for many years!) This presents quite a challenge to anyone who tries to aggregate the findings of several studies.

What will be VERY useful for future scholars is the way Steensen has broken down his examination into sub-categories under interactivity, multimedia and hypertext: content analysis; surveys, interviews and experiments; reception studies; summary.

In the end, Steensen suggests that we need to figure out how research can do a better job at discovering “why online journalism develops as it does” (p. 321). He wants to know more about why journalism organizations don’t do a better job with all the technology tools at their disposal.

I think that’s the wrong question.

Newsrooms of all kinds are constrained in a multitude of ways, and looking at why people working in those newsrooms can’t engage an audience effectively probably is not going to be helpful. What will be more useful to the journalism field — and to journalism’s mission of serving the public and informing people of things they need to know — are studies of how and why people interact with news, or why they do not.

Add to that: Studies of engagement and attention.

In recent conversations with other college educators, I’ve found I’m not alone in thinking the current crop of university students is different. I mean really different. The way they learn is different. The way they process and retain information is different. They are engaged with Facebook and other media all day long — and yet many of them are shockingly uninformed (because they only know what their friends see fit to “share”).

What story formats and information styles will get through to these young people?

What will engage them? What will educate them? What will expand their horizons so that they are fit to run the world when they become the ones in charge?

Usually I do not write about research here, but a new publication prompts me to note that now — almost 20 years after the first “online newspapers” made their debut — some research is beginning to appear about the research that has been done to date.

This is great news, because it lays a foundation for better and more focused research in the future.

The most recent article appeared in Journalism Studies 12(3): Online Journalism and the Promises of New Technology, by Steen Steensen (DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2010.501151). He looked at how “technological assets,” including interactivity, multimedia and hypertext, have been discussed and examined in the scholarly literature about online journalism.

Steensen points out that definitions are murky and imprecise — what one study defines as “hypertext,” another study defines as “interactivity.” (This has annoyed me for many years!) This presents quite a challenge to anyone who tries to aggregate the findings of several studies.

What will be VERY useful for future scholars is the way Steensen has broken down his examination into sub-categories under interactivity, multimedia and hypertext: content analysis; surveys, interviews and experiments; reception studies; summary.

In the end, Steensen suggests that we need to figure out how research can do a better job at discovering “why online journalism develops as it does” (p. 321). He wants to know more about why journalism organizations don’t do a better job with all the technology tools at their disposal.

I think that’s the wrong question.

Newsrooms of all kinds are constrained in a multitude of ways, and looking at why people working in those newsrooms can’t engage an audience effectively probably is not going to be helpful. What will be more useful to the journalism field — and to journalism’s mission of serving the public and informing people of things they need to know — are studies of how and why people interact with news, or why they do not.

Add to that: Studies of engagement and attention.

In recent conversations with other college educators, I’ve found I’m not alone in thinking the current crop of university students is different. I mean really different. The way they learn is different. The way they process and retain information is different. They are engaged with Facebook and other media all day long — and yet many of them are shockingly uninformed (because they only know what their friends see fit to “share”).

What story formats and information styles will get through to these young people?

What will engage them? What will educate them? What will expand their horizons so that they are fit to run the world when they become the ones in charge?

14:16

Meta research on online journalism

Usually I do not write about research here, but a new publication prompts me to note that now — almost 20 years after the first “online newspapers” made their debut — some research is beginning to appear about the research that has been done to date.

This is great news, because it lays a foundation for better and more focused research in the future.

The most recent article appeared in Journalism Studies 12(3): Online Journalism and the Promises of New Technology, by Steen Steensen (DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2010.501151). He looked at how “technological assets,” including interactivity, multimedia and hypertext, have been discussed and examined in the scholarly literature about online journalism.

Steensen points out that definitions are murky and imprecise — what one study defines as “hypertext,” another study defines as “interactivity.” (This has annoyed me for many years!) This presents quite a challenge to anyone who tries to aggregate the findings of several studies.

What will be VERY useful for future scholars is the way Steensen has broken down his examination into sub-categories under interactivity, multimedia and hypertext: content analysis; surveys, interviews and experiments; reception studies; summary.

