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March 30 2012

14:05

Should a community editor be a magazine’s first hire?

Mollie Makes magazine - image from Specialist Media ShowMollie Makes magazine - image from Specialist Media Show

Interesting strategy by Future’s Mollie Makes magazine, which mirrors the way I teach online journalism (community first, then content, then platform):

“Future employed a Community Editor to engage with the online craft audience and build a buzz in the months leading up to the launch of Mollie Makes.

“This was achieved through a Mollie Makes blog, Twitter account, Facebook page and YouTube channel and meant that before the magazine even hit the shelves, Mollie Makes already had a strong online following and an existing customer base.

“The number of people engaging with Mollie Makes online has continued to grow, and Mollie Makes now has over 26,000 Facebook fans and 10,000 Twitter followers.

“Mollie Makes also broke Future’s new subscription record, achieving 3,000 subscribers before issue 2 went on sale, with the majority of these subscriptions driven through online channels.”

14:05

Should a community editor be a magazine’s first hire?

Mollie Makes magazine - image from Specialist Media ShowMollie Makes magazine - image from Specialist Media Show

Interesting strategy by Future’s Mollie Makes magazine, which mirrors the way I teach online journalism (community first, then content, then platform):

“Future employed a Community Editor to engage with the online craft audience and build a buzz in the months leading up to the launch of Mollie Makes.

“This was achieved through a Mollie Makes blog, Twitter account, Facebook page and YouTube channel and meant that before the magazine even hit the shelves, Mollie Makes already had a strong online following and an existing customer base.

“The number of people engaging with Mollie Makes online has continued to grow, and Mollie Makes now has over 26,000 Facebook fans and 10,000 Twitter followers.

“Mollie Makes also broke Future’s new subscription record, achieving 3,000 subscribers before issue 2 went on sale, with the majority of these subscriptions driven through online channels.”

January 17 2012

10:55

Are Newspapers Civic Institutions or Algorithms? | Endless Innovation | Big Think

"... what if, instead, we begin to think of newspapers in perhaps a more mundane manner -- as algorithms for solving problems?"

July 17 2011

14:20

New Project entry - The Future is a Flying Carpet

 I want to build an online portal that will bring people together through collective imagination about what they wish, in their highest dreams, to be a picture of future cities, future governmental systems, technology, educational systems, economic systems, future visual spaces, architecture, environmental solutions, anything possible. It is in the belief that by undue focus on negative scenarios and individualistic commercialism, we are inevitably and unwittingly likely to hamper positive future development as a collective. As with the individual, we find many authorities talking about the need to believe in a positive element to bring oneself out of depression, everyone talks about curing the individual, but no one really gives too much attention to the individual in relation to the whole community – and how that could also benefit the individual. What if we could contribute to a collective shift in consciousness, as well as in practical action in daily life? One that doesn’t simply depend on what we already think, or what others have told us, but what our own hearts whisper is the need for all of us. It would form a platform for interaction through an online community and an interactive platform that would allow users to submit their ideas and make contributions to what they read from others. It is also envisioned that decision makers and corporations would use it for the development of their own enterprises, and that they would form the basic initial push to give the website its manifestation.

July 08 2011

09:34

The future of news: turning back to the coffee house

The Economist :: Three hundred years ago news travelled by word of mouth or letter, and circulated in taverns and coffee houses in the form of pamphlets, newsletters and broadsides. “The Coffee houses particularly are very commodious for a free Conversation, and for reading at an easie Rate all manner of printed News,” noted one observer. 

Now, as The Economist's special report "Bulletins from the future. A special report on the news industry" explains, the news industry is returning to something closer to the coffee house. The internet is making news more participatory, social, diverse and partisan, reviving the discursive ethos of the era before mass media. That will have profound effects on society and politics.


Ah, yes, I'm currently sitting in a coffee house, in the center of Munich, at Robetti, Klenzestrasse and writing about the future of journalism, working with the first prototype of the Liquid Newroom. Coffee houses? I like them. They allow me to stay where stories happen ... among the people in my neighbo(u)rhood for now.

Continue to read www.economist.com

May 21 2011

16:23

Is it stupid to major in journalism?

A funny thing about writing a blog for a long time is that sometimes you want to write a post … and you discover that you have already written it.

My original post (from two years ago) seems to be just as valid today: Why does anyone major in journalism?

So I read it and thought about whether there’s anything new to say. Yes. As the news industry continues to evolve, there are some new questions that should be asked:

  • Should the journalism curriculum include a required class about entrepreneurialism? That is, should students be required to study startup companies in the journalism field? Should they be required to pitch ideas for viable new enterprises as part of their coursework?
  • Should journalism students have the option to take courses centered on advocacy communications — the kind of writing, Web and mobile communications, video, etc., that are done by nonprofits and NGOs? I’m not talking about a traditional public relations course but rather something focused on nonpartisan issue-centered communications. Maybe it’s public interest communications; maybe it’s broader than that.
  • Can social media be used in classes to teach students how to identify and sound out audiences — so they know whether they are serving an audience well?

I still think it’s a smart move to major in journalism — if you have a real desire to communicate with audiences.

