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July 30 2012


July 25 2011


Talk on the promise and practice of participatory journalism

During my trip to Australia, I was invited to deliver a keynote at the Screen Futures conference in Melbourne.

In the talk, I explored the promise and practice of participatory journalism.

It draws on the data from my co-authored book, Participatory Journalism: Guarding Open Gates at Online Newspapers.

We found that journalists are navigating uncharted waters – figuring out how to bring in the audience into the professional process of producing journalism at a time when the practice of what we called “journalism” tries to retain its structure and integrity, its rules and roles, its organizations and its traditions.

Here are the slides from the talk.

July 01 2011


Taking a break

I am taking some vacation time so this blog will be on hold for most of July.

Happy holidays everyone and thanks for reading.

Tags: Latest

June 15 2011


Worldviews Conference tackles social media and universities

The Worldviews Conference on Media and Higher Education will put the spotlight on social media on the afternoon of Thursday 16 June.

I’ll be talking part in a panel discussion on the implications of social media for universities at the end of the day. My focus will be on the implications of social media on how we evaluate and assess academic authority.

Here are a couple of the papers I am mentioning:

If you are not attending, you can follow the discussions on Twitter using the hashtag #wv2011 or via the live blog on the conference website.

I’ll post the slides of my presentation on Thursday.

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May 30 2011


Newspaper paywalls post on Huffington Post

There were two significant developments in the media in Canada last week.

The Huffington Post crossed the 49th parallel to set up Huff Post Canada and one of the largest newspaper groups, the PostMedia Network, dipped its toes into paywalls.

In my first post for the HuffPo, I discuss the metered model being tried out by PostMedia at two of its newspapers.

In the post, I take issue with the philosophy of charging readers for the news:

However, there is a more fundamental issue at play. People have never really paid for the news. By news, I mean the political infighting in city halls or the violence in faraway foreign places — the news that is important and matters but can be challenging to make relevant to a broad audience.

Readers were paying for the sport results, the lifestyle section, diversions like the crossword and horoscopes. The cost of producing “the daily miracle” as Canadian playwright David Sherman put it was largely borne by advertising sales. The subsidy model worked when mass media was the dominant model for distributing the news. The business of newspapers was delivering large audiences to advertisers, and they were pretty good at it.

I hope the post adds to the discussion on funding models. Head over to the Huff Post to read the full post and add your thoughts.

May 11 2011


Trust in mainstream media outdoes social media

You can almost hear journalists across newsrooms in Canada breathing a sigh of relief.

Canadians still trust the mainstream media, despite the rise of social media, according to the latest Canadian Media Research Consortium (CMRC) report.

According to a recent online survey of 1,682 adults, nine out of 10 Canadians judged information provided by traditional news media to be reliable and trustworthy. This compares to only one in four who say information from social networks is reliable.

It is the latest in a series of studies by researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, including myself, into the changing news consumption habits of Canadians.

“In an era of increasing fragmentation and competition for established news media, this is good news for traditional journalism,” said Fred Fletcher, UBC Graduate School of Journalism adjunct professor and lead author of the study, Even in the Digital Era, Canadians Have Confidence in Mainstream News Media (PDF).

The study did show that younger Canadians are more likely than their elders to have confidence in non-traditional news providers. But they still retain strong confidence in the mainstream media as well.

Our findings also suggest a difference in attitude towards social media between those who are immersed in this media ecosystem and those who are not part of this world.

Confidence in the information found on social networking sites is higher among frequent visitors to social networks. Among Canadians who visit social networks at least daily, some 40 per cent regard the information found there as reliable.

In contrast, virtually everyone surveyed who doesn’t use social media ranked it as not reliable as a source for information.

Given the growing influence of social networks in the distribution of news, it will be interesting to track how levels of confidence evolve over the coming years as a generation grows up with social media woven into their daily lives.

The Canadian Media Research Consortium report 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. The results were statistically weighted according to the most current Statistics Canada data on age, gender, region, and education to ensure a representative sample.