In the end, Steensen suggests that we need to figure out how research can do a better job at discovering “why online journalism develops as it does” (p. 321). He wants to know more about why journalism organizations don’t do a better job with all the technology tools at their disposal.

I think that’s the wrong question.

Newsrooms of all kinds are constrained in a multitude of ways, and looking at why people working in those newsrooms can’t engage an audience effectively probably is not going to be helpful. What will be more useful to the journalism field — and to journalism’s mission of serving the public and informing people of things they need to know — are studies of how and why people interact with news, or why they do not.

Add to that: Studies of engagement and attention.

In recent conversations with other college educators, I’ve found I’m not alone in thinking the current crop of university students is different. I mean really different. The way they learn is different. The way they process and retain information is different. They are engaged with Facebook and other media all day long — and yet many of them are shockingly uninformed (because they only know what their friends see fit to “share”).

What story formats and information styles will get through to these young people?

What will engage them? What will educate them? What will expand their horizons so that they are fit to run the world when they become the ones in charge?

Usually I do not write about research here, but a new publication prompts me to note that now — almost 20 years after the first “online newspapers” made their debut — some research is beginning to appear about the research that has been done to date.

This is great news, because it lays a foundation for better and more focused research in the future.

The most recent article appeared in Journalism Studies 12(3): Online Journalism and the Promises of New Technology, by Steen Steensen (DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2010.501151). He looked at how “technological assets,” including interactivity, multimedia and hypertext, have been discussed and examined in the scholarly literature about online journalism.

Steensen points out that definitions are murky and imprecise — what one study defines as “hypertext,” another study defines as “interactivity.” (This has annoyed me for many years!) This presents quite a challenge to anyone who tries to aggregate the findings of several studies.

What will be VERY useful for future scholars is the way Steensen has broken down his examination into sub-categories under interactivity, multimedia and hypertext: content analysis; surveys, interviews and experiments; reception studies; summary.

In the end, Steensen suggests that we need to figure out how research can do a better job at discovering “why online journalism develops as it does” (p. 321). He wants to know more about why journalism organizations don’t do a better job with all the technology tools at their disposal.

I think that’s the wrong question.

Newsrooms of all kinds are constrained in a multitude of ways, and looking at why people working in those newsrooms can’t engage an audience effectively probably is not going to be helpful. What will be more useful to the journalism field — and to journalism’s mission of serving the public and informing people of things they need to know — are studies of how and why people interact with news, or why they do not.

Add to that: Studies of engagement and attention.

In recent conversations with other college educators, I’ve found I’m not alone in thinking the current crop of university students is different. I mean really different. The way they learn is different. The way they process and retain information is different. They are engaged with Facebook and other media all day long — and yet many of them are shockingly uninformed (because they only know what their friends see fit to “share”).

What story formats and information styles will get through to these young people?

What will engage them? What will educate them? What will expand their horizons so that they are fit to run the world when they become the ones in charge?

May 02 2011

17:30

Canadians Prefer to Get News from Friends (not Editors) on Social Media

Journalists today are expected to be active on social media, sharing observations, anecdotes and links with their audience. Facebook itself is reaching out to newsrooms, recently launching the Journalists on Facebook page as a resource for the media.

But a study from Canada suggests more people prefer to get their news via their friends and acquaintances on social media, than from a journalist or news organization. And there are mixed signals as to whether audiences think journalists should be using Twitter in their professional work.

I was the lead author of the study, "Social Networks Transforming How Canadians Get the News," from the Canadian Media Research Consortium (CMRC). It gave further evidence of the impact social media is having on how people get the news and from whom. Social media services are turning into personalized news streams for Canadians of all ages, who rely on their digital circle of friends, family and acquaintances to alert them to interesting news and information.

The CMRC study is based on an online survey of a representative national sample of 1,682 adults conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion. The margin of error -- which measures sampling variability -- is +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

Keeping up with the news was one of the attractions of social networks for more than two-thirds of social media users. Every day, almost half of social media users in Canada get some of their news every day via links and recommendations from friends, family and colleagues who broadened their horizons, the study found.

A study by Pew Research last year found a similar trend taking place in the U.S., as news consumers increasingly shared links and recommendations in their social networks.