But I think we have some work to do to keep journalism education relevant. Nowadays that work needs to go further than just teaching kids how to report accurately and tell stories well. It goes beyond writing and beyond tools. I think there’s a whole set of thinking skills and idea generation and brainstorming that needs to become a part of the core curriculum.

A funny thing about writing a blog for a long time is that sometimes you want to write a post … and you discover that you have already written it.

My original post (from two years ago) seems to be just as valid today: Why does anyone major in journalism?

So I read it and thought about whether there’s anything new to say. Yes. As the news industry continues to evolve, there are some new questions that should be asked:

  • Should the journalism curriculum include a required class about entrepreneurialism? That is, should students be required to study startup companies in the journalism field? Should they be required to pitch ideas for viable new enterprises as part of their coursework?
  • Should journalism students have the option to take courses centered on advocacy communications — the kind of writing, Web and mobile communications, video, etc., that are done by nonprofits and NGOs? I’m not talking about a traditional public relations course but rather something focused on nonpartisan issue-centered communications. Maybe it’s public interest communications; maybe it’s broader than that.
  • Can social media be used in classes to teach students how to identify and sound out audiences — so they know whether they are serving an audience well?

I still think it’s a smart move to major in journalism — if you have a real desire to communicate with audiences.

But I think we have some work to do to keep journalism education relevant. Nowadays that work needs to go further than just teaching kids how to report accurately and tell stories well. It goes beyond writing and beyond tools. I think there’s a whole set of thinking skills and idea generation and brainstorming that needs to become a part of the core curriculum.

16:23

Is it stupid to major in journalism?

A funny thing about writing a blog for a long time is that sometimes you want to write a post … and you discover that you have already written it.

My original post (from two years ago) seems to be just as valid today: Why does anyone major in journalism?

So I read it and thought about whether there’s anything new to say. Yes. As the news industry continues to evolve, there are some new questions that should be asked:

  • Should the journalism curriculum include a required class about entrepreneurialism? That is, should students be required to study startup companies in the journalism field? Should they be required to pitch ideas for viable new enterprises as part of their coursework?
  • Should journalism students have the option to take courses centered on advocacy communications — the kind of writing, Web and mobile communications, video, etc., that are done by nonprofits and NGOs? I’m not talking about a traditional public relations course but rather something focused on nonpartisan issue-centered communications. Maybe it’s public interest communications; maybe it’s broader than that.
  • Can social media be used in classes to teach students how to identify and sound out audiences — so they know whether they are serving an audience well?

I still think it’s a smart move to major in journalism — if you have a real desire to communicate with audiences.

But I think we have some work to do to keep journalism education relevant. Nowadays that work needs to go further than just teaching kids how to report accurately and tell stories well. It goes beyond writing and beyond tools. I think there’s a whole set of thinking skills and idea generation and brainstorming that needs to become a part of the core curriculum.

A funny thing about writing a blog for a long time is that sometimes you want to write a post … and you discover that you have already written it.

My original post (from two years ago) seems to be just as valid today: Why does anyone major in journalism?

So I read it and thought about whether there’s anything new to say. Yes. As the news industry continues to evolve, there are some new questions that should be asked:

  • Should the journalism curriculum include a required class about entrepreneurialism? That is, should students be required to study startup companies in the journalism field? Should they be required to pitch ideas for viable new enterprises as part of their coursework?
  • Should journalism students have the option to take courses centered on advocacy communications — the kind of writing, Web and mobile communications, video, etc., that are done by nonprofits and NGOs? I’m not talking about a traditional public relations course but rather something focused on nonpartisan issue-centered communications. Maybe it’s public interest communications; maybe it’s broader than that.
  • Can social media be used in classes to teach students how to identify and sound out audiences — so they know whether they are serving an audience well?

I still think it’s a smart move to major in journalism — if you have a real desire to communicate with audiences.

But I think we have some work to do to keep journalism education relevant. Nowadays that work needs to go further than just teaching kids how to report accurately and tell stories well. It goes beyond writing and beyond tools. I think there’s a whole set of thinking skills and idea generation and brainstorming that needs to become a part of the core curriculum.

April 17 2011

17:47

Skills for journalists: The basics

Jennifer Peebles — a self-described “old geezer who used to work at a newspaper” — wrote a post at the SPJ Net Worked blog titled Digital media skills every young journalist needs. Like a lot of old geezers (I say that with affection!), she started with the fundamentals: Be honest, accurate, fair, etc.

I found the really good stuff farther down in her copy:

  1. “Write a basic breaking news story in the inverted pyramid.” This includes “basic skills in interviewing people, basic writing skills … and a basic knowledge of journalism ethics.”
  2. “Be able to record the audio of an interview with someone, do a simple edit on the audio recording of that interview and upload it to the Web for an audience to hear.” As Peebles noted, you can’t do this well if you don’t know how to interview people properly!
  3. “Be able to take a decent photograph” — with a cell-phone camera, point-and-shoot, or whatever is on hand at the moment when news breaks. I would add that “decent” means usable. The young journalist needs to know what that means. What is news value in a photograph? Do they know how to capture that?
  4. “Be able to make at least a short video story that doesn’t turn out looking like The Blair Witch Project.” And by “make,” we mean shoot AND edit. Editing includes exporting a usable (that word again) video file for the Web. In my experience, that’s where the rubber meets the road. Too many students will turn in a video file that was exported with something wrong in the settings, making the video stretched or squashed, blurred, smeary (digital schmutz), or otherwise awful looking. Practice is what makes it possible to produce decent (usable!) video. Practice!
  5. “Be able to perform basic functions in a spreadsheet and have at least a general understanding of how journalists use data to find stories.” This is so important, and I think far too many students are stuffing their fists into their ears and singing “Lalalalala” right now while they are reading this. Here’s what Peebles added:

… while entry-level reporters don’t need to be experts at computer-assisted reporting, they need an idea of how journalists procure data and then use relational database programs to cross-check those data files to find things like sex offenders who drive school buses, or perform calculations to find, for instance, which ZIP Code or county sees the highest rate of Ritalin prescriptions written to elementary school students.

She went on to list four more things she thinks every J-school grad ought to be able to do:

  • “Have an understanding of HTML and CSS, and understand how they’re used to make Web pages.” It has come to my attention that in various courses around the country, instructors are sometimes teaching outmoded techniques (such as using tables for layout). Wake up, kids! HTML5 is just around the corner!
  • “Be able to decide which platform best suits a given story.” This is SO important — but how will journalists do this if they are not continually seeking out new examples of online and multimedia journalism? Go beyond the home page of your favorite news website and make it a DAILY habit to check out the site’s latest Web-only videos, interactive graphics, and audio presentations.
  • “Understand the basic concepts of libel and defamation, and understand that these aren’t old-fashioned concepts that only apply to us geezers who worked for newspapers.”
  • “Understand the basic concepts of the First Amendment, freedom of the press and the people’s right to know, which everything we do is built on.”

I could not agree more with what Peebles wrote! My digest version here leaves out a lot of her insights, so please be sure to read her original post.

Jennifer Peebles — a self-described “old geezer who used to work at a newspaper” — wrote a post at the SPJ Net Worked blog titled Digital media skills every young journalist needs. Like a lot of old geezers (I say that with affection!), she started with the fundamentals: Be honest, accurate, fair, etc.

I found the really good stuff farther down in her copy:

  1. “Write a basic breaking news story in the inverted pyramid.” This includes “basic skills in interviewing people, basic writing skills … and a basic knowledge of journalism ethics.”
  2. “Be able to record the audio of an interview with someone, do a simple edit on the audio recording of that interview and upload it to the Web for an audience to hear.” As Peebles noted, you can’t do this well if you don’t know how to interview people properly!
  3. “Be able to take a decent photograph” — with a cell-phone camera, point-and-shoot, or whatever is on hand at the moment when news breaks. I would add that “decent” means usable. The young journalist needs to know what that means. What is news value in a photograph? Do they know how to capture that?
  4. “Be able to make at least a short video story that doesn’t turn out looking like The Blair Witch Project.” And by “make,” we mean shoot AND edit. Editing includes exporting a usable (that word again) video file for the Web. In my experience, that’s where the rubber meets the road. Too many students will turn in a video file that was exported with something wrong in the settings, making the video stretched or squashed, blurred, smeary (digital schmutz), or otherwise awful looking. Practice is what makes it possible to produce decent (usable!) video. Practice!
  5. “Be able to perform basic functions in a spreadsheet and have at least a general understanding of how journalists use data to find stories.” This is so important, and I think far too many students are stuffing their fists into their ears and singing “Lalalalala” right now while they are reading this. Here’s what Peebles added:

… while entry-level reporters don’t need to be experts at computer-assisted reporting, they need an idea of how journalists procure data and then use relational database programs to cross-check those data files to find things like sex offenders who drive school buses, or perform calculations to find, for instance, which ZIP Code or county sees the highest rate of Ritalin prescriptions written to elementary school students.

She went on to list four more things she thinks every J-school grad ought to be able to do:

  • “Have an understanding of HTML and CSS, and understand how they’re used to make Web pages.” It has come to my attention that in various courses around the country, instructors are sometimes teaching outmoded techniques (such as using tables for layout). Wake up, kids! HTML5 is just around the corner!
  • “Be able to decide which platform best suits a given story.” This is SO important — but how will journalists do this if they are not continually seeking out new examples of online and multimedia journalism? Go beyond the home page of your favorite news website and make it a DAILY habit to check out the site’s latest Web-only videos, interactive graphics, and audio presentations.
  • “Understand the basic concepts of libel and defamation, and understand that these aren’t old-fashioned concepts that only apply to us geezers who worked for newspapers.”
  • “Understand the basic concepts of the First Amendment, freedom of the press and the people’s right to know, which everything we do is built on.”

I could not agree more with what Peebles wrote! My digest version here leaves out a lot of her insights, so please be sure to read her original post.

17:47

Skills for journalists: The basics

Jennifer Peebles — a self-described “old geezer who used to work at a newspaper” — wrote a post at the SPJ Net Worked blog titled Digital media skills every young journalist needs. Like a lot of old geezers (I say that with affection!), she started with the fundamentals: Be honest, accurate, fair, etc.