May 02 2011


April 29 2011


Why audiences read journalist blogs

Blogs have become part of the furniture of online news sites, with many journalists enthusiastically taking up blogging as part of their daily routine.

The CMRC study on news habits and social media just released shows that a minority of Canadians, 21 per cent, say they read or follow particular journalists online, through blogs or  social networks. But the figure doubles to 43 per cent for students.

As part of the research team, I wanted to find out whether journalistsʼ perceptions of the value of blogging matched those of news consumers.

Blogging is a form of social media that provides the news media with an easy to use publishing platform. Blogs specifically, and social media in general, offer a way to write about the news in a more conversational, informal and personal manner.

Journalists tend to use blogs to offer information that does not fit into a standard news report, as well as to provide some commentary and analysis on issues.

What we found that the main reasons people turned to journalist blogs was to get additional information about a story (61 per cent) or because they enjoyed reading the posts (59 per cent).

Just over half, 51 per cent, said blog posts helped them get a better understanding of the story, and 45 per cent said they were interested in the behind-the-scene details of a story.

But I was surprised to see that audiences were less enthusiastic about the ability to connect and engage with journalists via their blogs. Only a third said they follow journalists online to learn more about them or to share their views on a story.

The results suggest that most readers do not particularly value the social aspect of journalist blogs.

However, the figures tell a different story for young Canadians, particularly students.

Two-thirds of students said they follow journalists online to learn more about them. A similar number appreciated the ability to leave comments and feedback.

Our findings suggest that younger readers, especially those in college, see the appeal in the more personal, open and interactive form of journalism offered by blogs.

The Canadian Media Research Consortium report 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. The results were statistically weighted according to the most current Statistics Canada data on age, gender, region, and education to ensure a representative sample.

April 21 2011


Cartoon: How to explain the internet

Here’s something for a holiday Easter weekend. A wonderful cartoon by Rob Cottingham on how to explain the internet.

April 04 2011


April 02 2011


Patch president outlines community strategy

The afternoon keynote at the ISOJ was by Warren Webster, president of Patch Media.

Depending on who you listen to, Patch is or isn’t journalism. But it is hiring journalists and has a presence in 800 US towns. It has 50% penetration in these markets and is growing in monthly visits by more than 40%.

The percentage of traffic from AOL is fairly small compared to other traffic, said Webster. Rather people are finding Patch sites through Facebook.

The Patch president likened Facebook to having a newspaper box on the street corner.

Talking about the future of journalism, Webster compared it to being in the head car of a fast speeding train, but not knowing where it’s heading.

He located Patch within what people are interested in, arguing that people are interested in what is within 10 miles or 10,000 miles, rather in within 100 miles.

“Patch wants to sit squarely in that 10 mile space,” said Webster.

He argued that Patch is journalism. ”We were the largest hirer of journalists in 2010. And that is something I am really proud of,” he said.

In terms of salary, Webster said it pays local editors more or the same that they would earn at a local weekly, with benefits.

Patch has one full-time employee per site, with, on average, 12 freelancers contributing to it.

He talked about the sites as platforms for neighbourhoods, bringing together disparate and disorganised local information together.

The Patch sites aim to bring together local and regional news, a local journalist, local events, local deals free business listings and community engagement.

Webster said that part of Patch’s appeal as a community platform is that it can be personal and local, citing a story about a lost dog who was later found by its owner.

Patch worked to weave itself into the local community, for example, by having its staff volunteer for five days a year.

Webster said Patch is keen to work with journalism schools and has a program called Patch University to foster connections.



Christian Science Monitor grapples with tensions as web-only

The research presented at ISOJ by Jonathan Groves, Drury University and Carrie Brown, University of Memphis, looked at the Christian Science Monitor’s transition from print to web.

For the paper (PDF), the researchers spend three weeks in the newsroom, watching how the journalists worked and talking to them about the journalism.

The Monitor started in 1908 as a daily newspaper distributed by mail and switched to web-only daily in March 2009, with a print daily.

Grove read a quote from a journalist lamenting that management was only interested in traffic.