Your friend as your news editor

People have always shared the news, from discussing last night's news bulletin to sending a newspaper clipping. But social media is extending the ability of audiences to influence the distribution and reach of news.

The CMRC study points to the growing influence of users to decide what is seen and read, as newsrooms jump onto social media platforms as a new way to distribute content and reach a bigger audience.

The survey showed that Canadians were twice as likely to get news from friends on social networks than from journalists or official news accounts. Only one in five said they receive news from a media outlet on social networks. For Twitter, only one in ten get their news from tweeting journalists.

cbc news alerts.jpg

The figures signal that it is more important for a newsroom to get others to share and recommend content than to do it through an official account. The study suggests that the more than 18 million Canadians on Facebook and almost 5 million on Twitter are becoming the news editors for their social circles, deciding whether a story, video or other piece of content is interesting enough to recommend.

Should Journalists Tweet?

As journalists increasing use Twitter and tap into social media for reporting, networking and storytelling, the CMRC study strikes a note of caution. Canadians were evenly divided on whether news organizations should include information gleaned from social media into their reports.

There was a similar ambivalence when it came to whether journalists should even use Twitter to report the news. While 39 percent said yes, 34 percent said no and 26 percent were unsure. The ambiguous results suggest that Twitter may just be too new for audiences to decide whether it is a good or bad thing for the media.

Journalists_Twitter.jpg

Perhaps more significantly, younger Canadians were much more comfortable with a more social type of journalism, which is not surprising given how social media has become woven into the fabric of their lives.

The CMRC study found that a majority of under-34-year-olds in Canada use social media regularly, and that younger adults tended to be heavier users. Students, in particular, were much more comfortable with the idea of journalists integrating social media content into their reporting.

Similarly, just over half of students agreed that journalists should use Twitter to help report on trends and issues. The figures suggest a generational divide in attitudes toward social media and journalism.

For example, the study found that virtually no one over 55 follows journalists on Twitter. But kids who have grown up with the social web seem far more accepting of news organizations and journalists integrating these new services into their daily routines.

The conundrum for media organizations

Social media presents tremendous possibilities for journalists to reach audiences, expand their range of sources and engage with communities. The changing consumption patterns for news also raise questions for media organizations.

younger use of social nets.jpg

Sharing the news is becoming an important part of how people experience the news. The CMRC study found that 64 percent of news consumers value being able to easily share content, rising to 83 percent for those under the age of 34. But those "share" and "like" buttons tend to point users towards Facebook or Twitter, undermining existing mass media business models based on delivering large audiences to advertisers.

While social media creates new opportunities for the news industry to reach and engage audiences, particularly younger Canadians, it also represents competition for consumer attention and revenue. It further fragments the audience and potentially could signal a shift in reader loyalty from a news brand to their social circle.

Alfred Hermida is the lead author on the CMRC report on social media. He is an online news pioneer and digital media scholar. He is an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, the University of British Columbia, where he leads the integrated journalism program. He was a founding news editor of the BBC News website. He blogs at Reportr.net.

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April 02 2011

03:38

Timelines in journalism: A closer look

You’re not going to create one every week, but a timeline is a useful — and helpful — type of information graphic, and fairly common in journalism. When teaching students about timelines, here are some ideas to consider and discuss:

Chronology or timeline?

Sometimes a timeline is not a timeline, according to Len de Groot, a longtime graphics journalist. A timeline shows actual spans of time, with proportional measurements for decades, years, days or hours, depending on the total time involved. “The space between events should be as important [as] or more important than the events themselves,” he says. A chronology, on the other hand, shows the momentum of a series of events. It might be more effective if presented as a list, or as an illustrated slideshow.

Here’s an excellent chronology about Operation Odyssey Dawn on Libya, from El País:

Cronología: Operación Amanecer de la Odisea sobre Libia

Not what we think of when we imagine a timeline, is it? But it’s quite well suited to telling the story of recent events in Libya, and it is being updated day by day. (Navigate days via the two arrows at upper left.)

The Wall Street Journal has published a multi-line timeline covering recent events in Arab countries (below). Selecting any day loads a region map and summary of events for that day in an area above the timeline. I like the way this compact layout shows us at a glance where activities have occurred, and when. This is a very successful timeline graphic tailored closely to the story.