I found the really good stuff farther down in her copy:

  1. “Write a basic breaking news story in the inverted pyramid.” This includes “basic skills in interviewing people, basic writing skills … and a basic knowledge of journalism ethics.”
  2. “Be able to record the audio of an interview with someone, do a simple edit on the audio recording of that interview and upload it to the Web for an audience to hear.” As Peebles noted, you can’t do this well if you don’t know how to interview people properly!
  3. “Be able to take a decent photograph” — with a cell-phone camera, point-and-shoot, or whatever is on hand at the moment when news breaks. I would add that “decent” means usable. The young journalist needs to know what that means. What is news value in a photograph? Do they know how to capture that?
  4. “Be able to make at least a short video story that doesn’t turn out looking like The Blair Witch Project.” And by “make,” we mean shoot AND edit. Editing includes exporting a usable (that word again) video file for the Web. In my experience, that’s where the rubber meets the road. Too many students will turn in a video file that was exported with something wrong in the settings, making the video stretched or squashed, blurred, smeary (digital schmutz), or otherwise awful looking. Practice is what makes it possible to produce decent (usable!) video. Practice!
  5. “Be able to perform basic functions in a spreadsheet and have at least a general understanding of how journalists use data to find stories.” This is so important, and I think far too many students are stuffing their fists into their ears and singing “Lalalalala” right now while they are reading this. Here’s what Peebles added:

… while entry-level reporters don’t need to be experts at computer-assisted reporting, they need an idea of how journalists procure data and then use relational database programs to cross-check those data files to find things like sex offenders who drive school buses, or perform calculations to find, for instance, which ZIP Code or county sees the highest rate of Ritalin prescriptions written to elementary school students.

She went on to list four more things she thinks every J-school grad ought to be able to do:

  • “Have an understanding of HTML and CSS, and understand how they’re used to make Web pages.” It has come to my attention that in various courses around the country, instructors are sometimes teaching outmoded techniques (such as using tables for layout). Wake up, kids! HTML5 is just around the corner!
  • “Be able to decide which platform best suits a given story.” This is SO important — but how will journalists do this if they are not continually seeking out new examples of online and multimedia journalism? Go beyond the home page of your favorite news website and make it a DAILY habit to check out the site’s latest Web-only videos, interactive graphics, and audio presentations.
  • “Understand the basic concepts of libel and defamation, and understand that these aren’t old-fashioned concepts that only apply to us geezers who worked for newspapers.”
  • “Understand the basic concepts of the First Amendment, freedom of the press and the people’s right to know, which everything we do is built on.”

I could not agree more with what Peebles wrote! My digest version here leaves out a lot of her insights, so please be sure to read her original post.

Jennifer Peebles — a self-described “old geezer who used to work at a newspaper” — wrote a post at the SPJ Net Worked blog titled Digital media skills every young journalist needs. Like a lot of old geezers (I say that with affection!), she started with the fundamentals: Be honest, accurate, fair, etc.

I found the really good stuff farther down in her copy:

  1. “Write a basic breaking news story in the inverted pyramid.” This includes “basic skills in interviewing people, basic writing skills … and a basic knowledge of journalism ethics.”
  2. “Be able to record the audio of an interview with someone, do a simple edit on the audio recording of that interview and upload it to the Web for an audience to hear.” As Peebles noted, you can’t do this well if you don’t know how to interview people properly!
  3. “Be able to take a decent photograph” — with a cell-phone camera, point-and-shoot, or whatever is on hand at the moment when news breaks. I would add that “decent” means usable. The young journalist needs to know what that means. What is news value in a photograph? Do they know how to capture that?
  4. “Be able to make at least a short video story that doesn’t turn out looking like The Blair Witch Project.” And by “make,” we mean shoot AND edit. Editing includes exporting a usable (that word again) video file for the Web. In my experience, that’s where the rubber meets the road. Too many students will turn in a video file that was exported with something wrong in the settings, making the video stretched or squashed, blurred, smeary (digital schmutz), or otherwise awful looking. Practice is what makes it possible to produce decent (usable!) video. Practice!
  5. “Be able to perform basic functions in a spreadsheet and have at least a general understanding of how journalists use data to find stories.” This is so important, and I think far too many students are stuffing their fists into their ears and singing “Lalalalala” right now while they are reading this. Here’s what Peebles added:

… while entry-level reporters don’t need to be experts at computer-assisted reporting, they need an idea of how journalists procure data and then use relational database programs to cross-check those data files to find things like sex offenders who drive school buses, or perform calculations to find, for instance, which ZIP Code or county sees the highest rate of Ritalin prescriptions written to elementary school students.

She went on to list four more things she thinks every J-school grad ought to be able to do:

  • “Have an understanding of HTML and CSS, and understand how they’re used to make Web pages.” It has come to my attention that in various courses around the country, instructors are sometimes teaching outmoded techniques (such as using tables for layout). Wake up, kids! HTML5 is just around the corner!
  • “Be able to decide which platform best suits a given story.” This is SO important — but how will journalists do this if they are not continually seeking out new examples of online and multimedia journalism? Go beyond the home page of your favorite news website and make it a DAILY habit to check out the site’s latest Web-only videos, interactive graphics, and audio presentations.
  • “Understand the basic concepts of libel and defamation, and understand that these aren’t old-fashioned concepts that only apply to us geezers who worked for newspapers.”
  • “Understand the basic concepts of the First Amendment, freedom of the press and the people’s right to know, which everything we do is built on.”