The Monitor had 9.5 million page views in December 2009 and reached its goal of 25 million page views by July 2010 with an editor who pushed journalists to write two stories a day and do anything to attract traffic.

With a new editor, traffic levelled out at 19.4 m page views and 8.8 million unique users by January 2011.

The researchers found a tension between the success of page views and the Monitor ideal of providing solutions-based journalism.

At core of strategy to boost traffic was more frequent updates, search engine optimisation, monitoring Google trends to identify topics and use social media to reach new audiences.


Study into use of new devices for news

One of the research papers presented at ISOJ by Hsiang Iris Chyi and Monica Chadha, University of Texas at Austin looked at how people were getting their news on new devices.

The researchers suggested the idea of newsfulnews as a way of measuring the likelihood of a multi-purpose device being used for news, based on the number who use a device for news compared to total number of owners.

They conducted a web-based survey of a random sample of the American adult population in August 2010.

The researchers found that the laptop was far by the most useful for news at 45%, with the iPhone at 33% and iPad at 35%.

But they also found that 24% of people did not use any electronic device to get their news, with 57% only using one device, usually the PC.

Only 10% used two devices, with 8.5% using three or more per week.

There was little variation in the level of enjoyment across devices. The researchers suggested that this meant people preferred to use older devices such as the PC.

News use on multiple devices was not yet a reality, they said.




April 01 2011


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.


Research shows benefits of open innovation for news

The first research paper at ISOJ from Tanja Aitamurto, University of Tampere, Finland, and Seth Lewis, University of Minnesota, looked at processes of innovation (PDF).

Presenting the paper, Lewis highlighted the challenge facing news organisations today: keeping up with modern demands for R&D while finding new sources of revenue.

He said media organisations have under invested in R&D and not expressed much interest in open innovation.

The paper looked at NPR, the New York Times, The Guardian and USA Today. Lewis highlighted how the Guardian lets developers access APIs to do new things with their content.

In exchange, advertising appears on these new products and services, based on Guardian content.

The biggest benefit Aitamurto and Lewis found was the speeding up of internal and external product development.

Essentially, it allows other to experiment with content, and access groups of users that would be hard to reach before.

Secondly, open innovation offered opportunities for new revenue streams. And this fed into the third benefit – the ability to leverage the brand and drive traffic. The impact, said Lewis, was to have the brand seen as a platform, rather than a product.

The fourth benefit cited by Lewis was the potential to build a community of developers. For example, the Times described it as good street cred.

The challenges were more cultural than technological, said Lewis.  Corporate leaders didn’t like the word ‘open’ and were more receptive to language such as ‘business development Web 2.0″.

Lewis concluded by saying that open innovation meant news content gained a new life and take news organisations and weave them into the structure of the web.


iPad lessons from The Daily

John Kilpatrick, vice president of design for The Daily, provided an inside look into the new iPad app at the ISOJ.

The Daily is a custom application with a custom content management system that was built from the ground up for product.

The idea is to be able to create custom experiences everyday, exploring what works and what doesn’t work, he said.

Kilpatrick explained that the experience of news on a tablet is difference from print or the web.

The Daily’s approach was not to be platform agnostic, but rather create something for a specific news experience on a specific device.

What we have created is a curated experience, said Kilpatrick. So it is digital, but not endless.

The approach at The Daily draws from broadcast, print and web, he explained. From broadcast, the lean back experience. From print, it’s finite, From the web, it’s interactive and connected.

But it also wants to avoid some of the pitfalls of other media, such as the overuse of breaking news in broadcast, PDF-style app from print and long scrolling pages from online.

The design team was drawn from the New York Times, AOL, Vogue, Live Nation, film production and more.

Kilpatrick ended by running through some of the editorial content, its advertising and its original use of video, and offering some insights.

He has found that people mainly use the iPad at night in the US and most people are connected when they are reading The Daily.

60% of readers view The Daily vertically and 40% horizontally.  But Kilpatrick also added that many shift orientation during usage. What this means is developing pages that work both ways.