WSJ: Middle East Turmoil

Here are some questions we can ask before we sketch our timeline ideas:

  1. Is this a story about hours, days, years or decades?
  2. Should equal periods of time be represented with equal space? (Example: 100 pixels equals one year.)
  3. Are parallel time periods required? (Example: While this was happening in India, this was happening in China.)
  4. Does it make sense to combine the timeline with a map or a line graph?
  5. Should photos or other images be added to the timeline to help tell the story?
  6. How much text is necessary to make the story understandable — and satisfying?

A “timeline” that does not represent time proportionally to space — but which works well, I think, because it is straightforward and clear, is this one by graphic designer Sean Carton:

Sean Carton: Social Media Timeline

Design questions

Most timeline graphics present time in horizontal lines, with the oldest events to the left and more recent ones progressing to the right (I suppose we would do it right-to-left if we were Arab or Chinese). A notable and very recent exception is the Guardian’s brilliant (and vertical) Arab spring: An interactive timeline of Middle East protests (blogged about by Tracy Boyer last week).

Guardian.co.uk: Arab Spring timeline graphic

I think it’s useful to think about Len de Groot’s distinction between timelines and chronologies when admiring this graphic: Is this really a “timeline”? I don’t think so — has there ever been a better illustration of the momentum of events? No need to quibble over the words, though, when the execution is so effective.

Here are some questions we can ask as we examine our sketches of our timeline ideas:

  1. Will people like it?
  2. Is it helpful, easy to understand?
  3. Is it confusing?
  4. Hard to use?
  5. Does it add something that text alone would not convey?
  6. Does the graphic need to be a timeline — or would a regular slideshow (or map, or whatever) be equally effective?

One of the more successful interactive timelines is 10 years old — every time I revisit this package about Winston Churchill, I am amazed all over again at how well it works. Note in particular the double timeline at the bottom: The upper bar is Churchill’s life, and the lower bar shows concurrent world events.

Library of Congress: Churchill and the Great Republic

The Template Trap

Sometimes I think we fall into a “one size fits all” trap with templates or tools. You have a template or a tool, and you re-use it for various stories. But is that always the right decision? Does expediency sometimes defeat the goal of clear communication?

WSJ: Deepwater Horizon Rig Disaster

I think the Deepwater Horizon Rig Disaster timeline (above) is much more successful than the Biggest Volcanic Eruptions (below), which skimps on details about the eruptions. Both are from The Wall Street Journal.

WSJ: Biggest Volcanic Eruptions

Likewise, CNN’s Trapped Chilean Miners timeline (below) is better suited to its timeline interface than the recent Egyptian Protests timeline, which uses the same interface.

CNN: Trapped Chilean Miners

Timeline tools

TimelineSetter is a new, free tool from the great folks at Pro Publica, the nonprofit investigative journalism organization. It’s not available for mass consumption just yet (“We have some more code generalization and fixes we need to do before it’s ready to open source, but we plan to do so as soon as we can,” they said on March 22), but it might be useful in lots of different situations. Below is a timeline created with this tool.

Pro Publica: How One Blast Affected Five Soldiers

The functionality and the design are similar to the timeline template The New York Times has been using for some time; for a recent example, see Elizabeth Taylor: 1932-2011 (below). I found the checkbox options to be distracting and unnecessary.

New York Times: Elizabeth Taylor: 1932-2011

Other free timeline tools were described (and linked) in a post by Alex Gamela in May 2010. Dipity and SIMILE are fairly well known; others are less so, but it’s worthwhile to check out the different visual approaches to presenting information in this way.

Which of these tools produces the best result for the story you want to tell?

Do not create an interactive timeline just because it’s cool. Use interactivity to make the information more clear.

Two older timelines that are worth a look:

03:38

Timelines in journalism: A closer look

You’re not going to create one every week, but a timeline is a useful — and helpful — type of information graphic, and fairly common in journalism. When teaching students about timelines, here are some ideas to consider and discuss:

Chronology or timeline?