I could not agree more with what Peebles wrote! My digest version here leaves out a lot of her insights, so please be sure to read her original post.

December 05 2010

16:15

Skills for journalists: Again, the question

What skills does today’s journalist need to have? I do not think this question has only one answer.

In a comment on a blog post by Robert Hernandez, Michael Grimaldi wrote:

The highest skill of journalism is knowing the number of questions to ask, how many people of whom to ask them, and then reporting the answers as thoroughly and accurately as possible to convey the truth.

That’s journalism. The rest of it (touch typing vs. hunt-and-peck, spreadsheet software, graphic design/page layout, programming, code, photography or whatever) is technical skill and important to know, but, I suggest, not the essence of the profession and vocation of journalism.

Knowing which questions to ask — and of whom to ask them, and where to find those people (or those data sets) and how to get them to give you answers — yup, absolutely, these are essential skills …

For a reporter. But it takes more than reporters to produce journalism, and it always did. No, I’m not going to claim that the pressman was a journalist — he was not. And the IT guy is not a journalist either. But I think Michael Grimaldi and others who agree with him need to recognize that editors and designers and photojournalists and data journalists are, in fact, journalists.

They do journalism work. They produce journalism. And they don’t all go out with a pen and a notebook and ask questions of people on the street.

They do, however, ask questions. Lots of questions.

If you don’t understand that a graphic designer asks (and finds answers to) a very large number of questions before producing something like this, then I would suggest you do not understand how journalism is done in 2010.

November 07 2010

13:05

Advice for journalism educators in Africa

While I was attending the annual Online News Association conference a week ago, one of several great panels I sat in on was titled “From Earthquakes to Coups: Tools for Crisis Reporting.” I’ve been interested in crisis mapping and other crowdsourced efforts during disasters ever since I learned how valuable these were after the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year.

After the panel I managed to grab two of the panelists in the hallway for quick interviews. First up, Rob Baker of Ushahidi:

Next, Mark Frohardt of Internews:

I missed my chance to talk with Robert Soden, a senior GIS developer at Development Seed, who gave an inspiring presentation about OpenStreetMap.

It’s interesting to think of the ways that crowdsourced information linked to maps could be used in conjunction with reporting stories. Any community problem such as bad roads could be documented via text messages from members of the public.

November 02 2010

08:16

August 30 2010

10:52

Net2 Recommends - August's Interesting Posts From Around The Web

The NetSquared team reads and shares lots of different blog posts, articles, reports, and surveys within our team. We have a lot of fun sharing within the team and it occurred to us that we should start sharing them with you, too! Net2 Recommends is a monthly series of news and blog posts from around the web that we found interesting or inspiring, mind-bending or opinion-changing, fun or just plain weird.

read more

August 24 2010

14:14

New York Times seeks multimedia journalism interns

Poking around in The New York Times’s job listings, I found this description of three distinct internships “in the Web Newsroom of The New York Times”:

  • Front-end Interactive Designer: full skill-set of client-side technologies including HTML, CSS and JavaScript/Prototype. Experience with Ruby on Rails is a plus.
  • Motion Design Storyteller: working knowledge of AfterEffects and Photoshop in producing motiongraphics. Final Cut a plus. We are looking for someone to help grow the motion design side of storytelling. So applicant must have a strong sense of timing and narrative and have the ability to implement a variety of creative styles.
  • Interactive Flash Journalist: Advanced programming knowledge and experience in Flash and ActionScript 3. Experience with Photoshop and Illustrator is a plus.

When I tell journalists and journalism students that skills such as these are important to the future of their career, I catch a lot of flak. Frankly, I’m a little tired of hearing that there is no need for journalists to learn these skills. This is storytelling. This is what the ability to type on a typewriter was in 1970.

As Ann Landers used to write in her advice column: Wake up and smell the coffee!

Update (10:30 a.m.): Then I found an ad for a reporter at The Times-News of Hendersonville, N.C., “a New York Times-owned media company” that describes itself as “a print and 24/7 online newsroom that produces a 14,000 circulation daily newspaper and a website with about 2 million pageviews a month”:

Our reporters cover beats, work on enterprise projects, post stories to the Web and shoot video. Our staff works as a team and reporters are often asked to cover other beats as well as breaking news. The right candidate will have a passion for journalism and multimedia, a strong sense of community journalism and the ability to develop sources and go beyond routine meeting coverage.

June 06 2010

15:49

Online video still growing, gaining viewers

Just because comedy or humorous videos are the most popular among U.S. adults (source) does not mean journalists should wring their hands and despair about public tastes.

What’s more important, I think, is that among people who have broadband Internet access at home, 75 percent watch online videos (source). Moreover, when the Pew Internet researchers looked at all the people in their 2009 survey who do watch video online, they found that 89 percent have broadband.

Not a shock, you say? Fine. But what does it mean? Like the growth of radio, and then television, the growth of online video is fueled by access to technology. Television devices were not always as common as they are now; like television, broadband continues to expand.