Paul Brannan on news for mobile devices

Paul Brannan, emerging platforms editor, BBC News, gave some background on the development of the BBC iPhone/iPad news app at the ISOJ.

Talking about its development, he said he had huge ambitions for the app but very limited resources.

“The outcome is a far cry from the one I had hoped for,” said Brannan, who has just left the BBC. The app essentially repurposes content from the BBC News website.

What he wants, he said, is a dynamic news mechanism, that delivers everything.

He said he wanted a news service that was location aware and context aware, customisable and with media drawn from both journalists and user media.

Brannan highlighted how the new Sky News iPad app played to the strengths of the tablet format.

“It provides a decent, if limited, news experience,” he said.

But Brannan said Zite was the most interesting and innovative tablet app be has seen. Zite tries to learn about individual users through algorithms and semantic web.

Brannan compared this to how supermarkets gather amazing data about its shoppers.

Unfortunately Zite has received a cease and desist notice from large media companies.

Brannan concluded by talking about the BBC’s orchestrated media research. This involves figuring out how people use media across platforms and creating a consistent experience.


How newspapers in Norway are transitioning to digital

Eivind Thomsen from Norway outlined how the Schibsted Media Group had shifted its financial base from print to digital at the ISOJ.

Newspapers are popular in Norway, with the average user reading 1.3 newspapers a day. But this is declining, from 1.6 newspapers in 2009.

Thomsen said part of the reason for this was virtually universal broadband and mobile penetration, plus the growth of social networking – 64% of Norwegians on Facebook

But, he added, Norway faces declining circulation of all newspapers after circulation peaked at the end of the century.

As part of its strategy, Schibsted has seized the classified space online, and not just in Norway, rather than let a new entrant such as Craigslist own this area.

Online now accounts for 30% of Schibsted revenue, compared to 3% in 2002. Online display advertising on newspaper sites only brings in 6% of revenue.

Thomsen said Schibsted was succeeding in transition from a print revenue base to being a digital player, and was doing so more successfully compared to media in other countries.

In common with other speakers, Thomsen also highlighted the importance of mobile platforms such as iPhones and iPads.

His advice for the ISOJ: understand how your audience wants and gets the news, experiment, multiple revenue streams rather than relying one business model.


Vivian Schiller’s seven reasons to be cheerful about journalism

A timely start to the International Symposium on Online Journalism at UT Austin with Vivian Schiller, ex-president/CEO of NPR.

While quoting some of the bad news in the annual State of the Media report for 2011, Schiller outlined seven reasons to be cheerful:

  1. Conditions finally right to give paywalls a fair shake. What has changed, she said is that while scale still matters, brand is back. The other thing is that you can train people to pay for content, arguing iTunes has shown this is possible. She also points to the growing popularity of tablets.
  2. Local is still up for grabs. Schiller said legacy media can win the battle for local audiences as they have the people and brands. But she questioned whether legacy media would make the investment.
  3. Twitter as a newsgathering vehicle. She cited Andy Carvin’s curated feed of Twitter, saying it was an extraordinary and powerful complement to what a news organisation regularly does.
  4. Apps are the “holy grail of engagement”. The duplication of those who download NPR’s app and listen to NPR on the radio is massive, she said. 80% of Android app users are NPR listeners.  People who listen to audio consume 10 times as much content as those who just read, Schiller said.
  5. Audience acquisition. The web is not dead, said Schiller, stressing the the browser is the best way to acquire news users. Only 20% of NPR.org users listen to NPR radio. “Do not give up on the web.”
  6. Legacy news organisations are ready to be their own disruptors. So rather than being platform agnostic, news organisations have realised they have to serve every audience in different ways depending on platform.. Schiller cites examples of news organisations creating new brands such as Washington Post’s Trove and The Daily.
  7. Digital natives have come of age and care about journalism. Schiller said journalism school enrolment is soaring, saying these are the people who would reinvent the business model. She argued that people of her generation won’t be able to do this.

Schiller ended by quoting Clay Shirky on the opportunities before us and urged attendees to imagine and seize the future. We must be in a constant state of experimentation, she said.

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