Sometimes a timeline is not a timeline, according to Len de Groot, a longtime graphics journalist. A timeline shows actual spans of time, with proportional measurements for decades, years, days or hours, depending on the total time involved. “The space between events should be as important [as] or more important than the events themselves,” he says. A chronology, on the other hand, shows the momentum of a series of events. It might be more effective if presented as a list, or as an illustrated slideshow.

Here’s an excellent chronology about Operation Odyssey Dawn on Libya, from El País:

Cronología: Operación Amanecer de la Odisea sobre Libia

Not what we think of when we imagine a timeline, is it? But it’s quite well suited to telling the story of recent events in Libya, and it is being updated day by day. (Navigate days via the two arrows at upper left.)

The Wall Street Journal has published a multi-line timeline covering recent events in Arab countries (below). Selecting any day loads a region map and summary of events for that day in an area above the timeline. I like the way this compact layout shows us at a glance where activities have occurred, and when. This is a very successful timeline graphic tailored closely to the story.

WSJ: Middle East Turmoil

Here are some questions we can ask before we sketch our timeline ideas:

  1. Is this a story about hours, days, years or decades?
  2. Should equal periods of time be represented with equal space? (Example: 100 pixels equals one year.)
  3. Are parallel time periods required? (Example: While this was happening in India, this was happening in China.)
  4. Does it make sense to combine the timeline with a map or a line graph?
  5. Should photos or other images be added to the timeline to help tell the story?
  6. How much text is necessary to make the story understandable — and satisfying?

A “timeline” that does not represent time proportionally to space — but which works well, I think, because it is straightforward and clear, is this one by graphic designer Sean Carton:

Sean Carton: Social Media Timeline

Design questions

Most timeline graphics present time in horizontal lines, with the oldest events to the left and more recent ones progressing to the right (I suppose we would do it right-to-left if we were Arab or Chinese). A notable and very recent exception is the Guardian’s brilliant (and vertical) Arab spring: An interactive timeline of Middle East protests (blogged about by Tracy Boyer last week).

Guardian.co.uk: Arab Spring timeline graphic

I think it’s useful to think about Len de Groot’s distinction between timelines and chronologies when admiring this graphic: Is this really a “timeline”? I don’t think so — has there ever been a better illustration of the momentum of events? No need to quibble over the words, though, when the execution is so effective.

Here are some questions we can ask as we examine our sketches of our timeline ideas:

  1. Will people like it?
  2. Is it helpful, easy to understand?
  3. Is it confusing?
  4. Hard to use?
  5. Does it add something that text alone would not convey?
  6. Does the graphic need to be a timeline — or would a regular slideshow (or map, or whatever) be equally effective?

One of the more successful interactive timelines is 10 years old — every time I revisit this package about Winston Churchill, I am amazed all over again at how well it works. Note in particular the double timeline at the bottom: The upper bar is Churchill’s life, and the lower bar shows concurrent world events.

Library of Congress: Churchill and the Great Republic

The Template Trap

Sometimes I think we fall into a “one size fits all” trap with templates or tools. You have a template or a tool, and you re-use it for various stories. But is that always the right decision? Does expediency sometimes defeat the goal of clear communication?

WSJ: Deepwater Horizon Rig Disaster

I think the Deepwater Horizon Rig Disaster timeline (above) is much more successful than the Biggest Volcanic Eruptions (below), which skimps on details about the eruptions. Both are from The Wall Street Journal.

WSJ: Biggest Volcanic Eruptions

Likewise, CNN’s Trapped Chilean Miners timeline (below) is better suited to its timeline interface than the recent Egyptian Protests timeline, which uses the same interface.

CNN: Trapped Chilean Miners

Timeline tools

TimelineSetter is a new, free tool from the great folks at Pro Publica, the nonprofit investigative journalism organization. It’s not available for mass consumption just yet (“We have some more code generalization and fixes we need to do before it’s ready to open source, but we plan to do so as soon as we can,” they said on March 22), but it might be useful in lots of different situations. Below is a timeline created with this tool.

Pro Publica: How One Blast Affected Five Soldiers

The functionality and the design are similar to the timeline template The New York Times has been using for some time; for a recent example, see Elizabeth Taylor: 1932-2011 (below). I found the checkbox options to be distracting and unnecessary.