Don’t ignore the history of home video viewing:

In the early days of the video business a number of tapes from non-mainstream producers became widely available, but these were largely pornography and low-grade slasher films. Even these disappeared as the Mom and Pop video stores were displaced by the clean corporate hegemony of Blockbuster Video and other chain distributors. (source)

People watch what is available to them, easy to get, and not overpriced.

People also tend to hop on the bandwagon of popular interest, the flavor of the week. CNN’s October 2009 interview with the family of the “balloon boy,” for example, “was viewed more than 2.5 million times that week” (source). These videos rise and fall rapidly — 91 percent of YouTube’s top videos don’t stay in the top ranks for more than one week. (See: Top 10 YouTube Videos of All Time.)

In analyzing the most viewed news-related videos on YouTube in 2009, the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that the “news agenda on YouTube rarely coincided with that of the mainstream press”:

In only eight of the 49 weeks studied was the top video about the same subject that also led the traditional media. Of those eight occasions, three of them involved footage of discussing the health care reform bill (often with contentious opposition), and two of them were videos about the protests in Iran. (source)

That tells us that people are seeking out stories that the mainstream media are not providing. I think that’s encouraging — it means the public does want news video, and is not only looking for a good laugh.

PEJ concluded that the top videos usually had “a visual and dynamic quality that makes people want to share them with other people.”

Share. With other people. That’s something we in journalism ought to be thinking about. Not to pander, but to evaluate our storytelling. When I hear a good story, I do want to share it.

Are most journalism videos good enough to share?

The percentage of U.S. Internet users who said they watch news video online did increase from 2007 to 2009 (from 37 to 43 percent) — even though that was a smaller increase than for other types on online videos (source). Comedy and humorous videos saw the biggest leap, from 31 to 50 (percentage of Internet users who said they had watched that type).

But note, sports video online went from 14 to 21 percent — less than half the viewers for news!

How many online news operations are putting the lion’s share of their video effort into producing sports videos?

Among the 18–29 age group, humorous/comedy video viewing far outstrips news video viewing — but note, 56 percent in that age group said they have watched news video online. (Only 34 percent have watched sports video online.) Note too that only 19 percent in this age group have uploaded video (source) — squashing the widely held misconception that all young Americans are technical wizards.

I saw a lot of evidence in the PEJ report about YouTube that people are hungry for news video. For example:

  • “In January 2009, the most viewed clip was Obama’s inaugural address while the second video was raw footage of the US Airlines plane that safely landed in the Hudson River without incurring any significant injuries.”
  • “More than a quarter (26%) of the top five most watched news videos in a given week were about things that happened overseas. Many of them were in foreign languages and were about issues that received virtually no attention in the American press or elsewhere in English-language social media.”
  • “After international events, the next largest subject on YouTube was government with 20%. More than half of those (11%) involved President Obama or his administration in some capacity … [e.g.] his first interview with the Arab television station Al-Arabiya.”
  • “One of the unique aspects of YouTube is the ability of users to view raw footage that is not edited or posted by a news organization. Many of the most viewed news videos on YouTube are of this nature. For example, for two consecutive weeks in September, the most viewed video was a first-person clip from a demonstration in Pittsburgh surrounding the G20 summit where an unidentified protestor is forced into a car by three men dressed in camouflage.”

May 19 2010

19:50

Video for HTML5: The latest update

On2’s VP8 video codec “is now fully open and completely royalty-free,” thanks to Google (source: DZone).

This is a big deal not only because Apple — in its full-out war against Adobe — has declared Flash video to be a non-starter and crowned H.264 the online-video heir apparent, but also because H.264 is no more open, really, than Flash (FLV and F4V) video.

I wrote about this video war in April: What you should know about HTML5 today. What’s at stake is the format for all video on the Web — because, as Lawrence Lessig wrote in 1999, “Code is law.”

When HTML5 is fully baked and comes out of the oven, we will be stuck with whatever video standard(s) has been baked in.

I don’t want us to be stuck with a proprietary standard controlled by Apple, Adobe, or Microsoft — or Google.

Google completed its acquisition of On2 Technologies, Inc., in February 2010. While most people have never heard of On2 (which has a pretty weird name, it must be said), its video codecs were part of Sorenson Squeeze back when I first started struggling with Web video several years ago, and they were often preferable to the other options available because they gave very good results — always a trade-off between file size and audio-visual quality in video.

Google, along with Mozilla and Opera, is part of the WebM Project, “dedicated to developing a high-quality, open video format for the web that is freely available to everyone.” Although they haven’t run around screaming about it, they are no more eager to accept the status quo of Flash video for the future Web than is Apple.

If Adobe were really smart, they would have open sourced (fully) not only their video formats but also the SWF format. Like, a month ago. I kept waiting for them to do it. But no — just more posturing, like Apple, like dictators of small, violent, self-absorbed countries.

In this game, it seems to me that Apple and Adobe are equally pigheaded and old school. Meanwhile, Google — while surely not a mild-mannered philanthropist in its corporate heart of hearts — has done what one of them should have done, instead of pouring gasoline on the fire.

Is this over yet? I’m sure it is not. But Google’s (apparent) commitment to open standards is better for all of us than a proprietary lock-out (or locked-down) approach.

April 15 2010

12:56

HTML5 demystified

This slideshow provides a really clear overview of what HTML5 includes, why it’s exciting, and when browser support can be expected.

The slideshow was produced by Derek Bender.

April 14 2010

14:22

What you should know about HTML5 today

If you teach online journalism, you’ve probably been hearing questions from students about the validity of what they are learning today. If you’re teaching Web design for current standards and current browsers, they are asking, “What about HTML5 and CSS3?” If you’re teaching Flash, they are asking whether HTML5 will be a “Flash killer.” And you are probably wondering how soon you will need to update all your assignments and teaching materials.

Me too! So I’ve been out there scouring the blogs and the trade press for information.

I’ve concluded that HTML5 and the future of Web design must be considered by category, because each one of these will be affected differently:

  • Video
  • Mobile and handheld devices
  • General Web design

But first, let’s consider the timeline for HTML5.

When will HTML5 be here?

According to Philippe Le Hégaret, of the Worldwide Web Consortium, “I don’t expect to see full implementation of HTML5 across all the major browsers until the end of 2011 at least.” (Reported at Webmonkey, Nov. 17, 2009.)

Dublin-based software developer Devon O. Wolfgang writes: “HTML5 is barely out the door in beta form and is already being implemented differently on different browsers. Eventually (2012, 2014, or maybe not even until 2022, according to various sources), HTML5 might just settle down and assume a lowest common denominator standardization across most, if not all, browsers. … HTML5 is still at least 2 years from being implemented in a widely usable fashion.” (Posted January 31, 2010.)

So if all you’re worried about right now is your syllabus for fall 2010 — relax. Change is slow, and when we teach Web design, we need to focus primarily on the browsers and platforms currently in use.

I’m going to wait until I see a whole lot more green boxes in the “Elements” table on this Wikipedia chart page before I start worrying about teaching HTML5 in depth.

For now, I think it’s important to show Web design students how the standard will change, and have a discussion about why. Here are two good, clear resources that will help you have that discussion:

Video and HTML5

This is at the heart of current screaming and backstabbing between Adobe and Apple. Most video seen on the Web today is served up via the Flash Player. Apple has declared that Flash is bad because it makes the Safari Web browser crash. The Safari Web browser is the only Web browser that can be used on the iPhone and on the iPad.

It is ironic that much of this argument is tied to HTML5 and open standards when what is preventing Flash from running on the iPhone and the iPad is Apple’s refusal to embrace an open standard for experiencing the Web on those two devices. I mean, the Firefox and Opera browsers can’t appear on the iPhone or the iPad. The Safari Web browser is made by Apple. On the iPhone and the iPad, the Safari browser blocks the Flash Player plugin.

Please note, I am not disputing Apple’s claims about Flash. I’m sure Flash does make the Safari browser crash. Sometimes it makes Firefox crash — on my MacBook Pro (which I love, I might mention). On occasion, Flash probably makes Firefox crash on my Windows XP computer at the office.

But I watch a heck of a lot of video online, on all kinds of Web sites (not only YouTube), and Firefox really does not crash very often. Maybe once a week or less. And, as you might imagine, I’m online pretty much every waking minute of the day. I probably spend at least five hours a day online on my MacBook Pro (like now, while I am writing this) in Firefox. And I also view and use a lot of Web-embedded Flash interactives. I’m just sayin’.

For an overview of the video issues surrounding HTML5 (apart from Apple and Adobe, the video issues involve Google and Microsoft as well), please see the 22-slide PowerPoint I posted yesterday.

Canvas, the other ‘Flash killer’ in HTML5

Video is really the big stake in all this shouting and posturing about HTML5 and its potential for “killing Flash.” A much smaller and quieter discussion is taking place about the myriad other capabilities of Flash — the authoring application, not merely the Player or plugin for Web browsers.

Last week I posted 7 examples of exceptional Flash packages. Those seven examples indicate a range of what authoring in the Flash application makes possible. Note that I said “range” — I’d like to emphasize that it’s a pretty broad range. Then, if you’re really interested, you could have a little browse through an earlier post here, 21 examples of Flash journalism.

There are people who argue that one day you will be able to make all those packages and interactives without Flash, using the <canvas> element in HTML5.

I have serious doubts about that.

I think HTML5 and the <canvas> element will make it possible to create some interactive graphics, photo galleries, and other simple visual packages — without Flash. There are already functional examples of things like this that are constructed primarily with JavaScript code and no Flash at all. (See Using the Canvas, published by Apple, for a clear and brief introduction to the way <canvas> works.) But note that <canvas> does (currently) require significant JavaScript to do anything at all. Someone might one day build an application to spawn the code underneath a drawing or animation interface, relieving authors from the need to write boatloads of code just to slide a freaking photo across the stage. But then, that would be … like Flash.

Jeremy Allaire, founder and CEO of Brightcove, wrote about this in a column published at TechCrunch:

There [is] … a class of Web Productivity Apps where Flash is the preferred runtime, especially those that involve working with and manipulating media such as images, audio and video. We, like many companies, are pragmatic and use both Flash and HTML as the technology needs require. Other examples of this include rich data visualization applications, where Flash has gained prominence …

Rich Media Apps … include largely consumer-facing, audience and media centric experiences. In particular, this includes online video, rich media advertising and marketing, and online games (casual games). … Here, Flash is dominant. … It seems unlikely that HTML5 would be at all positioned to replace Flash for these categories, though it is clearly worth watching how consistent rich media runtimes find their way into the HTML5+ standard. Right now, it is a non starter. (Posted Feb. 5, 2010. Boldface added.)