New York Times: Elizabeth Taylor: 1932-2011

Other free timeline tools were described (and linked) in a post by Alex Gamela in May 2010. Dipity and SIMILE are fairly well known; others are less so, but it’s worthwhile to check out the different visual approaches to presenting information in this way.

Which of these tools produces the best result for the story you want to tell?

Do not create an interactive timeline just because it’s cool. Use interactivity to make the information more clear.

Two older timelines that are worth a look:

April 01 2011

21:06

Studies find journalists use Twitter for broadcast

The final research paper at the ISOJ focused on how newsrooms were using Twitter.

Dale Blasingame from Texas State University, San Marcos, looked at how Twitter was changing TV news.

He started by saying that a web first approach in newsrooms is no longer enough due to the instant dissemination of news via Twitter.

Twitter allows both professionals and citizens to “jump the gate” and send news directly to audiences, challenging the traditional gatekeeping role of the journalist.

Blasingame studied coded almost 2,300 tweets from San Antonio newsrooms on a shooting incident.

He said it this case study showed how Twitter could be used as a tool to deliver news, but added “it would be foolish to suggest this happens on a daily basis.”

In terms of his analysis of tweets, the most were promotional in nature, followed by breaking news.

The results were worse for official station Twitter accounts. One station account just sent promotional links for web stories automatically.

Blasingame recommended that newsrooms should restrain promotional tweets to just 20% of all their messages.

Student uses of Twitter

Next up, Carrie Brown, University of Memphis, together with Elizabeth Hendrickson, University of Tennessee and Jeremy Littau, Lehigh University, presented a study on how Twitter could help journalists reach underserved communities.

Brown qualified the study as exploratory and largely descriptive, but it provides a useful starting point.

One group she studied was young people, students between 19 – 29. She found many of them know each other and post about what they are doing or banter during class. Twitter was used as a social tool for informal communication

Students saw Twitter as a pseudo-anonymous space, with lots of use for Twitter for fun and entertainment. A few were using it for professional networking.

But students also talked about getting information on Twitter, stumbling across news.

Brown also found that students were very receptive to getting news on Twitter from journalists. In the survey, students reported more engagement with the news.

But some wanted more of a relationship with journalists on Twitter, rather than just broadcast headlines.

Littau said students wanted connectivity, information, expression and entertainment from Twitter. But African-American students expressed more of a preference for information and expression than Caucasian students.

Shovelling tweets

Marcus Messner, Virginia Commonwealth University, with Maureen Linke and Asriel Eford, presented research on how traditional news media in the US were adopting Twitter and social bookmarking.

For their study, they looked at the top 99 newspapers and top 100 TV stations in the US. By 2010, 198 of them had Twitter accounts. These were the main Twitter feeds from the news organisation, rather than from individual reporters.

As for social bookmarking, 36% offered this in 2009 and 92% by 2010. Facebook has become almost fully adopted by the news media, with Twitter adoption jumping from a third in 2009 to more than 90% in 2010.

In terms of Twitter use, one in three news media did not tweet in 2009, falling to one in four by 2010.

Most of the tweets were news related.  Personal communication accounted for just 5.7% in 2009 and 3.5% in 2010.

Messner said the tweets were largely used as promotional tools for web stories, with few differences between newspapers and television.

He concluded that Twitter has been fully adopted by the US news media but not used to its full potential.

“Most tweets are still shovelware,” he said, “they are not engagement of the community.” He urged news organisations to look at Twitter as a social space, rather than just another publication platform.

International perspective on Twitter

The final paper came from a team of researchers who looked at the use of social media in 27 news outlets in 7 Iberian and Latin American countries.

Presenting the findings Elvira García de Torres (Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera, Spain) found that most messages on Twitter and Facebook were based on headline links.

Only 5.6% were conversational on Facebook. Only five newspapers engaged in a conversation with users on the news.

As might be expected, the researchers found that conversational messages have more potential to engage audiences.

The team found few requests for information from users, but also that journalists received little response from the audience.  Journalists did see some value in going to Facebook to find photos of people.

Surprising, the researchers found there were no rules, or no planning in the newsroom, around the use of social media.