Note that Allaire is referring to exactly the kinds of in-depth packages we use in journalism — the kinds highlighted in my post 7 examples of exceptional Flash packages.

Conclusion

I’m a huge fan of Flash, although I readily admit that it is not perfect — and Adobe has favored Windows in all its development efforts in recent years (not only for Flash, but for its industry standard products Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign too).

I’m also a huge fan of several Apple products, including the iPhone and the MacBook Pro.

On top of that, I strongly support open source efforts (including HTML5), open standards, and a steady movement away from the proprietary messes in which large corporations such as Microsoft have mired us, the users and producers.

But there is no open-source iPhone, and there is no open-source Flash. And the claim that H.264 video is open is plainly incorrect.

01:22

Apple, Adobe and HTML5

I’ve been working on a blog post about the tech topic du jour — not the power play between two corporate giants so much as the implications for online video, for interactive graphics, for Web standards — and it got to be awfully long, so I set it aside for a while.

But I also had to prepare for a lecture and discussion with my students about the near future, and what they need to know — today — about HTML5. That led me to produce this PowerPoint, drawing on the research I had done for the blog post.

So I’ll return to the post (or maybe it’s more than one post) in a couple of days. For now, I think the PPT gives a pretty good summary of the current situation.

If you want the sources for the PPT, you can download a PDF here.

February 01 2010

17:00

What is journalism school for? A call for input

[I've asked Seth Lewis, a former Miami Herald editor and smart journalism professor-in-training at the University of Texas, to join our cast of occasional commentators here at the Lab. One of his primary focuses will be looking at the changing world of journalism schools. Here's an introduction. —Josh]

Last year saw no shortage of future-of-journalism conferences. But if 2009 was dominated with talk about business models for news, perhaps 2010 will be the year we hear more about education models for news.

The ongoing discussion of pay models has led us to think more critically about forms of press subsidy — to recognize that all journalism is subsidized to some extent, that each type of subsidy comes with its own kind of strings attached, and that journalists of the future will have to be more proactive in understanding sources of funding or finding ways to innovate their own. All of that talk is healthy for journalism.

Likewise, a wider debate about journalism education might lead us to ask some soul-searching questions, beginning with the existential one: What is journalism school for, anyway? If j-schools historically looked to the industry for leadership and jobs for their graduates, how should they orient themselves now? What happens when much of our journalism education has been built up around the “newsroom paradigm” of training 20-somethings to operate in a traditional organizational setting — at a time when media work (of all kinds, not just journalism) is increasingly individualized, temporary, and precarious? Even more, at a time when the future of higher education itself is in major flux, what becomes of journalism education’s place in the university and society at large?

These questions have been on my mind lately since I was invited to join the Lab as a contributor covering the evolution of the j-school. I won’t profess any more expertise than my own experience in j-schools (as an undergrad, and now as a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas), as well as the perspective I’ve gained recently after touring several major j-schools as a candidate on the academic job market. I had intensive two-day interviews at three schools, all major programs in different parts of the United States, and also engaged in half-hour phone interviews with another four programs, most of them of the Big J-School variety.

In each case, my interviewers posed a question that went like this: “What should we be teaching today?” This wasn’t a loaded question, a guess-what-the-teacher-is-thinking sort of test. They sincerely wanted some fresh ideas, as it was clear that just about every school is grappling with curriculum reform.

So, what do we teach?

After fielding that question at least a dozen times, I finally settled on this talking point: It’s about adaptability. We’re never going to find the silver bullet, so instead let’s teach students to be flexible — to work in unpredictable settings, to generate their own funding as needed, and otherwise learn as they go. We can do that by using a curriculum that is similarly flexible, adaptive to technological and cultural trends in society even while it retains bedrock values of truth-seeking and fairness.

That plan is imperfect, of course, but it’s a start. Looking ahead, I hope to draw on the wisdom of others in blogging about what j-schools large and small are doing for 2010 and the uncertain future beyond. For starters, I’m reaching out to the deans and directors at the 12 schools funded by a multimillion-dollar Carnegie-Knight initiative on journalism education to see how these schools — arguably the biggest players in the field — are responding both to the contractions among legacy media and the opportunities for growth elsewhere.

But, in the meantime, I would also like to hear from all of you, readers of the Lab: What should the 21st century journalism school look like? Would it have a more DIY focus to prep students for freelance careers? Take a more project orientation, as in Jay Rosen’s Studio 20? Focus on teaching the right mix of analog and digital skills, as Ryan Sholin suggests? Or try to become part of the wider academic curriculum — a sort of “journalism school for all” general-education requirement, as Dave Winer recommends?

What are your ideas? Drop them in the comments, or if you think there’s something I should cover in a future post, e-mail me directly at sethclewis@gmail.com.

Photo by Fabrice Florin used under a Creative Commons license.

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