14:38

This Week in Review: Navigating the Times’ pay-plan loopholes, +1 for social search, and innovation ideas

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

Putting the Times’ pay plan in place: If you read last week’s review, the first half of this week’s should feel like déjà vu — lots of back-and-forth about the wisdom of The New York Times’ new online pay plan, and some more hand-wringing about getting around that plan. If you want to skip that and get to the best stuff, I recommend Staci Kramer, David Cohn, and Megan Garber.

The Times launched its pay system Monday with a letter to its readers (snarkier version courtesy of Danny Sullivan), along with a 99-cent trial offer for the first four weeks and free access for people who subscribe to the Times on Kindle. Times digital chief Martin Nisenholtz gave a launch-day talk to newspaper execs, highlighted by his assertion that the link economy is not a win-win for content producers and aggregators.

Meanwhile, the discussion about the paywall’s worth rolled on. You can find a good cross-section of opinions in this On Point conversation with Ken Doctor, the Journal Register’s John Paton, The Times’ David Carr, and NYTClean creator David Hayes. The plan continues to draw support from some corners, including The Onion (in its typically ironic style, of course) and PC Magazine’s Lance Ulanoff. Former Financial Times reporter Tom Foremski and Advertising Age columnist Simon Dumenco both made similar arguments about the value of the plan, with Foremski urging us to support the Times as a moral duty to quality journalism and Dumenco ripping the blogosphere’s paywall-bashers for not doing original reporting like the Times.

And though the opposition was expressed much more strongly the past two weeks, there was a smattering of dissent about the plan this week, too — some from the Times’ mobile users. One theme among the criticism was the cost of developing the plan: Philip Greenspun wondered how the heck the Times spent $40 million on planning and implementation, and former Guardian digital head Emily Bell wrote about the opportunity cost of that kind of investment. BNET’s Erik Sherman proposed that the Times should have invested the money in innovation instead.

A few other interesting thoughts about the Times’ pay plan before we get to the wall-jumping debate: Media consultant Judy Sims said the plan might actually make the Times more social by providing an incentive for subscribers to share articles on social networks to their non-subscribing friends. Spot.Us’ David Cohn argued that the plan is much closer to a donation model than a paywall and argued for the Times to offer membership incentives. And Reuters’ Felix Salmon talked about how the proposal is changing blogging at the Times.

PaidContent’s Staci Kramer said the Times is fighting an uphill battle in the realm of public perception, but that struggle is the Times’ own fault, created by its way-too-complicated pay system.

The ethics of paywall jumping: With the Times’ “pay fence” going into effect, all the talk about ways to get around that fence turned into a practical reality. Business Insider compiled seven of the methods that have been suggested: A browser extension, Twitter feeds, using different computers, NYTClean and a User Script’s coding magic, Google (for five articles a day), and browser-switching or cookie-deleting. Mashable came up with an even simpler one: delete “?gwh=numbers” from the Times page’s URL.

Despite such easy workarounds, the Times is still cracking down in other areas: As Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan noted, it blocks links from all Google sites after the five-articles-per-day limit is reached. The Times also quickly (and successfully) requested a shutdown of one of the more brazen free-riding schemes yet concocted — NYT for a Nickel, which charged to access Times articles without paywall restrictions. (It also established a pattern for unauthorized Twitter aggregators and bookmarklets: You’re fine, as long as you don’t use the Times’ name.)

So we all obviously can crawl through the Times’ loopholes, but should we? A few folks made efforts to hack through the ethical thicket of the Times’ intentional and unintentional loopholes: Times media critic James Poniewozik didn’t come down anywhere solid, but said the Times’ leaky strategy “makes the paywall something like a glorified tip jar, on a massive scale—something you choose to contribute to without compulsion because it is the right thing” — except unlike those enterprises, it’s for-profit. In a more philosophical take, the Lab’s Megan Garber said the ethical conundrum shows the difficulty of trying to graft the physical world’s ethical assumptions onto the digital world.

A possible +1 for publishers: Google made a big step in the direction of socially driven search this week with the introduction of +1, a new feature that allows users to vote up certain search results in actions that are visible to their social network. Here are two good explainers of the feature from TechCrunch and Search Engine Land, both of whom note that +1′s gold mine is in allowing Google to personalize ads more closely, and that it’s starting on search results and eventually moving to sites across the web.

The feature was immediately compared to Facebook’s “Like” and Twitter’s retweets, though it functions a bit differently from either. As GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram noted, because it’s Google, it’s intrinsically tied to search, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. As Ingram said, it’s smart to add more of a social component to search, but Google’s search-centricity makes the “social network” aspect of +1 awkward, just as Buzz and Wave were. To paraphrase the argument of Frederic Lardinois of NewsGrange: if your +1′s go into your Google Profile and no one sees them, do they really make a sound?

All this seems to be good news for media sites. Lost Remote’s Cory Bergman said that if they essentially become “improve the SEO of this site” buttons, media companies will be pretty motivated to add them to their sites. Likewise, Poynter’s Damon Kiesow reasoned that +1 could be a great way for media sites to more deeply involve visitors who arrive via Google, who have typically been less engaged than visitors from Facebook and Twitter.

Shrinking innovation to spur it: This month’s Carnival of Journalism focuses on how to drive innovation, specifically through the Knight News Challenge and Reynolds Journalism Institute. Most of the posts rolled in yesterday, and they contain a litany of quick, smart ideas of new directions for news innovation and how to encourage it.

A quick sampling: City University London and Birmingham City University j-prof Paul Bradshaw proposed a much broader, smaller-scale News Challenge fund, with a second fund aimed at making those initiatives scale. J-Lab Jan Schaffer said we need to quit looking at innovation so much solely in terms of tools and more in terms of processes and relationships. British journalist Mary Hamilton and Drury j-prof Jonathan Groves both focused on innovation in training, with Groves proposing “innovation change agents” funded by groups like Knight and the RJI to train and transform newsrooms.

Also, University of British Columbia j-prof Alfred Hermida opined on the role of theory in innovation, Lisa Williams of Placeblogger advocated a small-scale approach to innovation, and the University of Colorado’s Steve Outing had some suggestions for the RJI fellowship program.

The mechanics of Twitter’s information flow: Four researchers from Yahoo and Cornell released a study this week analyzing, as they called it, “who says what to whom on Twitter.” One of their major findings was that half the information consumed on Twitter comes from a group of 20,000 “elite” users — media companies, celebrities, organizations, and bloggers. As Mathew Ingram of GigaOM observed, that indicates that the power law that governs the blogosphere is also in effect on Twitter, and big brands are still important even on a user-directed platform.

The Lab’s Megan Garber noted a few other interesting implications of the study, delving into Twitter’s two-step flow from media to a layer of influential sources to the masses, as well as the social media longevity of multimedia and list-oriented articles. A couple of other research-oriented items about Twitter: a Lab post on Dan Zarrella’s data regarding timing and Twitter posts, and Maryland prof Zeynep Tufekci more theoretical exploration of NPR’s Andy Carvin and the process of news production on Twitter.

Reading roundup: Plenty of other bits and pieces around the future-of-news world this week:

— New York Times editor Bill Keller wrote a second column, and like his anti-aggregation piece a couple of weeks ago, this piece — about the value of the Times’ impartiality and fact-based reporting — didn’t go over well. Reuters’ Felix Salmon called him intellectually dishonest, Scott Rosenberg called him defensive, and the Huffington Post’s Peter Goodman (a former Times reporter) said Keller misrepresented him.

— A few notes on The Daily: Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici said it was downloaded 500,000 times during its trial period and has 70,000 regular users, and a study was conducted finding that it’s more popular with less tech-savvy, less content-concerned users.

— Journal Register Co. CEO John Paton talked about transforming newspapers at the Newspaper Association of America convention; he summarized what he had to say in 10 tweets, and Alan Mutter wrote a post about the panel. The moderator, Ken Doctor, followed up with a Lab post looking at how long, exactly, newspapers have left.

— I’ll send you off with Jonathan Stray’s thoughtful post on rethinking journalism as a system for informing people, rather than just a series of stories. It’s a lot to chew on, but a key piece to add to the future-of-news puzzle.

Image of a fence-jumper by like oh so zen used under a Creative Commons license.

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